To reach the state semifinals for the seventh time in the past eight seasons, Clearwater Central Catholic had to navigate through a difficult path.
The Marauders lost their first two games last year and started off 4-3 at one point. It was the most losses the program had in a regular season in more than a decade.
CCC rebounded to make the playoffs but were in the unfamiliar position of having to travel throughout the postseason. Still, the Marauders persevered. They beat Calvary Christian by more than three touchdowns, then survived a three overtime thriller to knock off Berkeley Prep. After that came another close win against Fort Myers Bishop Verot.
Three road playoff games — all wins.
That put CCC in a familiar spot, the state semifinals. By now, the Marauders (featured photo above by MrKamraMan) were used to traveling for big games. But the string of triumphs away from home ended with a loss to eventual Class 3A state champion Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna.
Nevertheless, fans took notice. They voted the Marauders’ run as the best among the seven area teams that made the state semifinals last year. CCC won with 34.27 percent of the vote (49 votes). Steinbrenner, which made the state semifinals for the first time, was second with 26.57 percent (38 votes), followed by Gaither with 11.19 percent (16 votes).
“Considering we started 0-2 for the first time in forever and were 4-3 after seven games, being able to put that run together was a fun one,” Marauders coach Chris Harvey said. “Our guys gelled at the right time and grew from their losses. It was the toughest schedule in school history. Four road playoff games. Destroying Calvary on their home field. Three overtime win against Berkeley. It was a good one.”