High School Football | Champagnat Catholic

Frederick, Champagnat on a wild ride

 

Running back Michael Fredrick and Champagnat have overcome a few hurdles on their way to Friday’s Class 2A state championship game in Orlando.

 
Running back Michael Fredrick’s choice to attend Champagnat has paid off with a trip to the Class 2A state title game on Friday.
Running back Michael Fredrick’s choice to attend Champagnat has paid off with a trip to the Class 2A state title game on Friday.
Peter Andrew Bosch / Miami Herald staff

If you go

What: The 51st annual state football finals.

When: Friday-Saturday.

Where: The Citrus Bowl, 1610 W. Church St., Orlando.

Admission: $12 per session; Parking: $10.

Defending state champions – Class 8A: Apopka; 7A: Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas; 6A: Miami Central; 5A: Tallahassee Godby; 4A: Miami Booker T. Washington; 3A: Davie University School; 2A: Jacksonville University Christian; 1A: Bratt Northview.

Friday’s schedule – Class 2A: Hialeah Champagnat Catholic (13-0) vs. Lakeland Victory Christian (10-3), 1; Class 1A: Blountstown (13-0) vs. Trenton (11-1), 7.

Saturday’s schedule – Class 3A: Jacksonville Trinity Christian (11-1) vs. Clearwater Central Catholic (11-2), 1; Class 4A: Miami Booker T. Washington (13-0) vs. Jacksonville Bolles (10-3), 7.

STATE SEMIFINALS

NOTE: All semifinal games at 7:30 p.m. Friday at designated sites.

Class 8A at Harris Field: Palm Beach Gardens (9-4) vs. South Dade (12-1)

Class 6A at Traz Powell: Daytona Beach Mainland (12-1) vs. Miami Central (11-1)

Class 5A: Plantation American Heritage (12-1) at Lake Wales (9-4)


mnavarro@MiamiHerald.com

When Michael Fredrick told his mother he wanted to leave a crowded backfield at Hallandale High this summer for an opportunity to get on the field more at tiny Champagnat Catholic in Hialeah, she had no problem going along with his decision.

“I just had never heard of the school before,” Teri Fredrick said. “At first, I thought it was [Hollywood] Chaminade. I kept asking him to spell the name of the school for me. When I researched it, and saw it was in like a strip mall, no football field, no weight room, I had my second thoughts about it.”

What ultimately convinced Fredrick’s mother was when she saw Michael had cut his dreadlocks and dressed up in the school’s uniform.

“I said if he’s willing to do something like that he must be serious about football,” she said. “The whole thing has surprised me.”

The Lions (13-0) have stunned many on their way to Friday afternoon’s Class 2A state championship game at the Citrus Bowl against Lakeland Victory Christian (10-3). A year ago, Champagnat was 2-9.

Thanks to the arrival of Fredrick, a 5-11, 175-pound tailback with 4.46 speed, and a few other key transfers as well as 20 returning players from last season, coach Mike Tunsil’s fourth-year football program has quickly ascended despite all the hurdles it had to overcome.

Not only have the Lions lived a nomadic existence (practicing at five different parks over the last four years; often piling players into coaches’ cars to get there), they’ve had to raise all of their own money to sustain the program because they don’t have a home field and do not make much of a profit. The money they did raise for football this season ran out when the regular season ended last month, school athletic director Isabel Alonso said.

Alonso, whose parents founded the small private school in 1968, has been finding creative ways to pay the bills including selling sponsorships. But her most creative maneuver? Winning $2,000 on a lottery scratch off card last week.

“On the bus drive to Tampa [for the state semifinals] we stopped at a gas station and I bought $20 worth of scratch-offs,” Alonso said. “When I got back to the bus I told the kids, ‘Guess what we’ve got a bus ride to Orlando next week.’

“God has really put great things in our path. [Wednesday morning] a team parent [Mildred Aparcio] showed up with exactly the amount of money we needed for the hotel. It’s definitely in God’s plan for us to be there.”

Alonso said she begged her mother for years to start a football program at Champagnat, but she was always against it because she thought it was too rough of a sport. Champagnat did, however, start basketball and baseball 19 years ago. The boys’ basketball team won a state title in 2000. It wasn’t until after her mother passed away in Jan. 2010 that Alonso decided it was the time to start a football program.

“Michael is definitely a perfect example of why we decided to go through with it, and what the vision was from the get-go,” Alonso said. “If the kids can play a sport that they like, can play well and we can give them the structure, discipline and academics attached to it, they can earn a college scholarship and then they have a better chance at life.”

Fredrick, one of three two-way starters for the Lions, has also been the workhorse in the backfield since senior Franklin Labady, a University of Cincinnati commitment, went down with a broken foot a week before the playoffs began. Over his past five games, Fredrick has run for 623 yards and six touchdowns on 62 carries.

No college programs have yet to offer Fredrick a scholarship. But considering eight teammates have multiple offers (four are committed to Division I programs), it might not be long before he gets one. Friday’s big stage should also help.

“It’s really been a dream season come true,” his mother said. “Michael has come a long way since Optimist. He’s always been real quiet. He hands the ball to referee when he scores. I try to be his loud voice out there.”

A bus full of Champagnat fans, students and parents will head north Friday to support the Lions, who will also be wearing new white uniforms courtesy of Fredrick’s stepfather, DeAndre Francis.

He designed the team’s gray uniforms — the only ones they had — at the start of the season. When the Florida High School Athletic Association told Alonso earlier this week the Lions needed wear white jerseys for Friday’s game she panicked and called Francis. Little did she know he was already designing white uniforms as a surprise pregame gift.

“Win or lose,” Alonso said, “this is where we’re supposed to be right now.”

Read more Miami-Dade High Schools stories from the Miami Herald

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