Hector Clavijo isn’t much into halftime speeches.
But with his Champagnat football team having struggled in the first half and trailing St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut 7-3 in a Class 2A state semifinal on Friday night, the Lions head coach jumped in with a few words of wisdom and evidently it worked.
That as Champagnat came out and outscored Farragut 21-3 over the third quarter and first half of the fourth en route to a 24-20 victory in St. Petersburg.
And with that, the defending 2A state champions, a team that struggled mightily during a 4-5 regular season and a team that doesn’t know what it’s like to play a home game, will get a chance to do just that, defend its title as it heads to Camping World Stadium in Orlando to take on Tallahassee North Florida Christian on Friday at 10 a.m. in the 2A state championship game.
“It wasn’t any kind of tongue-lashing or anything like that,” said Clavijo. “I just told them to relax. For whatever reason they had played a little tight in the first half and made a few mistakes so I just told to relax and do what we always do, have fun and play football. Trust the process and the system that we have and to go out there and have each other’s backs.”
It didn’t take long for Clavijo’s speech to kick in as the Lions came out with a long drive to open the second half and finished it off when big defensive lineman Cheyenne Lecour entered the game as a fullback and plunged over from a yard out putting Champagnat (8-5) up 10-7.
The defense then pinned Farragut (10-2) deep in its own territory forcing a quick three-and-out. Niico Gause broke through and blocked the punt and Bryan Reinsteron fell on it in the end zone and just like that, the Lions were up 17-7.
Following a Farragut field goal, Champagnat then put together another long drive that was capped of by a three-yard Daryn “Duke” Jones touchdown run to make it 24-10 with just over seven minutes left.
Farragut scored with less than a minute left before the Lions, who entered the playoffs as a No. 5 seed, recovered an onside kick to seal the victory, a fourth consecutive postseason win on the road.
“Playing everything on the road during the regular season is what helped us through the postseason as well,” said Clavijo. “After awhile, these kids not only get used to playing on the road, they actually embrace it, almost like a way of life for them. Even when we were struggling during the regular season, I always believed we could get back to the championship game because we knew we had enough talent on the field and that it was just a matter of everything coming together which it has.”