Miami Central is the only Miami-Dade County team to win four state championships in five seasons.
On Saturday, the Rockets became the first county team to win a postseason bowl game.
Led by a stellar performance from senior wide receiver Da’Vante Phillips, Central outlasted Bothell (Wa.) for a 37-27 victory in the inaugural Burger King State Champions Bowl Series at FAU Stadium.
The Rockets, ranked No.6 nationally by USA Today, never trailed and held No.16 Bothell to only 41 yards rushing. The Cougars went 14-0 this past season, winning their sixth state championship.
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Central held Bothell well below its 48 points per game average and scored on a Cougars squad that had not allowed more than 19 points in a game this season.
“Bothell was a nationally ranked team and we expected it to be a challenge,” Central coach Roland Smith said. “We knew they would come to play the whole game.”
Phillips, the No.58 overall senior prospect in the nation according to ESPN, caught 11 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Rockets to the nationally televised win in the “bowl-game” type event that is the first of its kind for high school football.
“I feel blessed to have an opportunity to play in this type of game and we were ready to continue to do what we do,” said Phillips, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Central, which finished the season with a 14-1 record and won its final 12 games, losing only to county rival Miami Booker T. Washington, finished with one of its most balanced games on offense.
After winning most of their games behind the running tandem of Cedric Miller and Anthony Jones, the Rockets passed for 232 yards behind the combined efforts of senior Malik Atkin and Jerrod Thomas.
Miller ran the ball 11 times for 85 yards and Jones, an FIU commitment, totaled 66 yards on 10 carries to help Central finish with 230 yards rushing.
Atkin got the start and completed 9 of 16 passes for 108 yards and threw three touchdown passes.
“We started Malik because he is a senior and we wanted to give him a chance to get some film out there,” Smith said. “We said we wanted to attack them more in the air and we did a tremendous job of doing that.”
Thomas completed 10 of 12 passes for 124 yards and two touchdown passes. Senior receiver Lenwood Joyner caught four passes for 65 yards and two touchdowns.
“We saw some mismatches in the passing game,” Joyner said. “It kept working and we kept getting 10 yards at a time. It kept working so we kept doing it.”
Central’s swarming defense totaled 83 sacks entering Saturday’s game. The Rockets had a little trouble early getting through a stout Bothell offensive line. But Central made some adjustments and finally broke through, led by two sacks each from FIU commit Fermin Silva and Marshall commit Marquis Couch.
Leading 17-7 before halftime, Bothell’s defense stopped Central on downs with a goal-line stand as time expired. The Cougars took the opening possession of the third quarter and scored on a 33-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ross Bowers, a California commit, to Dayzell Wilson.
But Central responded with back-to-back touchdown passes to Phillips to extend the lead to 31-14.
Phillips is heading to St. Petersburg on Sunday to take part in practices leading up to the Under Armour All-America game Jan.2 at Tropicana Field.
Phillips said the experience of preparing for a game during Christmas week and right before another postseason event was worth the grind.
“This type of experience is what you sign up for,” Phillips said. “You never know if you will be invited to play in these types of games, and it was worth it.”