Roland Smith spent 16 years coaching at his alma mater Northwestern, six of them as head coach including one where he led the Bulls to a state title.
But Friday night he found himself in unchartered territory. He was coaching against the team in blue and gold for the first time since leaving.
Now with neighborhood rival Central, his Rockets pounded the Bulls with their running game to earn a 44-13 victory in an emotional, hard-hitting district game at Traz Powell Stadium.
"I wasn't worried about the former team. I was just worried about Miami Central and making sure we come out here and play Rocket ball," Smith said. "Once I was on the sideline with the Rockets for 48 minutes I was worried about making plays and winning this game."
Central (6-1, 3-0 District 16-6A) continues its dominance over Northwestern in this once classic rivalry that has even found its way to national television on ESPN in 2008. Including playoffs, the Rockets have won eight consecutive meetings.
Dalvin Cook, a University of Florida commitment, rushed for 234 yards on 19 carries. His 91-yard touchdown run in the middle of the fourth quarter gave Central a 30-13 to put the game out of reach.
His backfield mate, Joseph Yearby, a UM commitment, did not disappoint either with 141 yards on 18 carries.
In addition to his share of handoffs, Yearby took snaps out of the Wildcat formation. He scored twice up the middle on Wildcat plays -- once from 4 yards out and the other a 1-yarder.
"[Running the ball] is what we have to do to make this run," Smith says. "We have an excellent line that's been together for three or four years... We have to control the line of scrimmage."
Tempers flared throughout the game. Four personal-foul penalties were called on one play where Northwestern defensive back Khalil Armstrong hit a Central punt returner early.
With the 31-point win already in hand for Central, Northwestern coach Stephen Field called a timeout with five seconds left to set up a final play. Once the teams took the field again, Smith called a timeout of his own.
Smith said postgame the intent of his timeout was to get the right personnel on the field.
Although Central was outgaining Northwestern 289-99 at halftime, the game was kept close because of three Rocket turnovers. Quarterback Keith Reed threw an interception in the end zone on Central's first drive Friday and Yearby lost two fumbles near the goal line.
Reed had two of his three completions go for touchdowns. He tossed a 63-yard bomb to Tavius Brown Jr. and a 38-yard touchdown to Malik Vigille -- both in the first half.
The Bulls (3-4, 1-2) were still in it early in the fourth. A two-point conversion after a Leon Brown 13-yard touchdown run could’ve made it a one-possession game, but Jabari Dowling’s pass was well overthrown through the back of the end zone.
Northwestern scored first Friday on a 2-yard run by Keyto Lee.
Central can round out its district schedule undefeated with a win next week against Carol City.