With nine minutes left, Clearwater Central Catholic’s hopes for reaching the state championship game for the first time since 2013 appeared to be fading.
The Marauders trailed by nine points after allowing host Jacksonville University Christian to return a kickoff for a touchdown.
But there was no screaming. No despair.
CCC simply kept the faith. The offense kept driving. The defense did not break. And the Marauders continually pushed every button but the one marked panic.
A thrilling 34-29 come-from-behind Class 1 Metro state semifinal victory that puts CCC in the title game for the second time in school history.
The Marauders will face powerhouse Hollywood Madonna-Chaminade in the final.
The ability to erase a two-score, fourth quarter deficit stemmed from a schedule that yielded few easy nights. The Marauders lost to state finalist Ocala Trinity Catholic by six points and rallied to beat state semifinalist Jesuit by two.
Those nail-biters gave CCC the confidence needed to pull off some late game dramatics.
The comeback started with Lenwood Sapp scoring his second touchdown of the game to cut the deficit to 29-27 with 7:06 left in regulation.
Then the defense delivered by coming up with a fourth down stop with 2:19 remaining.
That set the stage for some last second panache.
With 30 seconds left, Marauders quarterback Jershaun Newton hit Nate Johnson III on a fade route for a touchdown that gave them the lead – and the win.
It was the third touchdown pass of the night for Newton. His other scores were to Julian Allen Jr., and Diego Mouton in the first half.