Miami Central running backs Joseph Yearby, Dalvin Cook launch Rockets offense

Joseph Yearby and Dalvin Cook enjoy seeing each other thrive in the same backfield and hope it carries them all the way to another state title.

12/15/2012 12:00 AM

12/15/2012 12:32 AM

Teammates call Dalvin Cook “Do It Again.”

They call Joseph Yearby “Joystick.”

But when it comes to nicknames, Miami Central’s phenomenal running back tandem chose the same one for each other.

“We call each other, ‘Main Man,’ ” Yearby said.

There hasn’t been a main individual to stop in Central’s backfield the past two seasons.

Yearby and Cook have collectively taken apart opponents on the football field, leading the Rockets to their third consecutive state final appearance, tying the Miami-Dade County record.

And they have taken joy in rooting for each other while doing it.

“If I get a big run, it motivates him to get one,” Yearby said. “We have fun with sharing the ball. Every time he gets the ball, I throw my hands up for six points. When both of us are back there together, I feel like no one can stop us.”

The talented juniors — arguably one of the best backfield duos in county history — have one more obstacle to overcome Saturday when they lead Central against undefeated Gainesville (14-0) in the Class 6A state final at the Citrus Bowl.

Central (11-2) is seeking its second state title in three seasons.

“They are fast and real good,” Gainesville coach James Thomson said. “Cook is an incredible player, and Yearby is so fast. We played against [Yulee High running back] Derrick Henry [the nation’s leader in rushing]. I would put both of those guys right up there with him in terms of talent.”

Yearby earned USA Today Preseason All-America honors before the season and already has committed to Florida State. Cook gave an early commitment to Clemson.

The two have drawn comparisons to some of the county’s historically great running back tandems such as former Southridge stars Troy and Darren Davis.

The siblings ran together for three seasons from 1991 to ’93 and became the first county running backs to post individual 2,000-yard seasons. During that span, they led Southridge to a pair of state titles, highlighted by one of the biggest blowout wins in state finals history in 1993 when Southridge beat Bradenton Manatee 69-36.

Darren Davis’ 2,401 yards in his senior year in 1994 surpassed the county single-season record set the prior season by Troy Davis (2,211 yards) during his senior season. Those records stood until former Coral Gables tailback Frank Gore smashed the record with 2,953 yards in 2000.

Yearby became the first underclassman in Dade history to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark with 2,160 yards and 24 touchdowns as a sophomore. Cook ran for 876 yards and nine touchdowns last year in their first season splitting time in the Rockets backfield.

Yearby and Cook mirror each other physically, with Yearby measuring 5-10 and weighing 195 pounds and Cook listed at 5-11, 195 pounds.

This season, their statistics and contributions have become much more alike, too.

Cook has run for a Class 8A-6A county-high 1,373 yards and 19 touchdowns on 111 carries, and Yearby is close behind him with 1,323 yards and 18 touchdowns on 189 attempts.

“It’s been fun for us to be able to do a lot of things on the field,” Cook said. “It’s great to share the ball with a back that can do the same things you can.”

About the only place Cook and Yearby become really competitive against each other is the virtual world.

“We play video games like NCAA Football or Call of Duty, and we take it to each other,” Cook said. “Joe beat me the first time we played football, but we’ve gone back and forth ever since.”

What might separate Cook and Yearby from any other duo is their versatility. Both have sacrificed carries this season to help a less-experienced Central team at other positions. Yearby has played quarterback, something he did often during his Optimist football days at Gwen Cherry Park, and given Central a dual threat with both he and Cook running halfback options. He has also chipped in for the Rockets defensively in the secondary.

Cook has started most of the season at the safety position and come up with some game-changing plays. He returned an interception for a touchdown against Booker T. Washington that started a 16-point comeback and dealt the eventual Class 4A state champs their only loss of the season.

In a district-clinching win against rival Northwestern, Cook returned a fumble 88 yards for a touchdown that rallied Central from an 11-point deficit. Last week in the state semifinals, Cook scored four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving) to lead Central’s 17-point comeback to beat Naples 48-33 on the road.

Cook, one of seven siblings, was raised by his grandmother and developed his skills playing at Scott Lake Park. Many thought when he was in middle school that Cook would attend nearby Norland High. But Cook went to Central, where his family either ran track or played football.

Cook is now part of the greatest football era in the school’s history. And he and Yearby hope to add another milestone Saturday.

“It’s a blessing to be compared to guys like the Davis brothers,” Cook said. “But me and Joe want to leave our own legacy here before we go.”

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