On Thursday, Clearwater Central Catholic will attempt to become the first team from Pinellas County to win a state title.
The Marauders (12-1), who play Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna (12-0) in the Class 1 Metro Division final at Tallahassee’s Gene Cox Stadium. are the 10th school from Pinellas to advance to a championship game but will try to become the first to win since 1963, when the Florida High School Athletic Association began its state finals.
The county, with 956,615 residents, is by far the largest in the state that has yet to hoist a championship trophy in football.
The history of Pinellas teams in the final has not been kind. There have been five shutouts. Only two were decided by single digits.
But there is hope.
Clearwater Central Catholic, which has won 11 straight games, enters with one of its best teams in school history.
Now, the Marauders will try to change history.
Before they can do that, let’s take a look at past performances from Pinellas teams.
Greensboro 28, Shorecrest 0
The Chargers, under coach Jack Pribyl, had a meteoric rise, going from a middle school program in the early 1970s to becoming the first school from the county to reach the title game.
They got there with a roster that included just 19 players. The lack of depth was costly in the final.
Tallahassee Florida A&M 38, Shorecrest 0
The painful memories of a title game loss from the previous year served as a powerful motivator.
But the Chargers ran into another formidable opponent in a lopsided loss.
Pensacola Escambia 47, St. Petersburg 14
The Green Devils, led by quarterback Stacy Manning, were undefeated heading into the final.
But their perfect season ended against Escambia and 15-year-old running back Emmitt Smith, who rushed for 205 yards and two touchdowns in the title game before going on to star at Florida and become an NFL Hall-of-Famer with the Dallas Cowboys.
Lakeland 14, Dunedin 10
Fort Lauderdale Dillard 14, Tarpon Springs 6
The county had the spotlight hosting a pair of championship games on the same night 12 miles apart.
It also was the closest Pinellas came to winning an elusive title.
The Spongers led 6-0 with three minutes to play only to surrender two touchdowns on a Hail Mary and a defensive score in an excruciating loss to Fort Lauderdale Dillard.
The Falcons fell behind early and could not catch up in losing to the longtime state power Dreadnaughts.
Pensacola Pine Forest 24, Dunedin 0
After falling short in the final the previous year, the Falcons became just the second county team to reach the title game twice — and in consecutive seasons.
It ended up being another frustrating result
Dunedin had trouble generating anything on offense in a shutout loss to Pine Forest.
Fort Walton Beach 24, (Dixie) Hollins 0
The Rebels (now Royals) reached the final for the first time behind the dual-threat capabilities of Marquel Blackwell, who became a standout at USF and is now an assistant at Mississippi.
But the title game was another loss – and shutout – for the county.
Tallahassee North Christian 69, Admiral Farragut 0
The Blue Jackets ended years of futility by making their first title game appearance.
But nothing went right for them in the final. The loss was the worst in state championship game history.
Jacksonville Trinity Christian 34, Clearwater Central Catholic 7
The Marauders, who were playing in the final for the first time, went into halftime with a scoreless tie.
In the third quarter, they allowed 27 points – the most they had given up in a game all season – that spelled doom.
Lakeland Victory Christian 54, Indian Rocks Christian 16
The Golden Eagles got to the final for the first time after coming close for so many years.
Their vaunted run game, which featured two 1,000-yard rushers, could not generate enough to bring home a title.