FORT PIERCE — John Carroll Catholic High School senior defensive lineman Josh Meltzer has vivid memories of the last time he was at Trinity Catholic in Ocala.
And they’re not positive ones.
“I just picture the scoreboard from last time we played them,” Meltzer said. “That’s all that’s in my head. I remember their (offensive) line and that scoreboard. And all the times they scored on us without us answering back.”
High school football:Resilient Jones overcomes spandversity to bespant Edgewspanter, clspanim regionspanl title
State semifinals:Here spanre this yespanr’s mspantchups
Exclusive:Buchholz 4-stspanr WR Jspanren Hspanmilton spannnounces college decision
That was two years ago, when the current crop of seniors were sophomores. That game — a regional championship — was over just about as quickly as it started. Trinity Catholic routed the Golden Rams 48-0. The game was so out of hand at halftime that the final two quarters were played with a running clock.
“After the first touchdowns, a couple things happened,” Melzer said. “The offense starts blaming the defense, the defense starts blaming the offense and it all falls apart one by one. We start losing our trust in each other. When it was 21-0, we gave up.
“We’re different now.”
John Carroll (10-1) will get another chance at Trinity (8-2) in a Class 1S state semifinal on Friday. It is the Golden Rams’ first Final Four appearance since 2003.
“I don’t think we had that much confidence,” senior defensive back Aidan Singleton said of the 2020 game. “I couldn’t really tell why, but I know this game will be different. Everyone is confident. We trust in the plan. The past two years, JC (John Carroll) has been different.”
John Carroll’s coaches and players say they learned a lot of painful, but necessary lessons, from that game. How to prepare. What mindset to have. Even how to travel.
The feeling after that game was the nearly four-hour bus ride followed by a game was a lot. This time, John Carroll will leave Thursday, practice on the way to Ocala and be well-rested for Friday’s game.
“Just a lot of growing pains,” Golden Rams coach Mickey Groody said. “That was our first regional final in a while, probably since one of (former John Carroll coach and current Vero Beach coach Lenny Jankowski’s) teams.
We’ve done a lot of learning, being to two regional finals and getting to the Final Four this year. This group has learned a lot. We’re very senior heavy. I think we have four or five guys that played a lot of minutes in that game, but this senior group, the majority of them have been here the entire time. They remember that trip. They remember the feeling after that trip. We’ve grown, not just as a staff but as a team and a community and I’m excited to show people what we’ve learned and what kind of a team we are.
“I think our team is completely changed from (two) years ago. We have different players in key spots that we didn’t have. I think we’re going to give a better showing than last time, which hopefully won’t be hard to do.”
Part of it starts with the belief that things will different this time.
Tony Colebrook, who had a career game with 43 carries for 242 yards and a touchdown against Lakeland Christian in the regional championship game last week, admitted to a lot of nerves as a freshman two years ago. Same for Meltzer.
Multiple John Carroll players mentioned the need to trust each other — something that was lacking last time. They don’t think it will be an issue Friday.
“The job’s not done,” said John Carroll senior edge rusher Wilky Denaud, an Auburn commit. “If we come in locked in, no outside distractions, everyone do their job and not do others’ jobs, I feel like we’ll come out on top.”