Champagnat Catholic knew how much a victory against Dade Christian would go toward validating the high expectations for its young football program this season.
When it needed it the most, the Lions’ playmakers stepped up and helped them secure their first-ever win against the Crusaders in a crucial District 8-2A clash at Wooten Field.
“The past two years we thought we had a chance to play with them, but they beat us a combined 120-8 in those games,” Champagnat coach Mike Tunsil said. “We didn’t want that feeling again.”
Champagnat’s defense sacked Dade Christian freshman quarterback Tyree Bibby four times, and sophomore Darnell Solomon had a key interception.
The Lions (4-0, 1-0 in district) never trailed but found themselves in a close contest leading only 8-6 late in the third quarter.
Dade Christian (2-2, 0-1) nearly gained possession by stopping Champagnat and forcing a punt. But a roughing-the-punter penalty kept the drive alive.
A few plays later, sophomore wide receiver Darnell Solomon hauled in a 21-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kato Nelson. Frank Labady then caught a two-point pass to pad the lead enough for the Lions.
Dade Christian tried cutting the lead to one possession with less than three minutes to go. But kicker Jordan Wilson hooked a 27-yard field goal attempt wide left. Champagnat ran out the remaining time on the ensuing drive.
“There’s a reason Solomon is one of the top kids in his class,” Tunsil said. “Our offensive line definitely played well today and our defense is one of the best in the city.”
Solomon finished with seven catches for 95 yards and Labady ran for 58 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and caught three passes for 31 yards.
Labady said the team dedicated the victory to senior defensive back Michael Johnson, one of the county’s top prospects who has missed the past three games with a shoulder injury.
“We wanted to win this game for him because he remembers all the bad losses this team had the past few years,” Labady said. “This is a big motivation for us and we’re a family again and we’re going strong.”