Maybe it’s just something about Roland Smith’s halftime speeches.
For the second week in a row, the Central Rockets sloughed their way through the first half of their opening two games of the season only to crank things up in a huge way in the second half.
And one week after Cardinal Gibbons got hit by the second-half Rocket sledgehammer, Booker T. Washington got it on Friday night.
Just when it looked like the Rockets and Tornadoes were headed for a good old-fashioned neighborhood street fight, Central broke loose from a one-point halftime lead and outscored BTW 35-0 in the second half to record a much-easier-than-expected 41-5 rout before a big crowd at Traz Powell Stadium.
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“We played a great team tonight, they did a good job of coming out in the first half and really battling us but eventually we got things kicked in in the second half,” Smith said. “We do need to find a way to start a little faster. Even though we’ve played tough competition, we can’t keep getting off to slow starts.”
Smith watched his offense sputter throughout the first half and only a Jayden John 28-yard field goal as time expired in the first half gave Central the lead at the break 6-5.
But, just like against Gibbons, quarterback Maurice Underwood got things cranked in the second half and quickly, like on the third play of the half.
That’s when he found a streaking Anthony Fredrick wide open down the middle and hit him in stride for a 72-yard touchdown to make it 13-5. Against Gibbons, the two did the exact same thing, snapping a 14-14 halftime tie with a long scoring pass, also on the third play of the second half.
“In the first half, we came out a little sluggish but I just told my teammates at halftime to just stay after it and it would come together and that’s exactly what happened,” said Underwood, who enjoyed another big night finishing with 274 yards on 14-of-23 passing and three touchdowns. “Booker T. is a rival game so this was a real message-sender tonight. Whoever plays us is going to get it.”
When running back Lexington Joseph lined up in the Wildcat and bolted 30 yards for a score, Central led 20-5 with 2:47 left in the third quarter.
Believe it or not, you wouldn’t know it by the final score but the Tornadoes (1-1) were razor close to actually making it a close game and possibly set up a tight finished.
With just over nine minutes left, quarterback Torey Morrison found Jacorey Brooks in the corner of the end zone for a 6 yard touchdown that would’ve cut the Rocket led to eight.
But a holding call on Booker T. brought the ball back to the 16 and Central took over on downs two plays later.
Underwood then led his team downfield again on a seven-play, 84-yard drive and found Joseph on a screen pass that turned into a 40-yard catch-and-run touchdown to make it 27-5 with 6:14 left to put things away.
While the Central offense didn’t come alive until the second half, the Rockets defense was at it all night long from the start. When it was over, they had sacked Morrison six times and held the Tornadoes to 116 yards (77 passing, 39 rushing) of total offense on the night.
“Just doing what we do — coming out and dominating,” said defensive end Treyvon Allen, who stood proudly holding the team’s turnover belt, his reward for recording three of the five sacks on Morrison. “Around here, Friday is payday and tonight it was time to get paid again. Now we want to keep this train moving.”
And as tough as the two opponents Central, the No. 12 ranked team in the nation by Max Preps, started the season against, things will get no easier as the Rockets, ranked No. 12 in the nation by Max Preps, travel to Washington, D.C. to take on St. John’s High School which happens to be the No. 5 ranked team in the country.
“It gets no easier for us and that’s the way we want it,” said Smith. “We just take it one week at a time around here.”