This meeting didn’t have national-championship implications.
It didn’t mean there wouldn’t be any drama between Miami Central and Booker T. Washington.
With defensive leaders such as seniors Donovan Thompson and Keir Thomas out of the game after suffering cramps on the final drive, Central needed every ounce of stamina from its defense to hold on to a 35-28 victory over Booker T. Washington on Saturday night at Traz Powell Stadium.
Central (4-1) beat Booker T. for the first time since 2012, when the Rockets came back from a 16-point deficit to win that game at Sun Life Stadium. Following that loss, Booker T. put together its Miami-Dade County record 41-game winning streak.
“Every time we play Booker T. Washington it’s a tough game,” Central coach Roland Smith said. “We took a timeout at the end just to calm those guys down. All season, those guys have been holding it down. They stepped up and made the big play.”
Junior defensive back Allen Jones made a pivotal defensive stop on fourth down that helped the Rockets keep what was once a 28-point lead from slipping away in the second half.
With Booker T. facing a fourth-and-16 from the Central 21 with three minutes left, Jones surged through and tackled Tornadoes receiver Raymond Flanders for no gain as he read the screen pass perfectly.
“I saw the play and just read it,” Jones said. “This has always been a huge rivalry ever since I’ve been here. I had to make a play.”
Booker T. Washington (2-3) got the ball back with 20 seconds left at the 50-yard line. Two plays later, the game was over after Trawone Johnson caught a pass and ran into the red zone before being tackled as time expired.
Central built a 35-7 lead with 4:05 remaining in the third quarter following Kywan Smith’s 10-yard touchdown run. Smith had two touchdowns.
Freshman James Cook, the younger brother of former Central star and FSU sophomore Dalvin Cook, ran for 99 yards and a touchdown as the Rockets finished with 270 rushing yards.
But following a 4-yard touchdown run by Craig Nelson with 41 seconds left in the third quarter, Booker T. put itself back in the game by capitalizing on a special-teams mistake early in the fourth.
Senior Darrius Scott took advantage of a poor punt by Jordan Nadelman, caught it off a high bounce and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown that cut Central’s lead to 35-21.
With Central running strictly out of the Wildcat formation with Cook and receiver Darnell Salomon, Booker T.’s defense stiffened and held the Rockets, forcing another punt.
Freshman quarterback Daniel Richardson hit Scott for a 28-yard gain to the Central 30-yard line. Richardson ran for 10 yards on the next play and then hit Gustavious Dames for a 20-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to 35-28.
Richardson completed 18 of 29 passes for 263 yards.
Richardson helped Booker T. strike quickly to open the game, running 66 yards down the sideline for a touchdown to give the Tornadoes a 7-0 lead. Booker T. would have taken a 14-0 lead after Richardson found Raymond Flanders for a 70-yard touchdown pass. But the score was nullified by a holding penalty and the mistake was compounded by an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.
The momentum swing put the ball back to the Booker T. 8-yard line. Two plays later, Central defensive back Jamel Cook intercepted an overthrown Richardson pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown.
BTW -Richardson 66 run (Borregales kick)
CEN -Cook 50 interception return (Nadelman kick)
CEN -Thomas 1 run (Nadelman kick)
CEN -Smith 6 run (Nadelman kick)
CEN -Cook 7 run (Nadelman kick)
CEN -Smith 10 run (Nadelman kick)
BTW -Nelson 4 run (Borregales kick)
BTW -Scott 35 punt return (Borregales kick)
BTW -Dames 20 pass from Richardson (Borregales kick)
Rushing (att-yds) -- CEN: Salomon 4-13, Smith 4-21, Roberts 6-22, Thomas 6-55, Mike 8-60, Cook 20-99. BTW: Borregales 1-(-8), Bethel Jr. 1-(-6), Hammett 5-1, Johnson 4-13, Nelson 5-22, Richardson 13-59.
Passing (comp-att-int, yds)-- CEN: Thomas 3-8-0, 28. BTW: Richardson 18-29-1, 263.
Receiving (rec-yds-TD) -- CEN: Salomon 1-2, Brinson 1-9, Green 1-11. BTW: Thorton 2-13, Dames 1-20, Johnson 2-35, Scott 6-72, Flanders 7-123.