ORLANDO -- He’s got more state championship rings than any other coach in state history.
But Jacksonville Bolles’ Charles “Corky” Rogers realizes the monumental obstacle his team faces against Miami Booker T. Washington, the consensus No. 1-ranked high school football team in the nation.
“They deserve to be where they are,” said Rogers, who has led Bolles to a state-record 11 championships. “They’ve had good teams for several years, but they’ve really peaked now. We played them when their group was mostly sophomores and now they’re just capable of beating people up when they want to.”
A year after Booker T. Washington handed Bolles its most lopsided defeat at state in its history, Rogers’ squad is the Tornadoes’ final obstacle to winning their second consecutive state championship and a national title.
Booker T. (13-0) will be heavily favored against Bolles (10-3) Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Citrus Bowl as the two teams clash for the Class 4A title for the third consecutive season.
Bolles denied Booker T. a state title in 2011 coming back to beat the Tornadoes in the state final that season.
The Tornadoes have since gone 26-1 and have won 25 games in a row ascending to its top national ranking.
If Booker T. wins, it is expected to become the third South Florida team since 2007 to win a national championship joining Miami Northwestern (2007) and Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas (2008 and 2010).
“The [possibility of a] national title adds a lot to the picture and more to our preparation and focus of what we’re doing this week,” Booker T. coach Tim “Ice” Harris said. “We built our schedule this season so that it would put the boys in a position where we feel like they were battle-tested.”
Booker T.’s journey to Orlando consisted of nationally-televised victories in Georgia (Norcross) and Las Vegas (Bishop Gorman) as well as huge local victories against Miami Central — still ranked No. 3 nationally by USA Today entering the week — and 2012 Class 3A state champion Davie University School.
The Tornadoes have turned things up even more in the playoffs outscoring Belle Glade Glades Central, University School and Cocoa 134-45.
At least 32 of those points allowed came against Booker T.’s reserves with the Tornadoes holding a commanding lead.
Booker T.’s stingy and opportunistic defense has come up with timely turnovers throughout the season and held opponents to 9.0 points per game.
Senior defensive ends Demetrius Jackson (11 sacks) and Chad Thomas (8 sacks) might be the headliners in the eyes of college scouts, but several more players have been huge contributors.
Among the most notable have been free safety Brandon Boyd (team-high 6 interceptions), defensive end Tevin Evans (94 tackles, seven sacks), junior linebacker Terry Jefferson (88, three interceptions, three fumble recoveries), and senior linebacker Josh Johnson (team-high 110 tackles).
That defense will face Bolles’ signature Wing-T offense led by Christian Bermudez (161 carries, 1,384 yards and 20 touchdowns) and Dexter Carter (103 carries, 818 yards, 21 touchdowns) that starts two freshmen. The Bulldogs also start five sophomores on defense.
“They have a rare blend of speed and ability and they’re well-coached too,” said Rogers, whose team will face a team ranked No. 1 nationally for the first time. “They line up and beat you the old-fashioned way. They play good sound defense in such an aggressive nature that things you think you’re able to do to them, they don’t allow you to do because of the way they play. It’s a credit to their kids and coaches.”
Booker T. senior quarterback Treon Harris has been spectacular since returning from a knee injury that kept him out of the team’s final three regular-season games.
Harris has spearheaded an offense averaging 41.5 points per game, and has accounted for six touchdowns in each of the Tornadoes’ past two playoff wins.
Sophomore running back Mark Walton (12 rushing touchdowns) emerged as a weapon on offense after returning starter Krondis Larry missed start of the season with an injury. Larry has been used as a pass-catcher out of the backfield and receiver in recent games giving the Tornadoes’ passing game more depth with talented receivers Lamar Parker, Deltron Hopkins, Terrawn McPhee, Shaq Green, Vaquan Smalls and Terron Hopkins.
“Nobody has been able to control the football against them,” Rogers said. “If you let them dictate what they want to do offensively, you won’t be able to stop them. If we can control the football and control the clock, we should have success. But so far, no one’s been able to do that.”