The game will feature more than 35 combined players being recruited by Football Subdivision (Division I) schools.
“I feel it’s as big as the University of Miami-University of Florida game [Saturday],” Central senior running back Dalvin Cook, a University of Florida commitment, said. “How me and my team take it, we just go out here and work. We don’t worry about the hype. I feel it’s very intense. I feel this is going to be for the national title right here. Everybody is going to be there. I feel it’s going to be a sellout game.”
Harris and Central coach Roland Smith were both part of the Northwestern coaching staff in 1998 when two Northwestern-Jackson Soul Bowl games drew more than 81,000 fans combined to the Orange Bowl.
“I was coaching defensive backs and Coach Ice was the offensive coordinator at the time,” Smith said. “Antonio Bryant had the big catch and I remember everybody walking out the stadium. That was a game of the ages right there.
“There was more riding on the line in that one even though there is a lot riding on the line [in this one]. Even though we still have a chance to win state championships, both teams’ ultimate goals are to win a national championship. We’re both in each other’s way. We’re both looking forward to this game.”
Although it is only the second game of the season for both teams, many believe the winner is unlikely to lose the nation’s top ranking the rest of the season.
Central is two weeks away from a trip to New Jersey to play Don Bosco Prep, a 14-time state champion and winners of the national championship in 2009 and 2011. Don Bosco Prep traveled to Fort Lauderdale last season and beat St. Thomas Aquinas. The Rockets also must play defending Class 3A state champion Fort Lauderdale University School as well as a tough district schedule.
Booker T. Washington, led by senior quarterback and FSU-recruit Treon Harris, still has to play one more nationally-televised game in Las Vegas Oct. 4 against Bishop Gorman High. The Tornadoes also play a few more local rivals including Northwestern and could face University School in the playoffs.
Neither is taking what lies
beyond Friday’s game for
granted. Following Aquinas’
victory against Byrnes in
2009, the Raiders were up
set in the state semifinals.
Both teams understand
the importance of a victory
“I think the kids have been through it for the past two years and they’re showing the ability to lead and the knowledge of what needs to be done,” Harris said. “Both teams have coaches that have worked together in the past and have great respect for each other.
“Our kids have great character and discipline and sportsmanship. I hope we can show that having two teams like this in Dade County isn’t a one-year thing. Hopefully, other teams will join in and we’ll continue to have teams battling for a national title and keep this thing going in South Florida.”
Miami Herald sportswriter Manny Navarro contributed to this report.