St. Petersburg Catholic immediately focuses on bigger goals even after eliminating its biggest rival.
By JAMAL THALJI
Published November 21, 2004
ST. PETERSBURG - Friday wasn't personal.
It was business.
After St. Petersburg Catholic's 38-14 region final win over Clearwater Central Catholic, the celebration was muted after the Barons won the first playoff meeting of these two bitter rivals.
"We're just business," sophomore playmaker Jock Sanders said. "We know what just happened but it doesn't matter, because we haven't won it all."
SPC's (8-1) first region title was just one box to check on coach Dan Mancuso's laundry list of postseason goals. Now comes next week's first state semifinal appearance against defending Class 2B champion Pahokee (9-0) at Joe Paul Stadium.
Then, the state title itself, to be decided Dec. 11 at Florida Field in Gainesville. No Pinellas County football team has won state, and the last team to reach the title game was Dixie Hollins in 1995.
And by business, the Barons mean they didn't let the emotion of their rivalry with the Marauders get to them.
SPC didn't get too down when CCC took control of the first quarter, didn't panic when CCC stayed close in the second and third, and didn't celebrate too wildly at the end.
"We took this as a playoff game, we didn't want to take this as a hyped-up revenge (game) in the rivalry," Mancuso said. "It was about our first trip to the state semifinals, our first regional championship.
"Once the season was over we had our new goals, playoff goals."
The Barons sealed the win on Sanders' 65-yard touchdown run to make it 28-14 with 5:00 left in the third quarter. The Barons poured on 10 points in the final 3:14 when Davis Rodriguez hit a 34-yard field goal and Donald Warren returned an interception 49 yards for a score with 1:44 left.
But otherwise the game was close, and SPC's offense inconsistent. Sanders had 264 of the team's 338 rushing yards. Quarterback Billy Tapp was only 7-of-14 for 38 yards with two interceptions. The defense came up with five turnovers, but gave up 190 yards passing and 166 rushing. SPC had three turnovers, too.
"I really can't explain it, man," said senior running back/linebacker Carl Teague, who had two sacks. "Maybe we just came out a little flat. But it happens to the best of us.
"It's not how you start, it's how you finish."
Which was why the Barons were so confident after the win. If SPC can struggle that much and still score 31 unanswered points to win by 24, what can this team do on a good day?
"I think it just shows us what we're ready for next week," Tapp said. "We're not even playing our best game, and that means if we play our best the next game, we can go up against anyone else.
"Hopefully we'll be the first ones in Pinellas County to win state. We're not settling for being regional champions."