JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - University Christian plays in the Class 2A state championship game on Friday afternoon in Orlando vs. Dade Christian (Miami).
It's the Christians first appearance in the finals since 1994. UC has won six state titles, including four between 1989-1994.
It's been a long road back, but one head coach David Penland III says the team had in mind at the beginning of the year.
"We've been talking about it since I got the job, just trying to get there," Penland said. "It's here. I can say, no, I didn't think I was going to be here, but hey, we're here."
The players know they haven't been this far before, but a big second-round win over powerhouse North Florida Christian (Tallahassee) has UC's confidence at an all-time high.
"No one on this team has a whole lot of experience to be going this far into the playoffs, but definitely we're all brothers on this team, and we all have the same aspirations to win state," senior offensive lineman Alex Bell said.
"It's a dream come true, and we worked so hard, but we never thought we'd be playing for the state championship. It's surreal," senior offensive lineman Derric Watson added.
The Christians know it won't be an easy road against Dade Christian. The Crusaders are undefeated and have won their three playoffs game by an average of 14 points. That fact isn't lost on Penland.
"You don't just show up to the state championship and they give you the trophy," he said. "You have to earn it, and it starts in practice, and just like we've done all year, we will practice hard."
The Christians and Crusaders will kick off at 1 p.m. Friday at the Citrus Bowl. Stay tuned to Channel 4 and News4Jax.com for complete coverage.
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