Perhaps weary from a much longer stay in Las Vegas than they ever anticipated followed by another tough road trip and loss to IMG Academy in Bradenton last weekend, it would almost explain why the Central Rockets were perhaps not at their sharpest on Thursday night.
But Central, one year after missing the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade last season, set out to right that wrong with a hard fought, grind-it-out 23-12 victory over a determined Norland squad in the District 16-6A opener for both teams.
Thus Central (4-1) fired the first salvo in the now vaunted “district of death” as other key matchups against Carol City and Northwestern await down the road. Central will take on Edison next Monday in a non-district matchup at Traz which will be followed by another big 16-6A matchup when Norland battles Carol City.
“Sometimes when you play these type of games and go through what we went through, you just have to find a way to grind it out,” said Central coach Roland Smith. “We definitely were not at our sharpest tonight but we found a way against a very good Norland squad to get ourselves and win and now we move on.”
With Central up by 10 and Norland threatening to cut it to three with less than four minutes left, the defense came up with the biggest play of the night when Tatum Bethune stripped Norland quarterback Alec Carr of the ball and Michael Williams scooped it up and rambled 85 yards for the score to make it 23-6 and put things away.
“This has been a really rough few weeks for us for sure,” said Williams who has offers from Bowling Green, Arkansas and Valdosta State with interest from FIU and FAU. “But we can’t use any of that as an excuse. It was up to us to find a way to fight through all of that and come out tonight and find a way to get that first district win and we did that.”
▪ North Miami Beach 13, Krop 6: Twenty-eight days is an awfully long time to go between games but North Miami Beach found a way to overcome some sloppy play and grind their way to a close win over Krop at Traz Powell Stadium in a District 13-8A opener for both teams.
After two weeks of no play due to Hurricane Irma and a scheduled bye week last week when everyone else was back on the field, NMB (3-0) had not played since Sept. 1 and it showed as the Chargers lost two fumbles, committed 10 penalties and struggled offensively most of the day.
“It was 28 days and we looked like it out there today,” said NMB coach Jeff Bertani. “It’s hard when you go so long without going full speed and then have to step out on the field and then do it. But the kids did a good job of fighting their way through it and we found a way to come out on top.”
NMB quarterback Randall Morrison finished with 67 yards rushing, including a 51-yard touchdown in the fourth. He also was 9 of 13 for 93 yards and a score.
“We were definitely a little rusty out there today,” said Morrison, a senior who is still waiting for the phone to ring for small college offers even though Bertani confirmed that he’s starting to get some inquiries about his star quarterback. “But we managed to make enough plays when we needed to.”
Krop, which fell to 1-3, was led by FIU commit Lawrence Papillon, who recorded the only Lighting toucdown when he returned the second half kickoff 92 yards.