With a smattering of Central fans looking on helplessly from the stands, Northwestern ended the Rockets’ four-year reign as state champions on Friday night.
That after the Bulls, coming off last week’s dramatic 45-44 double overtime win over Central, dispatched Miami Norland 26-7 in a District 16-6A matchup at Traz Powell Stadium.
With Central and Norland officially eliminated, the Northwestern victory locks the Bulls up for a playoff berth and sets up a showdown next week (Oct. 29) with Carol City at Traz to determine first and second.
A Norland win would’ve kept the Vikings along with Central alive for a possible three-way tiebreaker for the runnerup spot.
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“We stress to them every week that our most important game is our next one, not our last one,” said Northwestern coach Max Edwards. “I think the kids did a good job of staying focused and coming out here tonight and getting it done. We understood that if we had lost tonight, everything we did against Central last week would’ve been meaningless. Now we can start getting ready for Carol City next week and nothing beyond that.”
“We had the faith that we would be a able to come out here and get it done tonight” said Bulls quarterback Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell. “Our main focus all week was to leave the Central game behind and look forward and focus on Norland and we managed to do that.”
Northwestern’s defense dominated Norland’s offense for most of the night as the Bulls (7-1, 2-0) jumped out to a 16-0 halftime lead, holding the VIkings to 73 yards of offense and three first downs in the first half.
“We knew we had to come out here tonight and take care of business because if we had lost, we would’ve given Central and chance and we didn’t want that to happen,” said defensive end Demetrius Taylor who had a sack and a half dozens tackled. “As big as the game was last week, tonight was even bigger and next week against Carol City will be bigger than tonight.”
The Bulls jumped out in front for good late in the first quaerter when Kai Henry, one play after a Norland third down pass interference penalty kept the drive alive, bolted 42 yards for a score to make it 6-0 following a blocked PAT.
One possession later, after a short Norland punt, Atwell fired a strike down the sidline hitting Roy Livingstone in stride for a 40-yard touchdown. Kevin Flores’ 32 yard field goal 5:07 before halftime completed the first half scoring.
Trailing 19-0, the Vikings (3-4, 0-3) briefly got back in the game late in the third when Alec Carr found Romalo Henry for a 31-yard touchdown pass to make it 19-7.
But cornerback George Coleman all but ended the issue with just under 10 minutes left when he picked off a Carr pass and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown.
Asked if this officially marked a possible shift in power from Central back over to Northwestern, Henry let go of a broad smile across his face.
“You see the smile on my face,” said Henry who finished his productive night with 101 yards on 12 carries. “I’m one of the happiest dudes in Dade County right now.”