Chaminade-Madonna underwent a significant change when former Hallandale coach Dameon Jones was hired a couple of days before fall practice.
The Lions spent the season getting to know their new coach while he got to know them.
So when Chaminade’s offensive players thought a change was needed to fulfill their full potential, Jones and his staff were all ears.
“We felt like our offense is one of the best in the state and maybe even the nation, but we just weren’t playing at that level,” junior wide receiver Xavier Williams said. “We took our idea to the offensive coordinator Delaine Powell and then we all talked to coach Jones about it. We all felt like this offense was the most comfortable for all of us to play our best.”
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Following back-to-back losses to Flanagan and national powerhouse IMG Academy to end the regular season in which Chaminade scored a combined six points, the Lions switched from a wide-open spread offense to a more power running scheme they had run in the past.
A month later, Chaminade finds itself preparing for a trip to Orlando to play for a state championship for the first time since 2005.
The Lions (10-3) will take on three-time defending state champion Jacksonville Trinity Christian at 10 a.m. Saturday at Camping World Stadium in the Class 3A final.
“I’d be lying to you if I said I thought on that first day that we’d be at this point this year playing for a state title,” Jones said. “We’re thankful and blessed to be where we are. We were getting better throughout the season, but we didn’t peak until the playoffs.”
Chaminade has scored a combined 114 points over its three playoff victories and amassed 873 rushing yards (291 per game).
During that span, the Lions upended Class 3A top-ranked West Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy and previously unbeaten Melbourne Central Catholic — both of which were ranked in the state’s top five.
Against MCC, Chaminade ran the ball 50 times and threw only four passes in a 42-17 victory. The Lions have maintained a 2-1 or even 3-1 run-to-pass ratio in all three postseason wins.
“I’m not a huge back but I love running downhill in this type of offense,” junior running back Shaun Shivers said. “We were trying to find ourselves during the season, but ever since the playoffs started everyone’s come together in a mindset where we know we can do it.”
Shivers, an Auburn University commitment, is enjoying a playoff run comparable to some of the best running backs in South Florida in recent memory.
Shivers, who despite his 5-7, 170-pound frame has numerous FBS-offers thanks to his blazing speed and instincts at the position, has run for 629 yards and nine touchdowns on only 58 carries (10.8 yards per carry) during the playoffs.
Shivers, who is in his second season as Chaminade’s starting tailback after starting as a defensive back his freshman season, has run for 1,429 yards and 19 touchdowns on 173 carries.
Shivers has flourished behind an offensive line led by senior center Julius Ianella, senior guards Steve Jean-Baptiste and Adam Jancosko and junior tackles Tarique Livingston and Davoan Hawkins, who also doubles on defense.
Senior quarterback Henry Colombi, a Utah State commitment, has remained effective since the change that coincided with his return from injury. Despite less attempts, Colombi has delivered big plays to his talented group of receivers led by Kentucky commit Josh Ali and Williams, a major FBS recruit.
Chaminade’s defense — led by linebacker Cody Watson (19 sacks, 110 tackles), a Fresno State commitment, Hunter Buckman (nine sacks), interior linemen Corey Prince (nine sacks), end Chris Whittaker, a UCF commitment, and defensive backs Tecory Couch (five interceptions) and Anthony Johnson, a Louisville commitment — has allowed only 30 points over the past three games.
“After the coaching change a lot of people felt we were no longer a state championship team,” Williams said. “We never changed. We just had to show everybody we were still one of the best teams like when we came into the season nationally-ranked.”
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.
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.