With designs clearly set on an unprecedented fifth consecutive state title, Miami Central got things started in impressive fashion on Saturday night.
Central scored early and often during a 41-0 rout over outgunned and outmanned Royal Palm Beach in a Kickoff Classic at Milander Stadium.
The Rockets, who will open the season officially next week with a trip upstate to Clermont to take on East Ridge, are ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 6A and No. 16 nationally by Max Preps.
On a night where coach Roland Smith had the luxury of “playing everybody,” many of the Rockets’ backups got on the field in the second half thanks to Central building up a big 35-0 halftime lead prompting a running clock in the second half.
“Anytime you play a Kickoff Classic you want to make sure you come out of it injury-free, which we managed to do,” Smith said. “At the same time, you want to play well, look sharp and try and play a lot of guys, and we managed to get all of that done [Saturday night]. Now we’re looking forward to getting on the road for our regular-season opener next week.”
It turned out to be a quiet night for the Central rushing attack as the Rockets had just five rushing attempts in the first half, three of them from running back James Cook, who rushed for just 16 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter to put the Rockets up 6-0.
Saturday night marked the debut of Central quarterback Tijuane Morten, who made his first start after backing up Jerrod Thomas last year. Other than one blip in the second quarter when he threw an interception, Morten enjoyed a relatively successful evening. In his one half of work, Morten finished his night 9 of 13 for 142 yards and one touchdown pass, a 3-yard toss to Bhaii Bland just 21 seconds before halftime to put Central up by 35.
“I wasn’t nervous or anything but started off a little shaky,” said Morton. “But eventually I settled in and found a nice groove. My goal is take this team to another state championship and tonight was the first step in moving forward.”
In between the opening and closing touchdowns, the remainder of the first half actually belonged to Central’s special teams, which scored the other three touchdowns.
It started on the first play of the second quarter when Joshua Dinson returned a Wildcat punt 59 yards to make it 14-0 following the two-point conversion.
Andrew Reese then got in on the act big time. When RPB punter Roland Tyson fumbled a punt attempt in the end zone, Reese fell on it for Centrals third score. Just two minutes later, he knifed through untouched and blocked Tyson’s punt and returned it 8 yards for another touchdown.
Royal Palm Beach, which was a 7A-13 playoff qualifier last year, making it to the second round, could do nothing on the ground against the Rockets going to the locker room at halftime with minus two yards rushing.
Led by Michael Robinson, the defense played shutdown football sacking RBP quarterback back Teja Young four times for 28 yards in losses. Robinson had two of those sacks and also recovered a fumble.
“We just did what we always do, go out there and do what our coaches tell us to do and went out there and executed,” Robinson said.
▪ IMG Academy 17, Carol City 7: Marcel Williams stood in the end zone at IMG Academy Field with his hands on his hips while the clock ticked toward zero in Bradenton.
Three of the last four plays for Carol City ended with the quarterback planted in the turf around his own team’s end zone. After going toe to toe with Bradenton IMG Academy for 3 1/2 quarters, the Chiefs had run out of gas.
On Carol City’s penultimate drive, Williams was sacked twice and the Chiefs lost 19 yards before punting. On Carol City’s final drive, Williams took one sack and the Chiefs lost 8 yards before time expired. Until a touchdown by IMG with 6:32 left, Carol City kept it within a score, but the Ascenders overwhelmed the Chiefs with depth to win a preseason classic.
The Chiefs hung around with their defense, taking a 7-0 lead into the half on a 3-yard touchdown run by running back Camron Davis with 2:46 left in the first half. Carol City held IMG to 74 yards of total offense during the first half. In that same time, the Ascenders committed 82 yards worth of penalties.
Preseason: St. Brendan d. Palmetto 2-0 (25-23, 25-16): Marcela Fernandez 10 kills, 2 aces; Camila Treptow 18 assists, 4 digs.
Preseason: St. Brendan d. Killian 2-0 (25-10, 25-15): Bianka Solorzano 5 kills, 2 aces; Gracie Calienes 9 digs, 2 aces.