Some teams might not make winning a state championship its only acceptable goal.
Don’t tell that to Champagnat Catholic.
With a deeper and more talented roster, the Lions knew their team would produce much better results than last year’s 2-7 record.
But a confident Champagnat squad is heading to Orlando this weekend within one win of accomplishing its lofty goal and winning the school’s second state title in four years.
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“I’m impressed with how far we’ve come, but I’m not surprised,” second-year Champagnat coach Dennis Marroquin said. “You know how it is down here [in Miami-Dade County]. Every coach on every team isn’t satisfied with anything less than a state championship. But we really believed it this season and we set that as a goal for the kids since the first day of practice.”
The Lions (11-1) have a chance to become the first Miami-Dade County private school football team to win more than one state championship if they beat Jacksonville University Christian (9-2) in the Class 2A state final Friday at 10 a.m. at Camping World Stadium.
University Christian presents the latest seemingly daunting challenge to Champagnat as it is vying for back-to-back titles, which would give them nine overall. That total ranks third all-time in state history behind Jacksonville Bolles (playing for its 12th on Thursday) and St. Thomas Aquinas (playing for its 10th on Friday).
But facing schools with much more tradition and enrollment is nothing new for Champagnat, who has about 160 students and is in only its seventh season as a varsity program.
“We try not to pay too much attention to other team’s traditions,” said junior linebacker Tyrik Robinson, who has 123 tackles and nine sacks this season. “Some of those teams haven’t seen our speed and what we can do. We just have to stay humble.”
On the strength of a defense that has allowed only three combined points in its past two playoff games, Champagnat defeated playoff regular Naples First Baptist and Tampa Northside Christian, which routed Cambridge Christian the No. 1 ranked team in 2A the prior week.
The Lions’ secondary led by seniors Jordan Coley (three interceptions), Sean Bouie (41 tackles, two INTs) and De’Vante Mitchell (6 INTs), an Ohio University commitment.
Versatile linebacker Donovan Georges, a junior, has a team-high 129 tackles and 17 FBS-level offers including Alabama, LSU, UM, Louisville and Georgia, and freshman defensive end Jesus Machado (98 tackles, team-high 19 sacks) already has offers from Alabama, Michigan State, N.C. State, Iowa State and West Virginia. Machado and junior Maxesien Michel (100 tackles, 14 sacks) anchor the defensive front.
Georges has also played at offensive tackle during the playoffs following Martinez’s injury and still been prolific on defense. Greg Rousseau, a 6-6 junior receiver has also developed as a steady two-way player for the Lions. Rousseau, who has 10 major FBS offers, has caught nine touchdown passes and totaled 65 tackles on defense while playing safety.
“It’s a real special feeling to come over here and help this team turn things around,” Coley said. “Ever since spring we knew this team could be special because we felt no one else had this kind of talent at the 2A level.”
Champagnat has started as many as six freshmen on offense since an injury to senior lineman Ivan Martinez before the playoffs began.
Despite the setback, the offense has continued to thrive behind a line led by 6-3, 255-pound junior tackle Jawuan Wilson.
Champagnat is averaging 293.2 yards per game and 25.7 points led by the combo backfield of Calvin Montgomery, Daryn Jones, Isaiah Sharpe and Arthur Roberts III. Sophomore quarterback Kervin Dessources has thrown for 1,510 yards and 18 touchdown passes with only six interceptions.
“A lot of us really had to be leaders,” Wilson said. “I think after the first playoff game those young guys really came through and executed everything they were taught during the season.”
If you go
What: The state football finals.
Where: Camping World Stadium, 1 Citrus Bowl Place, Orlando.
Admission: $12 and $17 per session if purchased prior to event; $15 and $20 at the gate; Parking: $10.
2015 state champions – Class 8A: Flanagan; 7A: St. Thomas Aquinas; 6A: Miami Central; 5A: Orlando Bishop Moore; 4A: Booker T. Washington; 3A: Jacksonville Trinity Christian; 2A: Jacksonville University Christian; 1A: Trenton.
Thursday’s schedule – Class 1A: Pahokee (13-0) vs. Baker (13-0), 1; 4A: Cocoa (11-1) vs. Jacksonville Bolles (12-0), 7.
Friday’s schedule – Class 2A: Champagnat Catholic (11-1) vs. Jacksonville University Christian (9-2), 10 a.m.; 5A: Plantation American Heritage (13-0) vs. Ponte Vedra (13-0), 3; 7A: St. Thomas Aquinas (11-2) vs. Tampa Plant (13-0), 8.
Saturday’s schedule – Class 3A: Chaminade-Madonna (10-3) vs. Jacksonville Trinity Christian (10-3), 10 a.m.; 6A: Carol City (9-3) vs. Lakeland Lake Gibson (13-0), 3; 8A: Southridge (11-2) vs. Orlando Dr. Phillips (12-2), 8.