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Clearwater Central Catholic faces familiar outcome in state title game

Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna remains a juggernaut, keeping the Marauders from becoming Pinellas County’s first state football champ.
 
Clearwater Central Catholic coach Chris Harvey gave many players hugs of appreciation, including receiver Shamar Rigby, after the Marauders fell 56-0 on Thursday afternoon to Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna in the Class 1M final.
Clearwater Central Catholic coach Chris Harvey gave many players hugs of appreciation, including receiver Shamar Rigby, after the Marauders fell 56-0 on Thursday afternoon to Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna in the Class 1M final. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]
Published Dec. 7, 2023|Updated Dec. 7, 2023

TALLAHASSEE — The frustration for Clearwater Central Catholic and Pinellas County continued Thursday afternoon in the Class 1M state football final at Bragg Memorial Stadium.

Big time.

Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna, the nation’s No. 2 team according to MaxPreps, was again too big, fast and strong for the Marauders, who lost 56-0 — a year after Chaminade-Madonna topped CCC 48-14 in the title game.

The loss keeps Pinellas County winless in its bid for a state football title, a streak that began with the Florida High School Athletic Association playoffs in 1963. CCC is now the 11th Pinellas County football team to fall in a state championship.

CCC coach Chris Harvey, who has lost five times to Chaminade since 2017, seemed a little stunned.

“I don’t know that you can ever really see that kind of talent and that speed and that skill on film,” Harvey said. “You have to see it in person to really appreciate it. Today we did and, you know, they are just a really talented team.”

Clearwater Central Catholic can't catch Ohio State commit Jeremiah Smith, the No. 1 overall player in the country according to 247Sports. Smith caught the first three passes of the game for 69 yards including a 50-yard touchdown.
Clearwater Central Catholic can't catch Ohio State commit Jeremiah Smith, the No. 1 overall player in the country according to 247Sports. Smith caught the first three passes of the game for 69 yards including a 50-yard touchdown. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]

The trouble for CCC (13-1) began on the game’s first three plays, all passes to the nation’s No. 1 overall player, according to 247Sports.

Jeremiah Smith, an Ohio State commit, caught the first pass for 4 yards, the second for 15 and the last for a 50-yard touchdown.

He went on to catch 11 passes for 170 yards, pretty much making a highlight catch on every touchdown drive, which went as follows: 69 yards in 3:30, 63 yards in 13 seconds, 40 yards in 1:56, 46 yards in 46 seconds, 90 yards in 2:03, 92 yards in 2:32, 71 yards in 3:21, and 80 yards in 5:39.

By halftime, Chaminade-Madonna (14-0) had racked up 401 yards and led 42-0, making the second half a running-clock, mercy-rule situation, put in place when a team gains a 35-point advantage.

The margin of victory was nothing new for Chaminade-Madonna, which this season outscored opponents by a combined 687-137, including 401-7 in its last seven games.

As devastating as the Chaminade offense was, the defense was equally formidable.

CCC quarterback Jershaun Newton — who before Thursday’s game had thrown for 1,926 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 1,020 yards and 13 touchdowns — was sacked five times for 44 yards and rushed seven times for 2 yards. Newton did pass for 158 yards, but was twice intercepted.

Clearwater Central Catholic quarterback Jershaun Newton was sacked five times Thursday.
Clearwater Central Catholic quarterback Jershaun Newton was sacked five times Thursday. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]
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CCC, however, never stopped giving it 100%, no matter how much Chaminade-Madonna kept pouring it on (leaving in the offensive starters right to the end).

“I am so proud of this group of kids,” said an emotional Harvey. “They have fought through a lot, and a lot of it had nothing to do with football.

“As a man this is a group of kids that helps get you through life. Today showed me that they have bright futures because they are able to stand tall through anything. They showed so much great character.”

Chaminade-Madonna is now a three-time defending state champ and has won six titles over the last seven seasons, finishing as the runnerup in the other.

CCC is the second Pinellas County team to reach a state final in back-to-back years. The Marauders lost their first state championship game 34-7 to Jacksonville Trinity Christian in 2013.

The other Pinellas County teams to come up short in a state title game were Shorecrest (1975, 1976), St. Petersburg (1984), Dunedin and Tarpon Springs (1986), Dunedin (1987), Dixie Hollins (1995) and Admiral Farragut (2011).

State final

at Bragg Memorial Stadium, Tallahassee

Class 2M: No. 3 Berkeley Prep vs. No. 1 Miami Norland, 10 a.m. Saturday

TV/streaming: Bally Sports Florida/Bally Sports app