Miami Central has typically saved some of its best performances for the playoffs over the past five seasons.
Friday night’s effort on the road against Boyd Anderson, one of the most improved teams in Broward County, wasn’t one of the Rockets’ most glamorous.
But it wasn’t without just enough clutch plays and another masterful performance from their defensive front.
A nine-sack effort keyed by seniors Keir Thomas and Kenny Turnier, who each had three, pushed Central past the host Cobras 20-3 in a Region 4-6A quarterfinal at Boyd Anderson.
Donovan Thompson also had two sacks as Central held Boyd Anderson to 83 total yards.
“Anytime we get in the postseason we have to play tremendous defense,” Central coach Roland Smith said. “Boyd Anderson did a great job this year turning things around.”
Central (8-2), the three-time reigning Class 6A state champions, secured a rematch with Carol City, the team that broke its string of five consecutive district titles earlier this season. The Rockets will play the Chiefs, who routed Dillard in their first-round game, at 7:30 p.m. next Friday at Traz Powell Stadium.
“Our motto is always: If they don’t score, they don’t win,” Thomas said. “Our defensive line isn’t worried about how many individual sacks we get anymore. We’re just worried about wins right now.”
Central’s recently-minted U.S. Army All-American Jamel Cook symbolized the Rockets’ sometimes brilliant and sometimes frustratingly sloppy effort Friday.
Cook muffed two punts, including one that followed Boyd Anderson’s first possession. But after stopping the Cobras on downs again, Cook surged through and blocked a punt that set up Central’s first score. That came on the ensuing play when quarterback Jerrod Thomas found Jernard Phillips open for a 5-yard touchdown pass.
Cook’s second punt-fielding miscue came late in the second quarter and cost the Rockets a little more.
The Cobras (9-2) recovered the ball at Central’s 11-yard line. But again the Rockets’ defense stood tough and held Boyd Anderson to its only points — a 28-yard field goal kicked through by Rashawd Williams.
The Cobras, who were 0-10 last season and drastically improved this season under first-year coach Eddie Brown, hung tough for the early part of the third quarter.
Cook atoned for that mistake in the third quarter, intercepting Boyd Anderson quarterback Shabazz Telfort and setting up a Kywan Thomas 3-yard touchdown run moments later that began to put the game out of reach.
Central added to the lead when Jerrod Thomas threw his second touchdown pass, as he heaved a ball while trying to evade pressure, and Darnell Salomon out-leaped a defender and raced to the end zone for a 42-yard score.
Smith was fired up during his postgame speech to his team, calling the game next week against Carol City “personal.”
Carol City (9-2) defeated Central 8-7 in a low-scoring defensive contest on Oct. 3 that allowed the Chiefs to eventually secure the District 16-6A title.
“I don’t need to say anything to get our guys up for next week,” Smith said. “We had a horrible game offensively the first time, but those kids don’t want to feel the way they did after that first game.”