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December 12, 2012
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One team played the toughest schedule in the nation, something that after some early-season bumps appears to be paying dividends.
The other has the look of a juggernaut, destroying its last two opponents by a combined score of 104-36.
So, who wins the FHSAA Class 6A state championship? Here are three questions to ponder when deciding between Miami Central and Gainesville.
1. Can a team successfull defend both the run and the pass against Gainesville?
Entering the 6A title game, the Hurricanes (15-0) have piled up 5,696 total yards of offense. Running backs Raphael Webb (1,832 yards) and Tony James (1,037) make up the majority of GHS's 3,483 rushing yards, while quarterback Marquis Robins-Cato has thrown for all but 84 of the Hurricanes' 2,213 passing yards.
Meanwhile, including a 24-point first half allowed to Naples last week, the Rockets have allowed seven, seven, two and nine points in seven-of-its-last-eight halves.
2. Can Gainesville slow down Central's offense?
Take away a disappointing performance in a 34-3 season-opening loss at then-national-No. 1 Loganville (Ga.) Grayson and the Rockets have put up at least 28 points in every game. That includes nine straight with at least 34 (five of which saw CHS score 48 or more).
Talented running backs Joseph Yearby, a Florida State commitment, and Dalvin Cook, a Clemson commitment, lead the way. This truly is the best matchup of rushing pairs in any championship game this year.
The Hurricanes are giving up fewer than 12 points-a-game on the season and have forced 31 turnovers (20 of which were lost fumbles).
3. Who might be the game's key player?
I'm going to go with the insanely underrated Webb.
His talented quarterback, Cato, finished second in the recent 6A player of the year voting, while fellow RB James, a junior, gets talked up because he already has a scholarship offer from Florida and senior receiver Chris Thompson is a Gator commitment.
But it is Webb who seems to make the big plays when the team needs it. Plus, he is a workhorse who has 227 carries (123 more than the speedy James) and 26 touchdowns (18 more than James).
Webb can run inside and out and has tremendous vision. He also sets up James for a change-of-pace carry and Cato for play-action. And don't ignore Cato, he had a beautiful shoulder fake that froze a safety before hitting a receiver for an end zone fade last week at Navarre.