According to Miami Central coach Roland Smith, the ground game has been the Rockets’ bread and butter all year with few teams finding a way to neutralize their rushing attack. Dillard proved to be no exception Friday night.
Rockets’ running backs Joseph Yearby and Dalvin Cook tore apart Dillard’s defense in the Region 4-6A semifinal, combining for five rushing touchdowns in a 59-14 rout over the Panthers at Traz Powell Stadium.
Yearby rushed for three touchdowns and 157 yards on 16 carries, and Cook added two more rushing scores and 78 yards on 12 carries to end the Panthers season at 8-3.
The win will pit the Rockets (10-1) against undefeated Palm Bay Heritage in the regional final on Nov. 30 at Traz Powell Stadium.
“Playing against a tough defense like that, and those guys getting the kind of yards they got is a big positive,” Smith said of his rushing duo. “This gives us the confidence to head into next week.”
While the run game was stellar throughout the night, the Rockets defense made key plays from the very start with defensive back Deatrick Nichols making the first of his two interceptions off of Panthers quarterback Lee Martin on the first play of the game to set up the opening field goal.
After the Rockets took a 17-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, the Panthers’ pass-heavy offense mounted a comeback with Martin tossing two consecutive touchdowns to cut the Central lead to three points in the second quarter.
But the wheels came off for Dillard shortly thereafter as Yearby picked up his third and final rushing touchdown of the night, and Cook, also a defensive back, intercepted Martin and took it back 60 yards for a touchdown late to give the Rockets a 38-14 lead at halftime.