Playoff Football: And then there were two

CCC junior defensive end Cade Richards helped the Marauders hold Tampa Catholic to three points during last week’s 30-3 Class 3A Region 3 semifinal.

Seven Pinellas County football programs qualified to continue their seasons when the Florida High School Athletic Association playoffs began Nov 9.

After two rounds of play, that number has been pared to two.

Clearwater Central Catholic and Admiral Farragut remain as Pinellas’ final hopes for postseason glory.

Three of the peninsula’s contenders – Class 7A Pinellas Park and Class 6A Largo and Clearwater – fell off with losses two weeks ago. Experiencing tough nights last week were Class 5A Lakewood – the final public program playing – and Class 3A Calvary Christian.

Lakewood, playing as the Class 5A Region 3 No. 4 seed, hosted No. 8 Jefferson and lost a tightly played contest, 34-23. No. 6 Calvary upset No. 3 Cardinal Mooney in the quarterfinals but a trip to No. 2 Berkeley Prep ended in a 21-13 defeat.

CCC and Farragut, both No. 1 seeds in their respective regions coming off first-round byes, will host games again next week after picking up commanding victories. CCC pulled away from No. 4 Tampa Catholic and Farragut blitzed No. 5 Cambridge Christian, 40-14.

Class 3A: No. 2 Berkeley Prep (7-3) at No. 1 Clearwater Central Catholic (11-0)

CCC needed to knock of a little rust after its first-round bye, but still beat Tampa Catholic in convincing fashion.

Just like last week’s game, Friday night brings another familiar opponent. The Marauders beat Tampa Catholic in the regular season, 34-14, and they opened the year with a 35-14 home win over Berkeley Prep.

The Buccaneers spoiled a potential all-Clearwater region final by coming off its bye and beating Calvary 21-13.

CCC’s looking to continue its perfect season and reach the Class 3A state final four for the second straight year. Berkeley Prep’s won six of its last seven but will need plenty of good bounces going its way to upset CCC. Falling into a 13-0 first-half hole like the Buccaneers did last week against Calvary would be devastating and Berkeley can’t expect CCC to continue some of last week’s sloppy play that allowed Tampa Catholic to keep things close. The Marauders shot itself in the foot repeatedly by committing five first-half 15-yard penalties. Expect Coach Chris Harvey and his staff to have that cleaned up for Friday night.

CCC quarterback Rory Hicks and Co. has scored 30 or more points every game except in a 14-6 win over Class 5A Jesuit, which was the latter’s lone defeat of the season. If the Marauders keep things rolling, a state semifinal rematch with Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna could be up next. The Lions came to Clearwater and wiped out CCC 49-3 last year, en route to the Class 3A state championship. No. 1 Chaminade takes on No. 3 Delray Beach American Heritage in the Region 3A-4 final.

Class 2A: No. 2 Seffner Christian (11-0) at No. 1 Admiral Farragut (9-1)

Farragut continues adding to its best season since 2015 and the Blue Jackets enjoyed a little delayed revenge last week.

The Blue Jackets are in the postseason for a program-record fourth straight year and last week’s 40-14 shellacking of Cambridge Christian had to feel good for players and coaches who have been on the team for the past few years. The Lancers ended Farragut’s 2016 season in the first round and kept the Blue Jackets from reaching their second state final four in 2015 with a 36-32 comeback victory.

Last week’s big victory after an opening-round bye was a quality tune-up for what comes Friday – undefeated No. Seffner Christian. The Crusaders’ 27-16 second-round win over Carrollwood Day School represents their lowest margin of victory this season since opening the year with a 25-20 win over Mount Dora Christian Academy.

For what it’s worth, had Farragut ranked No. 2 in the Class 2A state standings entering last week, trailing only Tallahassee North Florida Christian. Seffner Christian was at No. 7, while also being the only undefeated team in the Top 10.

Farragut’s going to have to slow down a Crusaders offense that has lit up scoreboards all year, led by quarterback Isaiah Knowles. The junior has thrown for more than 2,000 yards and 33 touchdowns. Running back Justin Stubbs leads the ground attack with 16 touchdowns.

Another victory would send Farragut into the state semifinals for the second time in school history and first since finishing as Class 2A state runner-up in 2011. Awaiting Friday night’s winner will be either Naples Neumann (10-1) or Hialeah Champagnat Catholic (7-5).