ORLANDO – On the second day of the FHSAA state finals, the Trinity Christian Conquerors (12-1) played “visitor” to the Clearwater Central Catholic Marauders (11-3). While the Conquerors were chasing their fourth state title overall, the Marauders were going after their first in school history.
In the end, Trinity Christian defeated Clearwater Central Catholic 34-7.
Similar to the first two state final games on Friday, both team’s defenses made it known they came to play. Neither team cracked the scoreboard in the first nor second quarter.
Trinity Christian gained a red zone opportunity, but squandered it after a penalty backed them up outside scoring position. The wealth was spread among the many running backs they use. Jalin Buie headlined the running back group in the first half with a couple of nice runs to put his team in good field position.
On the Marauders side of the ball, quarterback Jeff Smith kept them afloat in the first and second quarter. Smith tallied 77 total yards in the first half, 26 on the ground with the rest coming through the air.
Defensively for Clearwater Central Catholic, Conner Dorris had eight tackles and a half sack.
For the Conquerors, Victor Alexander was a man amongst boys wrecking havoc behind the Marauders line of scrimmage making five tackles, with two being for losses.
After the break, the Conquerors wasted no time making adjustments.
Isaiah Ford broke the game open with a 58 yard run on the second play from half to score. Following that score, the Conquerors defense got in on the game action when middle linebacker Victor Alexander intercepted a pass from Smith and returned the pass to the 14 yard line. Sitting in prime scoring position, Jaquez Riles found Chris Barr on a slant for another touchdown. This score came just a minute after their first of the day.
After receiving the ball via kickoff, the Marauders found themselves in a compromising position of a pivotal fourth down and down two scores. Opting to go for the first down, they failed to convert for the first time of the day. This cost them big time because Trinity Christian would take advantage of the short field in the form of another Ford touchdown run. This time from four yards out.
With a little over half of the third quarter remaining, Clearwater Central Catholic drove the length of the field on the legs of Smith who had runs of 11 and 18 yards, respectively. But on a second down, Smith would run, be tackled and fumble the ball. Trinity Christian’s Deontai Williams recovered the ball and ran it in from 63 yards out for a score.
The Conquerors went on to amass 143 yards on just 12 plays offensively in the third quarter to go with the 27 points they put up.
But the Marauders would not be held scoreless in the game. With a little over 8 minutes on the clock in the fourth quarter, they drove down the field. The drive was capped off by a Dorris 2-yard run for touchdown. This proved to be their only score of the game due to multiple mistakes down the stretch of the fourth quarter.
Smith, finished the day with five turnovers by himself, including a fumble and four interceptions.
“It was tough all day for him. They made him think before, during and after the snap. Plus, the addition of dropped passes put us behind the chains and forced him to make a couple of throws he may not have wanted to throw otherwise,” said Marauders head coach John Davis of his quarterback’s play.
The Conquerors did tack on late touchdown with a six-play drive that ended with a Buie 53 yard rumble to pay dirt. Buie finished with 98 yards on 12 carries, while his teammate Ford finished with 128 all-purpose yards.
“I wanted this so bad. I’m a senior and this is the only way I wanted to go out. On top, with that trophy in my hand,” said Ford.
This was Trinity Christian’s first state title since they won in Class 1A in 2010.