College Christian makes use of protection to thunder to ninth state soccer title

University Christian wins the Class 2A state title with a 24-8 victory over Hialeah Champagnat Catholic. (Justin Barney/Florida Times-Union)

ORLANDO | Again-to-back is finished and the drive for a ninth championship full, courtesy of a defensive efficiency for the state file books.

College Christian’s soccer crew may be very a lot again to trying just like the dynasty it was within the Eighties and ’90s.

The Christians accomplished their back-to-back state title quest, slogging previous Hialeah Champagnat Catholic 24-8 on Friday morning within the Class 2A state championship sport at Tenting World Stadium. The win marked the ninth in class historical past for UC (10-2), tying it with St. Thomas Aquinas for second most in state historical past. And it is the third crown since 2012 for coach David Penland III, whose smashmouth, blitzing, overpowering protection stamped its place in state historical past with an unmatched playoff efficiency that sends UC into 2017 in search of its first-ever three-peat.

“This one’s particular,” Penland mentioned. “This crew is only one large household. They reward one another, encourage one another. Maintain one another identical to household.”

It wasn’t fairly from a fan’s standpoint the way in which final 12 months’s 61-point offensive masterpiece in opposition to Cambridge Christian was, but it surely was equally as convincing.

UC’s protection, a wrecking crew of a unit in any respect three ranges, was spectacular.

Slideshow: Scenes from the Class 2A state title sport

The Christians set a state-playoff file by working by way of the postseason by holding groups to minus 44 yards on the bottom. Champagnat was minus 42 on 17 carries Friday, its futility a state finals file by a considerable margin. Apopka’s minus 11-yard effort in opposition to Miami Columbus in 2014 was the earlier file low.

On the epicenter of that protection was linebacker Leon Huey, whose sensational senior season ended with a monster sport that Penland known as “simply superior.”

Huey flipped the momentum in UC’s favor with a 27-yard blocked punt return for a rating within the third quarter that woke up UC from a 3-0 slumber and gave it the jolt that it wanted. His 49-yard fumble return for a landing – his sixth defensive rating of the 12 months – with 1:34 to go put the exclamation level on simply how dominant of a day it was. Huey had eight tackles and two for loss. Titus Curry, James Sasser and Alex Wilcox all had sacks for a protection that compelled 5 fumbles.

“No, it is not stunning [how UC played],” Huey mentioned. “We belief one another. To start with of the 12 months, we had our ups and downs, however we achieved our objective.”

That the Lions (11-2) received on the scoreboard was a mirage.

They had been so overmatched that its solely choices for any success had been counting on UC’s penalties to maneuver the ball – a whopping 16 for 155 yards – and simply throwing an extended ball and making an attempt to get the occasional prayer to drop. That is the way it managed to get the ball on UC’s facet of the sector for the primary time with time working out within the third quarter. However it did not matter as a result of UC stopped Champagnat on downs on the 5.

“We play laborious, bodily, quick,” mentioned defensive sort out Andrew Wilcox. “We knew what was anticipated.”

The one break Champagnat managed was a blocked punt that it returned to the UC 1 halfway by way of the fourth quarter. However the Lions could not even cowl the ultimate 3 toes to the top zone due to penalties, a fumble after which Dyrell Stubbs’ second interception of the sport put Champagnat out of its distress.

“We have made performs all 12 months,” Stubbs mentioned. “Combat laborious all 4 quarters, that is been our factor all 12 months.”

The Christians wanted each little bit of that defensive muscle as a result of they had been within the midst of their worst offensive efficiency since a 53-6 loss to Brentwood, Tenn. in 2015 earlier than scratching out an insurance coverage landing late. Clayton Boyd’s 5-yard run with 3:12 to play was UC’s lone offensive landing, and first offensive factors since Sami Safar’s 32-yard area objective within the opening quarter. Boyd led UC with 51 speeding yards, and was 9 of 14 passing for 96 yards.

However on a day the place UC’s protection was so good, Safar’s kick would have been adequate to ship the state championship.

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