In its four years of varsity football, Champagnat Catholic has rarely enjoyed a true home game atmosphere.
From fans beating drums in the stands, a disc jockey on the sidelines and a Senior Night ceremony at halftime, the Lions felt cozy at Milander Park on Wednesday night while keeping its best season in school history going.
Champagnat defeated Barrington Christian 30-12 to clinch a playoff berth and inch closer to its first ever district football title. The Lions can clinch the district with either a Highlands Christian loss either of the next two weeks or if Champagnat beats Highlands Christian Nov. 1.
Champagnat (8-0, 3-0 in District 8-2A) entered the game as the top-ranked team in Class 2A and will finish the regular season with two more road games against Highlands Christian and Archbishop Carroll. Without an on-campus field, the Lions will have played nine of their 10 games on the road.
“This was our first real home game and we’re definitely happy to win the school’s first district title,” Champagnat coach Mike Tunsil said. “This was our first time playing on a Wednesday this season and it showed with some of our mistakes. But a win is a win.”
Champagnat overcame some sloppy play early, scoring a pair of touchdowns prior to halftime to take a 24-12 lead into the break.
Its defense shut out the Falcons (3-4, 1-2) in the second half and scored a touchdown when Keddrick Labady recovered a fumble in the end zone.
Frank Labady caught a 54-yard touchdown from Kato Nelson in the first quarter to open the scoring.
Michael Frederick and Labady each ran for 56 yards. Frederick ran for a 20-yard touchdown late in the second quarter.
Barrington Christian twice kept itself in the game early on big plays.
Javis Johnson ran for a 22-yard touchdown to cut Champagnat’s lead to 8-6 in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, a Lions defensive breakdown allowed quarterback Joell Bell to find Kareem Jones open for a 51-yard touchdown pass.
But 13 penalties for 130 yards and some timely plays by the Lions’ defense kept Barrington from sustaining any drives.