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December 6, 2013

Champagnat holds on for 14-7, 2A title

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ORLANDO- Who ever said defense wins championships sure knew what they were talking about.

Hialeah (Fla.) Champagnat Catholic rode their defense to a 14-7 win over Lakeland (Fla.) Victory Christian Academy to seal the 2013 Florida High School Athletics Association 2A state championship. The Lions finished with a perfect record, 14-0.

Victory Christian, who came in averaging 165 yards a game on the ground and 225 a game through the air, couldn't get their offense going at all until the fourth quarter.

Champagnat held the Storm to just 28 rushing yards on 33 attempts, good for an average of 0.85 yards per rush. The defense also tabbed five sacks and two interceptions, dominating an offensive attack that came balanced and lethal.

The Lions defensive line controlled the game from start to finish, including a crucial red zone stop with less than a minute left to play.

Victory Christian had dinked and dunked their way down the field all the way to the Champagnat 19. Coach Mike Tunsil took a timeout to gather his team.

"I told them 'If you don't anything else, we have to get a stop. This is what we've been playing all year for'," Tunsil said, "We've been a great defensive team all year. I told them to just pull through to make this stop and we'll win this game."

Star defensive tackle Travonte Valentine (4 star Miami commit) came up huge. He bull rushed through the line directly to Victory QB Caleb Lewis, who slid under Valentine for a 9 yard sack that took the final gust of wind out of the Storm's sails.

When Lewis' desperation fourth down pass hit the end zone turf, the celebration began. Champagnat carries little in terms of tradition. The Lions see this title as validation of their work and their program.

"We were a 2-9 team last year," Valentine said. "Now everyone that we played, we beat. It's an honor. I feel great."

Valentine transferred to Champagnat from Melbourne (Fla.) Bayside High School during the summer.

Champagnat built a 14-0 lead on the back of Michael Fredrick, who scored twice and ran for 64 yards. The Lions played ball control for most of the second half, not moving the ball down the field against a formidable Victory Christian defense, but draining the clock.

Victory Christian didn't crack the scoreboard until the 6:24 mark in the fourth quarter on a Lewis keeper, but twice entered the Lion's territory in its next two drives.

The first drive ended in confusion, as Caleb Lewis took a knee on third and one from the 31 after seeing 12 Lions on the field. A flag never came. The fourth down conversion failed.

Champagnat went three-and-out, and once again the Storm drove deep into Lion territory, but then came the red zone rejection, courtesy of the 6'4", 320 lb Valentine.

The defensive stood proud for Champagnat, they have something to be proud of. They are Champions.



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