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.
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“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.