Playoff Football: Pinellas staying alive

CCC quarterback Rory Hicks has the Marauders on the doorstep of states. Standing in the way Friday is state power Chaminade-Madonna.

For the third time ever, Pinellas County enters a Friday night with multiple programs playing in state final four games.

Admiral Farragut and Clearwater Central Catholic picked up region final victories last week to extend their seasons and hopes for a state title that always seems to elude local peninsular teams.

The only other times Pinellas had multiple teams reach states came recently. CCC and East Lake reached that point in 2013 and CCC, East Lake and Indian Rocks Christian did so in 2014.

No Pinellas County team has ever won states.

Is this the year?

CCC and Farragut are two wins away.

Class 3A: Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna (10-2) at No. 1 Clearwater Central Catholic (12-0)

Payback time?

CCC has a shot to avenge a humbling experience from a year ago Friday night against Chaminade-Madonna. The Lions came to Clearwater and wiped out the Marauders 49-3, en route to their third state championship.

This is the sixth time in seven years CCC finds itself in the final four. The Marauders advanced to the state title game in 2013. The other four appearances resulted in losses.

CCC enters Friday as MaxPreps.com’s top-ranked Class 3A program. Chaminade is No. 2, but has to be brimming with confidence from the experience of last year’s trip to Clearwater.

Chaminade’s only defeats this year are a 13-10 loss to Deerfield Beach, ranked No. 2 in Class 8A and playing in the final four Friday, and a 31-21 loss to Plantation American Heritage, ranked No. 2 in Class 5A and reached the region finals.

Last year’s loss against Chaminade was filled with explosive plays that CCC just couldn’t stop. The Marauders were down 28-3 at halftime and the game was essentially over at that point.

Chaminade quarterback Daelen Menard only threw the ball nine times in last year’s semifinal, but completed five passes for over 200 yards and four touchdowns.

CCC must be prepared for a similar game plan and the Marauders’ secondary better be ready.

The Marauders have put up gaudy offensive numbers this year, but they haven’t played anyone near the caliber of Chaminade. If CCC’s offensive line can handle Chaminade’s defensive front better than a season ago, the Marauders and quarterback Rory Hicks should be able to find greater success.

If not? It could be another long night in Clearwater.

The winner of Friday’s game will meet either Tallahassee Florida State University or West Palm Beach King’s Academy. All four Class 3A semifinalists are regional No. 1 seeds.

Class 2A: Hialeah Champagnat Catholic (8-5) at Admiral Farragut (10-1)

Last week’s convincing 20-7 over Seffner Christian puts Farragut in the state semifinals for the second time in school history.

The last time that happened, the Blue Jackets reached the Class 2A state championship game in 2011 before losing to Tallahassee North Florida Christian.

Getting back to the title game this year requires taking out Champagnat, last year’s state champ. Don’t let the Lions’ modest 8-5 record fool you. Champagnat played a challenging schedule and are ranked as Class 2A’s No.3 squad, right ahead of No. 4 Farragut. The Lions were also state runners-up in 2016, three years after winning it all in 2013.

Farragut’s surrendered only 60 points through 11 games and limiting Seffner Christian to a single touchdown should provide confidence going into this year’s toughest test. The Lions jumped a quality Cambridge Christian team last year in the state semifinals while easing to a 38-0 win. Farragut can’t afford to allow the Champagnat to do the same Friday night.