It was billed as a battle of running backs.
Miami Central’s Joseph Yearby and Dalvin Cook put on a show as expected.
But the Rockets defenders made sure they weren’t the only star performers Friday night.
With the exception of two long touchdown runs, Central held Plantation American Heritage’s offense and star running back Sony Michel in check during a 42-20 victory at the Patriots’ home field.
Yearby and Cook accounted for all six Central touchdowns and combined for 380 yards rushing.
“We set the tone early, and we knew we had to start fast,” Cook said. “I feel like if we start fast like we did [Friday night], we can’t be beat by anyone.”
Yearby, a University of Miami commitment, ran for 238 yards on 25 carries and scored two touchdowns.
Cook, a University of Florida commitment, scored four touchdowns and finished with 142 yards on 13 carries.
And Michel, a University of Georgia commitment, was held to 55 yards on 11 carries and no touchdowns.
“I wasn’t surprised our defense played so well, because I have a hard time getting away from them in practice myself,” Yearby said. “Those guys swarm to the ball.”
Central (1-0), ranked No. 1 nationally by Rivals.com, gave up a 55-yard touchdown run to American Heritage’s Juwan Dowels on the game’s first play.
American Heritage quarterback Torrance Gibson broke an 80-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to cut Central’s lead to 28-20.
Outside of those two plays, the Rockets held the Patriots (0-1) to 74 total yards and only 1 yard passing.
“Every day this week we went hard in practice and were physical,” said Central junior defensive end Fermin Silva, who had two sacks in the first quarter. “We were hungry and focused.”
For the second week in a row, American Heritage’s Isaiah McKenzie made a spectacular kickoff return, fielding a kickoff at his own 5 picking up about 15 yards before breaking two tackles and reversing field to complete a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that cut Central’s lead to 21-14 before halftime.
But the Patriots couldn’t muster any consistent offense against the Rockets, who constantly put pressure on Gibson.
Following the game’s first score by Heritage, Central answered with a touchdown drive capped by Yearby’s 21-yard score.
Yearby set up Cook’s first touchdown — a 1-yarder — with a 71-yard run.
Thanks to its big offensive plays, Heritage was still in striking distance in the third quarter.
The Patriots defense forced a couple of punts, led by Brandon Vicens’ stellar effort. Vicens finished with more than 15 tackles in the game.
But Central put the game out of reach with six minutes left on Cook’s 47-yard touchdown run that gave the Rockets a 35-20 lead.
The victory was the first for Roland Smith as Central’s coach.
Smith returned to high school coaching in Dade this season for the first time since 2006.
Smith knows his team faces an even bigger obstacle next week when it takes on Miami Booker T. Washington, the team ranked No. 1 nationally by USA Today.
Central defeated Booker T. last season in the second week of the season erasing an early 19-3 deficit to score a 37-26 victory.
“Against a team like Booker T. we can’t give up those kinds of explosive plays like we did [Friday night],” Smith said. “We have to force some turnovers and make sure we punch it into the end zone when we get the opportunities.”