Roland Smith called it his team’s worst performance of the season holding onto the football.
He was right. And yet the Central Rockets still rocked and rolled to a 48-18 victory over Carol City on Friday night, locking up their fourth district title in a row.
Despite five lost fumbles (two on punt returns) and having a punt blocked, the Rockets, ranked No. 2 in the Miami Herald’s South Florida Top 20 poll, overcame it all — including an 18-6 deficit after the first quarter to improve to 7-1 and 4-0 in District 16-6A.
Joseph Yearby, committed to the University of Miami, ran for 212 yards and three touchdowns and tossed a 51-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. Dalvin Cook, committed to the University of Florida, ran for 108 yards and two scores as the Rockets out gained Carol City (5-3, 2-1) 439 to 224.
“We did a good job bouncing back in the second quarter, but we got to play Rocket football,” said Smith, whose team will have a week off before closing out its regular season against defending Class 3A state champion Davie University School on Nov. 9.
“This was probably our worst game holding onto the football. We can’t do that in the big games. We got to clean up some things before we line up in two weeks to play a very good team in University.”
Carol City jumped out to a quick lead when quarterback Trayon Gray, committed to UM, escaped on a 68-yard touchdown run on the game’s second play from scrimmage. After a Cook 11-yard touchdown run tied the score at 6 with 8:20 remaining in the first quarter, Tyree Johnson recovered a muffed punt in the end zone to give Carol City the lead right back at 12-6.
Johnson then recovered a ball stripped away from Central quarterback Keith Reed to setup Carol City’s next score — a 9-yard TD pass from Gray to Eric Rhome. But as soon as the first quarter ended so did the good times for Carol City.
Yearby capped a six-play, 80-yard scoring drive with a 21-yard touchdown run and then gave Central the lead for good when he muscled his way in on a 1-yard run with 6:03 remaining in the half.
His first carry of the second half went for a 64-yard touchdown run, making 34-18 after three quarters.
“The thing we said in the locker room was just stay focused and keep playing,” said Yearby, whose 212 yards rushing were his second-highest output of the season (he ran for 234 against American Heritage). “We just came out slow and had to pick it up as the game went on.
“It feels great to make history. We’ll be able to look back in a couple years from now and be proud of what we accomplished.”
Friday’s game was delayed half an hour at the start because the Rockets showed up wearing grey jerseys, too similar to the orange jerseys Carol City was wearing, officials said. They had to send the team manager back to school to pick up their white jerseys.
“Carol City told us they were going to wear their dark uniforms, and we figured there was enough difference between the black and grey,” Smith said. “We’ll just wear white from here on out when we’re the visiting team.”