30 years in the making: UC downs Trinity Christian for Region 1-1M crown, advances to final four

University Christian defeated Trinity Christian 36-27 to claim the Region 1-1M championship Friday night. The win was the first time the Christians beat the Conquerors since Oct. 2, 1992, and reversed an in-season loss in the District 1-1M championship six weeks ago.

A pick six and jump ball touchdown catch propelled University Christian across the finish line as the Conquerors surged late and tried to take the lead in the tight contest.

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The win sends the Christians into the 1M Final Four as Region 1 champions and ends the season of the defending state champion Conquerors.

Find other winners from Friday night here. 

Here are three takeaways from the contest:

'OO’s' outstanding play pushes Christians to win

Head coach David Penland III was pacing the sideline. His offense struggled to find rhythm and Trinity Christian was creeping back into the game.

That’s when Desirrio Riles took the game into his own hands.

He sprung into the air to intercept a Colin Hurley pass and raced the other way, giving UC some breathing room to start the fourth quarter.

“He's been so close all year long to pick one off and take it the house,” Penland said after the game. “What game to do it in.”

University Christian coach David Penland III talks with his team after their victory against Trinity Christian.
University Christian coach David Penland III talks with his team after their victory against Trinity Christian.

Riles was a quarterback for the Christians before the 2022 season but made the move to defensive end in the spring. He led by example for the Christians and when the team needed him most he showed up.

“I love these guys. They’ll give me their all anytime,” Riles said. “This is a brotherhood, and it means a lot just being a part of his family at UC.”

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The Christians held of Trinity's final push and sophomore Jenoa Alford came down with a 50-50 ball to score the game's final touchdown.

A celebration 30 years in the making ensued as the Christians downed Trinity for the first time in the players' lifetime.

Trinity Christian head coach Verlin Dorminey looks down the sideline during their loss to University Christian.
Trinity Christian head coach Verlin Dorminey looks down the sideline during their loss to University Christian.

Conquerors are conquered

Missed opportunities came back to bite the Conquerors.

Trinity fell into a 12-0 hole during the first quarter and never fully climbed out. As they tried to comeback, Orel Gray picked off a Hurley pass and returned it for a touchdown to give UC a 22-7 lead in the second quarter.

But the Conquerors would answer with Trinity’s defense keeping the Christians from scoring for more than 20 minutes of game clock. Hurley found Kyle Boylston who shed a tackle and sped to the end zone to draw closer. Then Treyaun Webb punched in a short touchdown to make it a two-point game.

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The Conquerors had all the momentum on their side and looked poised to take the lead for the first time all night.

On the same drive as the pick six by Riles, Hurley lobbed a perfect pass to Seth Bialek for a would be touchdown that the senior receiver dropped. It would’ve been the touchdown that put them ahead but ended up being the missed chance that ended their season.

From there, UC kept momentum on their side and added on another touchdown to secure the region crown.

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Outlook

The Christians are final four bound thanks to a senior duo who came up big time. UC was led by Riles and Gray, both players starring on both sides of the ball and making plays when needed.

Penland has watched the two players grow into the stars they are today, knowing Gray since he was in middle school and Riles since he was five.

With those two leading the way, other players came up big time when they were called upon. And that’s a recipe UC is hoping to ride all the way to Tallahassee for the 1M state finals.

The Christians will host Region 2 champion Clearwater Central Catholic next week with a spot in the finals on the line.

Juston Lewis is a sports reporter for the Florida Times-Union. You can follow him on Twitter at @JustonLewis_.

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This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: University Christian versus Trinity Christian high school football playoffs