TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A team built on grounding and pounding the football, University Christian was ready for a shoot-out. They had trick plays. They forced fumbles and critical off-sides.
Unfortunately, it still wasn't enough to stop the speedy, Champagnat Lions.
UC (8-5) fell to Champagnat Catholic (11-2) 41-27 in the Class 2A State Championship Wednesday. It was the Christians' first title game appearance since 2017.
It looked like it might get late early out in Tallahassee, as the Lions roared to a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter. But Joe Carter, one of two players who were a part of that 2017 team, was not going down without a fight. The senior clawed his way in from 12 yards out for the Christians' first score of the day, making it 14-7 before the end of the first quarter. He'd then force one of two, second quarter Champagnat fumbles, giving UC fantastic field position; that set up Orel Gray's 10-yard touchdown run. University Christian went for two to take a 15-14 lead into the locker room.
The Lions pounced in the third quarter, re-taking the lead and pushing it to 26-15. But the Christians were ready to prove they could get it done through the air, too. Carter, lined up in the wildcat, pitched the ball to sophomore quarterback Desirrio Riles; Riles found Ja'Won Grey 66 yards down field to cut the deficit to five. Champagnat would score again, but Riles would throw another, 40-yard bomb to set up Gray's second touchdown of the day in the fourth quarter. That made it a seven-point game with a little over six minutes remaining.
Every time the Lions pounced, the Christians had an answer.
But time wasn't on UC's side.
Champagnat's star running back, Donovan Jones, slid in-bounds to keep the clock running multiple times. The Lions repeatedly let the play-clock wind down to zero before calling a play. All UC could do was watch. And a touchdown pass worthy of Sportscenter Top 10-acclaim sealed Champagnat's victory.
University Christian finishes the year 8-5.
Two other Jacksonville-area teams will play in the State Championships this week. Trinity Christian plays in the Class 3A Final Wednesday at 7 p.m. Bolles plays in the Class 4A Final Thursday at 1 p.m. All games will be held at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.