Miami Central found itself halfway to repeating the same dismal scenario it lived out last week during a lopsided loss in Georgia.
That’s when the Rockets decided to put their fate in the hands of their best players.
With All-American running back Joseph Yearby playing full-time quarterback, and he and running mate Dalvin Cook both playing defense, Central rallied from a 16-point deficit to beat Miami Booker T. Washington 37-26 in front of a crowd of 5,228 at Sun Life Stadium.
“We started out last week with a debacle [which] was a great choice of words to describe what it was,” Central coach Telly Lockette said. “Our kids heard it all week and they answered the bell.”
Yearby showed his versatility when he replaced Brandon Diaz at quarterback and played there the entire second half in the team’s spread offense.
Yearby, who had been used in a handful of plays last week behind center often running a Wildcat package out of the shotgun formation, energized an offense that had not scored a touchdown through its first six quarters of the regular season and was held to 66 total yards last week in a 35-3 loss at Grayson (GA).
Central (1-1), ranked No. 19 by ESPN, scored 20 unanswered points and had 21 in the fourth.
Yearby had experience playing quarterback when he played Optimist football. He finished with 73 yards rushing and 75 passing, and ran for two touchdowns.
“I think I took about a thousand snaps at quarterback this week,” Yearby said. “It was a great move for us. When me and Dalvin can make plays like that, we’re unstoppable.”
His five pass connections with wide receiver Devontae Phillips — Central’s only completions of the game — were his most crucial contribution. Phillips leapt over Booker T. defensive back Terrance Wells-McWhorter for the game-clinching 21-yard touchdown with 1:52 left.
“Joe is a tremendous athlete and having him and Dalvin in the backfield is something great to have,” Yearby said. “It was something we had in our back pocket, but it’s out of the bag now. Teams can’t stack the box on us anymore.”
Booker T. (1-1), ranked No. 7 by ESPN, took the lead briefly in the fourth quarter on a five-play, 50-yard drive capped by quarterback Treon Harris’ 15-yard touchdown.
But Cook, who finished with a game-high 147 yards rushing on 12 carries, made the most spectacular play of the game. After taking the handoff, Cook broke a tackle, reversed field and ran to the far sideline, turned the corner while keeping his feet inbounds and then cut against the flow again to break away for a 71-yard touchdown that gave the Rockets the lead.
“I’m just fast,” said Cook, a Clemson recruit. “I can’t explain it. I guess I’m just fast.”
Cook and junior wide receiver/safety Tavius Brown Jr. combined on the play that was the turning point of Central’s comeback.
With Booker T. leading 19-3 and facing fourth-and-3 at Central’s 33-yard line, Brown jumped in front and batted a pass intended for Nicholas Norris that would have been a first down. Instead, Cook caught it and returned it 78 yards for a touchdown with 7:30 left in the third.
Central’s defense intercepted Harris three times as Deatrick Nichols made another on Booker T.’s ensuing drive that led to a score.
Brown Jr. ended the game with an interception on the final drive.
Lockette did not specify whether his team would continue to use Yearby strictly in that role going forward.
Central’s daunting early schedule continues next week with a trip to defending Class 7A state champion Bradenton Manatee on Friday. The Hurricanes are ranked No. 1 nationally by MaxPreps.
“We’re going to evaluate it this week,” Lockette said. “We still have two quarterbacks that can play, but we had to make a change early. But it’s good to know we still have that ace in the hole.”