Miami-Dade High Schools

South Florida high school football top 20 poll: No. 1, Miami Central

The Miami Herald has unveiled its first official South Florida Top 20 poll of the season.

We wrap it up with our preseason top-ranked team.

1. Miami Central (12-2 in 2012)

Outlook: The biggest change for the Rockets happened on the sideline after Telly Lockette accepted a job as the running backs coach at the University of South Florida after leading Central to three consecutive trips to state and two championships.

The Rockets didn’t have to look far for a replacement hiring former Northwestern coach Roland Smith before the spring.

Smith guided Northwestern to a state title in 2006, a state runner-up finish in 2001 as well as state semifinal appearances in 2002 and 2005.

It was a smooth transition for the Smith and the Rockets with a few of his former assistant coaches already on staff.

Making the change easier is the fact Central returns 10 starters on an offense that should rank among the nation’s best.

Arguably the best backfield in the country is back with running backs Joe Yearby and Dalvin Cook joined by athletic quarterback Keith Reed. They will be protected by a stellar offensive line anchored by Trevor Darling, Raul Diaz and Michael Smith.

Davonte Phillips is regarded by some as the top junior receiver in the nation, and few could argue after some of the spectacular catches he made last season.

The defense got off to a slow start last season.

Don’t expect that this year with a secondary rivaled by few nationwide.

Seniors Deatrick Nichols, Jonathan Harris and Calvin Brewton shouldn’t give up much to opposing offenses.

Up front, seniors Twan Adams and Frederick Jones should provide leadership for a young core of linebackers until they gain experience.

The Rockets start with a preseason clash at Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer Friday and then open the regular season against Class 5A state title contender Plantation American Heritage.

Then, Central takes on Booker T. Washington September 6 in a game that could pit the top two ranked teams in the country.

If they survive that and a road trip to New Jersey powerhouse Don Bosco Prep, the Rockets would find themselves on a path to a potential national title.

Key games: Aug. 30, at Plantation American Heritage; Sept. 6, Booker T. (Traz); Sept. 21 at Don Bosco Prep (NJ); Oct. 5, Homestead (Traz); Oct. 11, Norland (Traz);

Oct. 18, Northwestern (Traz); Oct. 25, Carol City (Traz); Nov. 9, University School (Traz).