ORLANDO — The list of Pinellas County schools that have tried to win state football crowns before Saturday includes Admiral Farragut, Dunedin, Gibbs, Shorecrest Prep and Tarpon Springs.
None were successful in completing the feat.
Clearwater Central Catholic had a chance Saturday afternoon to give the county its first state title.
After keeping Jacksonville Trinity Christian’s potent offense in check throughout the first half, the Marauders’ defense wasn’t able to hold on as the Conquerors posted 27 points in a dominant third quarter en route to a 34-7 victory in the Class 3A state final at the Citrus Bowl.
“At one point in the third quarter, I turned around and said ‘Are we still in the third quarter?’ ” Marauders coach John Davis said. “Obviously that was a bad experience for us right there. It just seemed like everything that could go wrong for us right there did. We just couldn’t overcome it.”
Only one team tripped up Trinity Christian during the regular season, when Tallahassee Godby won 42-6 on Oct. 11. Aside from that, the Conquerors have been almost unstoppable, and that continued into the state title game.
CCC had its opportunities during the first half, as it drove into Trinity Christian territory a few times, but either a turnover on downs or a punt concluded the drives.
Trinity Christian was shut out in the first half, but it wouldn’t be for long in the second half. Isaiah Ford (nine carries, 102 yards) lined up as the Wildcat quarterback and scored on a 58-yard run with 11:16 left in the third quarter. CCC quarterback Jeff Smith (19-of-34, 143 yards) threw an interception to linebacker Victor Alexander on the next possession, setting up a 14-yard scoring pass from Jaquez Riles (4-of-9, 55 yards) to Chris Barr.
Those early second-half scores would be a sign of things to come, as the Conquerors tacked on two more touchdowns in the third quarter, highlighted by a 63-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Deontai Williams. The Marauders didn’t make things easy on themselves, as the Conquerors scored 14 points off turnovers and picked off Smith four times in the second half.
CCC continued to fight, despite the large deficit, and was able to punch in its first score when fullback Connor Dorris scored from 2 yards out midway through the fourth quarter.
The Marauders’ usually reliable running game was kept in check by a stingy Conquerors defense, which held CCC to 106 yards on 31 carries and 249 total yards and also forced five turnovers.
Trinity Christian amassed 305 yards on offense, with 250 coming on the ground. Sophomore Jalin Buie rushed for 98 yards on 12 touches, including a 53-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter.
“There’s no quit in these guys,” Davis said. “They got a lot of heart.
“I tell you what, right now if we could line up and play them again next week, these guys would come back with a new mantra and be ready to go.”
JTC 0 0 27 7 — 34
CCC 0 0 0 7 — 7
JTC — Ford 58 run (Onate kick)
JTC — Barr 14 pass from Riles (Onate kick)
JTC — Ford 4 run (kick failed)
JTC — Williams 63 fumble return (Onate kick)
CCC — Dorris 2 run (Ramos kick)
JTC — Buie 53 run (Onate kick)