TALLAHASSEE – This has been one of those years that Champagnat Catholic head football coach Hector Clavijo will long remember.
On Wednesday afternoon at Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium, all the emotions of this past year had Clavijo and his team once again standing on the podium after a 41-27 win over Jacksonville University Christian, the 11-2 Lions won for the second straight year and third in the past fifth.
The tragic death of his brother, Danny, who was a huge part of this program, was certainly a rallying point for this Champagnat Catholic team that can now be considered a true 2A dynasty with five consecutive trips to the state finals.
That loss was something that motivated this football team throughout the past year – throughout this pandemic.
The Lions struck first on a 51-yard pass from senior quarterback Tyous Taylor to junior Benson Prosper and it was 7-0 on the second play from scrimmage. It would the first of three for Prosper.
When Taylor found Prosper again – from 18-yards out – Champagnat Catholic had moved to a 14-0 advantage with 6:44 left in the opening quarter, and this one was looking like it would be a runaway, but the Fighting Christians didn’t throw in the towel.
University Christian cut the lead to 14-7 with 2:32 left in the active first quarter when Joe Carter took the direct snap 12 yards for the score, 12-7.
The defenses were also active in that opening quarter – with Justin Payoute, Larrion Louis-Welch and Darnell Georges making things happen for the Lions.
The Christians also had some top players on defense – with Coast Moyle, Desirrio Riles and Mark Brown leading the way.
When Orel Gray scored for the 16th time with 3:29 left in the first half, and the two-point conversion put the Christians ahead 15-14.
Champagnat Catholic took the lead back after junior Xavier Ferguson recovered a fumble – when senior running back Donovan Jones took it 46 yards. The point after failed and the Lions held a 20-15 advantage with 9:14 left in the third quarter.
The third quarter saw some additional stars on defense – with Blake Belus and Jordan Jones for Champagnat Catholic – and Mark Brown for University Christian.
The Lions moved the lead to 26-15 when Taylor found Prosper for the third time in less than three quarters for 14 yards out at the 5:23 mark of the third quarter.
University Christian would not go away as they struck with :43 left in the quarter on a 51-yard scoring strike from Riles to Ja’won Gray and cut the lead to 26-21.
With 9:33 left in the fourth quarter, the Lions extended their lead to 34-21 after Georgia Tech-bound Malik Rutherford took it in for the score.
Once again, University Christian came back with 6:23 remaining when sophomore Gray scored from the 10 to cut the lead back to 34-27.
Rutherford got the Lions back in the endzone for the final time with 2:23 left on a 9-yard scoring strike from Taylor and a 41-27 advantage.
Jones led the way for the Lions with 120 yards rushing – and Taylor finished 18 of 23 for 246 yards and 4 scores. Prosper finished with eight catches for 100 yards and three touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, Georges (11 tackles), Stephon Hyatt (9 tackles), Belus (9 tackles), Louis-Welch (8 tackles) and Jones (8 tackles) led the way for the Lions.