Class 2A football title game glance: Can UC bring home title No. 10?

University Christian will face Hialeah Champagnat Catholic on Wednesday at 1 p.m. for the Class 2A state championship in Tallahassee.
University Christian will face Hialeah Champagnat Catholic on Wednesday at 1 p.m. for the Class 2A state championship in Tallahassee. (News4Jax)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three high school football teams from the area reached this week’s state championship games, Bolles, Trinity Christian and University Christian. We look at those games and give you what you need to know if you plan on attending it or watching it online.

Class 2A state championship glance

University Christian (8-4) vs. Hialeah Champagnat Catholic (10-2)

When: Wednesday, 1 p.m.

Where: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee.

Tickets: $15 in advance; $18 on gameday. No on-site sales of tickets. All must be purchased online. Those can be found here. Parking is included in the ticket price.

Watch it: The game will be streamed through Spectrum Cable. Cost is $9.99. That link can be found here. The game is not televised locally.

UC chasing 10th state football championship
UC chasing 10th state football championship

The playoff road

University Christian d. Quincy Munroe, 42-0; d. Aucilla Christian, 41-16; d. St. John Paul II, 41-7; d. Tallahassee North Florida Christian, 35-20; d. Foundation Academy, 28-14; Champagnat d. 65-7; d. First Baptist Academy, 42-0; d. Moore Haven, 49-18; d. Community School of Naples, 67-7; d. Seffner Christian, 56-14.

Glance at the game

When UC reaches a title game, it often closes the deal. The Christians are 9-2 in state championship games, including 3-1 under David Penland III, who is in his 10th year as the head coach. UC’s nine state championships rank only behind Bolles and St. Thomas Aquinas’ state-leading 11. A win would give Penland his fourth state championship, tying for UC head coach and Florida High School Athletic Association hall of famer Robby Pruitt’s school record with the school. Pruitt later added three more championships at Union County. …

The difference in this season’s playoffs and last years? Health. UC got more and more beaten up down the stretch in 2019 and had little left in the tank by the time it reached the state semifinals. This season, some of those players who emerged during the postseason have been far more prominent. RB Orel Gray has morphed from a defense-first star to an all-around playmaker. He’s riding a streak of 6 consecutive games of 120 yards rushing or more and has developed into the player for teams to stop. RB Joe Carter is averaging a team-best 8.1 ypc among the regulars and has 759 yards and 7 TDs rushing. QB Desirrio Riles reached the 1,000-yard passing mark in his last game and is capable of turning in big games with his legs and arm. WR Ja’won Grey is his top target (471 yards, 7 TDs).

It’s the third meeting in the state championship game between these two teams since 2016. UC won 24-8 in ’16 for its ninth state title and lost the following season (24-7) as the Lions denied the Christians a threepeat. This is UC’s first trip back to the title game since that loss in 2017. Lions QB Tyous Taylor has carved teams up all season. He’s completed 71.1% of his passes for 2,165 yards and 36 TDs. The ground game has been strong with RB Donovan Jones (1,172 yards, 13 TDs). WRs Keshawn Brown (845 yards, 12 TDs), Benson Prosper (588 yards, 10 TDs) and Malik Rutherford (510 yards, 7 TDs) are three tough players for UC to account for.

Coach speak

“It’s a blessing as a head coach to even be able to coach in the state championship. Ten years [as a head coach], five of them I’ve coached them in. You know it’s not on me. I’ve got great coaches, I got a great staff that prepare every week and do the dirty work and get these guys ready.

“You just don’t know [how things will go in the postseason]. You know when you get to the playoffs and you scout a team as much as possible but you still know you’ve got to play the game flawlessly. Can’t have any errors. Can’t fumble the ball. Got to protect the ball and that’s where you just don’t know because you’re always dependent on a 14-, 18-year-old kids, and, you know, their mentality, and this hope that you’ve put more than enough into them to not make those mistakes. And it always takes a little bit of luck.” — UC coach David Penland III.

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