Dolphins High school Media day at Hard Rock Stadium
Perhaps later on this season, the Central Rockets will be able to file it into the “learning-experience” category.
But as they trudged off to their buses at Traz Powell Stadium with their heads down, there was nothing fun about what happened on Saturday afternoon.
The Rockets, ranked No. 9 in the country (Max Preps Xcellent 25) and a team that has played in plenty of big national games, found out first hand just what all the hype was surrounding St. Frances Academy from Baltimore, Maryland, which boasted the No. 2 ranking.
With a national TV audience watching on ESPN, Central was overwhelmed from the opening whistle to the final gun as St. Frances delivered a 49-13 shellacking that finished with a fourth quarter running clock, the first time that has happened since at least 2007.
With that, out the window goes any hopes of a national championship as the Rockets will now turn their focus on getting back to the state final in Daytona Beach and winning a 6A state title.
“That was rough out there today,” Central coach Roland Smith said. “They’re just so big up front on both sides of the ball that we just couldn’t match up with them. Anytime you go up against a team of that caliber, you can’t make any mistakes, and we made too many of those early on and got ourselves in a hole we couldn’t climb out of. Today was definitely a teaching lesson for us that we will have to learn from going forward.”
Even if the Rockets had played a clean game, it might not have mattered. Rarely have they ever had to look across the field and see more talent than they had on their side. But a St. Frances team (also ranked No. 6 in the country in the USA Today Top 25) that boasts 14 Football Bowl Subdivision committed players, including a four-man defensive line that is nothing less than four-star players, was just that.
The start of the game was definitely a precursor of things to come as the Rockets were on their heels from the opening kickoff.
Three negative rushing plays to start the game were followed by a high snap over punter Jayden John’s head out of the end zone for a safety.
The ensuing free kick gave St. Frances the ball at midfield, and the Panthers drove right through the overwhelmed Rockets defense with ease, 45 yards on seven plays, a 20-yard touchdown pass from John Grifith to Denylon Morrissette making it 9-0 just 4:19 into the game.
St. Frances made it 16-0 on the third play of the second quarter when Grifith, on a play that the Central defense struggled with all day, found running back Blake Corum wide open coming out of the backfield for a 15-yard touchdown.
Three plays later, Central quarterback Katravis Marsh, who was harassed all day long getting sacked four times and pressured numerous others by that stud defensive line led by Alabama commit Chris Braswell, threw to nobody except Panthers cornerback Luke Hill who returned the interception 25 yards for an easy pick six to make it 23-0.
The Rockets finally got something positive when running back Amari Daniels broke loose for a 4-yard touchdown on the next drive to make it 23-7 with 2:22 left in the first half. Any possible Central momentum quickly disappeared when Grifith took his offense 77 yards in just six plays, hitting Corum again on the exact same swing pass for a 13-yard score 44 seconds before halftime to make it 29-7.
“They were a great team that came in with a great game plan, and we just didn’t meet the challenge,” said Daniels, who was about the only offensive highlight for his team with 89 yards on 13 carries and also a 60-yard kickoff return. “I take full responsibility for today, and there’s nothing we can do about it now. We can’t get discouraged and will just have to keep working week by week. This was a humbling experience for us today and sometimes keep your feet on the ground will get you better down the road.”