Last year, this game decided the national championship.
With a late interception by senior Terry Jefferson, Booker T. dealt Central its only loss of the season and proceeded to win its first mythical national title.
The Rockets finished among the top five nationally — a testament to their strength as one of the nation’s best.
The stakes are still pretty high in the rematch.
Booker T. puts its state-best 28-game winning streak that began after a loss to Central in 2012 against Central’s 14-game winning streak that began after the aforementioned loss to the Tornadoes last season.
Although they might not enter this game as the nation’s top two teams, Booker T. and Central are both ranked among the top 10 teams in the country, and a chance to keep their respective national championship hopes alive hinges on victory in this game.
Add the customary local bragging rights and the collection of future major-college talent that you might not get anywhere else in the country and you have a “can’t-miss” game.
Neither team has performed to its full potential so far.
Booker T. routed Oscar Smith in Virginia on opening weekend but won last week in Georgia despite a mostly lackluster effort. The Tornadoes did have to deal with rain and an atypical late start, but even they would admit they can do much better.
Central just barely escaped Georgia with a 21-20 win against Stephenson. Its running game continued to look good behind its talented offensive line and running back Cedric Miller. But its young squad has to find more consistency if it is to help the Rockets win a game of this magnitude.
Booker T.’s offense has looked crisp thanks to the additions of FIU-committed quarterback Maurice Alexander and wide receiver Antonio Callaway.
Running back Mark Walton, a UM commit, adds an extra element to an offense that when clicking is the most dangerous in the nation.
That leads me to the key matchup against Central’s great defense.
Whenever Booker T. has the ball Friday, you might see a better matchup than some college football teams can provide. Central will counter with Fermin Silva, Donovan Thompson, Olin Cushion, Keir Thomas and slew of defensive stars who will have to win this game for the Rockets.
It’s a game that will likely come down to the closing moments again.
I’m going to go with the team that’s shown more overall consistency and balance so far.
Champagnat Catholic has made a name for itself in a short amount of time by winning a state championship last season in Class 2A.
One of its first big wins on the road to that title was over Westminster Christian this time last year.
The Warriors did not lose again following that defeat until dropping a 7-0 heartbreaker in the Class 3A state semifinals to Clearwater Central Catholic.
Champagnat is on a 15-game winning streak.
It is a favorite, and deservedly so, to become Miami-Dade County’s first back-to-back small-school state champion this year.
But Westminster has revenge on its mind, is at home and is trying to emulate what Champagnat did last year.
This is the game the Warriors must win to earn believers statewide.
Both teams dropped close games last week.
And although they would be nondistrict losses, neither wants to start 0-2.
Carol City will be a bit shorthanded following senior defensive back Rashad Fenton’s ejection from last week’s game and automatic suspension.
But look for the Chiefs to bounce back on offense playing on Traz’s fast field. South Dade has a young, hard-hitting secondary that will only get better.
But that group yielded a lot of yards and points against Columbus last week.
South Dade will get back on track, but probably not this week.