Being the featured back at Miami Central has been a ticket to stardom for nearly a decade.
Devonta Freeman and Dalvin Cook are both in the NFL, while Brandon Gainer, Joseph Yearby and Anthony Jones were each part of state championship teams and signed with FBS schools.
With James Cook, Dalvin’s younger brother, headlining this year’s backfield and likely destined for success, the Rockets showed off their most recent stable of backs last week in a 48-24 thrashing of Class 3A state title favorite Hollywood Chaminade.
An offensive line that graduated stalwarts Navaughn Donaldson and Mershawn Miller looks fearsome as does a defense that appears to have returned to the form that led Central to five state titles in six years prior to last year’s disappointing non-playoff finish.
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5. Central (1-0) vs. 7. Booker T. Washington (1-0), 7, Thursday, Traz: Booker T. bounced back from its lopsided loss to Heritage with a 25-8 win at Dillard. The Tornadoes brought back a potent offense led by quarterback Daniel Richardson and multiple talented receiving options.
But the Rockets will no doubt try to create the same kind of pressure that helped Heritage force seven turnovers in a preseason classic two weeks ago.
Expect this rivalry game to bring the usual intensity to Traz and could come down to a handful of key plays.
Andre’s pick: Central 30, Booker T. 23.
3. Northwestern (1-0) vs. 12. Columbus (1-0), 7:30, Friday, Traz: The Explorers have uncharacteristically gone a bit under the radar so far with defending state champ Southridge garnering plenty of attention as well as Deerfield Beach and other teams on the upswing such as South Dade and Miami High.
Make no mistake. Columbus is still a state title contender.
But it may not show this week because Northwestern looks as strong as it has in a decade and ready for a return to glory.
Andre’s pick: Northwestern 24, Columbus 10.
10. Chaminade-Madonna (0-1) at 19. Miramar (0-0), 7, Friday: Despite getting pushed around by Central’s powerful offensive line which allowed the Rockets to score five rushing touchdowns, Chaminade’s defense figures to be one of the better units in Broward this season.
Defensive end Davoan Hawkins and junior safety Keontra Smith, both Kentucky commitments, should improve as the season continues.
The Patriots – long known for their dominant defenses – will be pushed by a balanced attack led by running back Shaun Shivers (Auburn commit) and receiver Xavier Williams (Alabama commit), who made two great touchdown catches in the loss to Central last week.
Andre’s pick: Chaminade 21, Miramar 14
Liberty (Nevada) at 2. Plantation American Heritage (1-0), 7:30, Friday: The Patriots pulled off a thrilling comeback in the closing moments last week to beat Bishop Sullivan on the road.
The No. 9 Patriots’ secondary made some big plays late including Tyson Campbell’s pass breakup on the final pass by Bishop Sullivan.
Liberty, a state runner-up in Nevada last year, is ranked No. 21 nationally by MaxPreps and presents a bigger obstacle for Heritage as it tries to win its 16th consecutive game.
Receiver Miles Jones, a Vanderbilt commitment, scored a clutch touchdown with 1:20 left in the fourth, but the Patriots need more production from their offense this week.
Andre’s pick: American Heritage 20, Liberty 6.
4. Deerfield Beach (1-0) at St. Joseph-Montvale (N.J.) (0-0), 1, Saturday: The Deerfield defense looks as good as advertised.
Last week, the Bucks shut out against a high-powered Carol City offense, holding the Chiefs to 55 total yards and forcing five turnovers in a 6-2 win. Carol City’s only points came on an intentional safety late in the game after the Bucks put together a goal line stand to secure the win.
Linebackers Ashtan Pierre and Rosendo Louis anchor a group that is one of the best in the state and should thrive again this season for the biggest favorites in Class 8A.
Deerfield’s has faced two solid defenses so far in Chaminade and Carol City, but only one touchdown won’t cut it down the stretch.
The Bucks face a St. Joseph squad ranked No. 21 nationally by USA Today that is led by defensive back Evan Stewart, a Boston College commit. St. Joseph has a prolific offense led by quarterback Nick Patti (Pittsburgh commit), but their young offensive line will be tested by a team that can secure a high national ranking of its own with a victory.
Andre’s pick: Deerfield Beach 10, St. Joseph-Montvale 7.