Dolphins High school Media day at Hard Rock Stadium
The home team locker room at Traz Powell Stadium probably needed a new paint job on Sunday.
That’s because a lot of that paint probably came off the walls on Saturday night during halftime of the second game of a doubleheader of the Inaugural South Florida High School Classic.
The Miami Central Rockets were hosting Cedar Grove (Ga.) from Atlanta in a Preseason Kickoff Classic and to say things hadn’t gone well for the No. 9 nationally-ranked (Max Preps Xcellent Top 25) Rockets would be an understatement.
Having already played a lackluster and mistake-filled first half, Central trailed 19-13 just seconds before halftime. The Rockets then made matters worse — a lot worse.
That’ when they gave up an inexplicable 75 yard touchdown pass with just 15 seconds left on what was nothing more than a simple hitch pass in the right flat which was followed by a series of missed tackles.
Trailing 25-13 at the break, the Rockets stormed off to the locker room and the paint was in trouble as screaming and yelling with helmets slamming against lockers could be heard from as far as 50 yards away.
The anger, whoever it was vented at, evidently paid off as the Rockets regained their poise and came back to score 28 unanswered second half points to defeat Cedar Grove, the defending Class 6A Georgia state champions, 41-25.
“When you play against a state championship team that won a Class 6A championship in Georgia last year, they’re going to come out and play,” said Central head coach Roland Smith. “We played a great team tonight and if you’re not ready to go, they’ll make you pay and they made us pay. Fortunately we did a nice job of keeping our poise and got it together in the second half and the kids did what they had to do.”
There was also a collective sigh of relief on the Central side. The sizzle for a much-anticipated showdown with No. 2 nationally-ranked St. Frances Academy from Baltimore on ESPN next Saturday at Traz Powell was in big trouble. Now the sizzle will live on.
Even though technically it was a preseason game and did not count officially, a loss likely would’ve influenced the Max Preps polls and Central would’ve likely dropped. Now the Rockets will have an opportunity to knock off the No. 2 team in the country next week and thus put themselves in position to challenge for a national championship if they pull it off.
Getting the first possession of the second half, the Rockets drove 70 yards in 11 plays and when running back Kejon Owens scored from 10 yards out, the deficit was just five at 25-20 four minutes into the third quarter.
That was the momentum shift Central needed as the Rockets defense began to swarm and make plays while the offense cleaned up the mistakes that had plagued them in the first half.
After a Cedar Grove three-and-out, Central put another long drive together and Owens scored again, this time from 15 yards out to put the Rockets up for good, 27-25 with 1:15 left in the third.
“We as a coaching staff got together and told the kids not to panic, to just get some things cleaned up and go out there and play like they know they’re capable of playing,” said Smith. “Scoring on that first drive in the second half was big because that got us right back into the game and gave us the momentum back and we took it and ran with it from there.”
Central’s third drive of the second half found the end zone again, this time on a 9-yard Stephen Warren touchdown with 9:16 left before wrapping things up when quarterback Katravis Marsh, a victim of at least 10 dropped balls by his receivers on the night, hooked up with Geovanni Ribalta for a 42-yard score with 2:19 left.
“There was some serious yelling but not really in a negative way,” said Marsh. “It was just our way of trying to pick each other up because we knew we were a much better team than what we showed in the first half. We pride ourselves on maintaining our poise and that’s what allowed us to come back and win tonight.”