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December 14, 2013

Class 6A - Armwood and Central rematch

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The Skinny: The two teams that most everyone picked to meet in the finals are here. Armwood (14-0) and Miami Central (12-1) have a combined 10 state title game appearances (on the field) over the last 10 years. Central features an offense that scores quickly from almost anywhere on the field. Armwood features a defense that only Jefferson has been able to score on consistently. The biggest matchup may be Rivals five-star DE Byron Cowart going against Rivals four-star RB Dalvin Cook. It's going to be a great game that you don't want to miss.



MIAMI CENTRAL - RB Dalvin Cook; DBDeatrick Nichols; DT Frederick Jones; RB Alonzo Smith

ARMWOOD - DB Kyle Gibson; DE Byron Cowart; RB Greg Newton; LB Jordan Griffin

THE OUTLOOK This year's Class 6A state championship game is a rematch of the 2011 game that no one actually won.

Armwood defeated Miami Central on the field that day, 40-31, in a match-up of two of the top 15 teams in the country, but both programs were investigated by the Florida High School Athletic Association and both teams were eventually found guilty of wrong doings and were forced to forfeit wins - thus vacating their seasons.

This time a state champion will officially be crowned when the Hawks and Rockets tee it up in the Citrus Bowl on Saturday afternoon.

The Armwood Hawks (14-0), who won back-to-back state titles in 2003-04, are back in the championship game for the sixth time in the past 10 years.

"We've been fortunate to play in the state finals in the past, but this is by far the youngest group of kids," said Armwood coach Sean Callahan, who is in his 23rd season with the Hawks. "We're still amazed that we're here and in this position."

Miami Central (12-1), which is ranked No. 3 in the USA Today national poll, will be heavy favorites to repeat. The defending 6A champions are the first Dade County team to reach the finals four consecutive years, winning two and losing to Armwood.

"Miami Central is very deserving of those accolades," said Callahan. "We are going to have to play extremely hard and do a good job of protecting the football."

The Hawks average 40 points per game and are led on offense by quarterback Noah Johnson. The junior has rushed for 810 yards and 14 touchdowns and has thrown for 1,971 and 18 touchdowns.

"Our offense is coming around, especially in the last six or seven games, but defensively we only have three seniors so we're very young," added Callahan.

Roland Smith, who led Miami Northwestern to a state title in 2007, is in his first year as the head coach of the Rockets, taking over for Telly Lockette who was named running backs coach at USF.

Until recently, the Rockets were led by their dynamic duo in the backfield.

Joseph Yearby, who had rushed for 1,700 yards and 19 TDs, suffered a fractured fibula against Palm Bay Heritage in the regional finals and will not play - making Dalvin Cook the featured back.

"We're still going to do what we do," said Roland. "When you lose a Joseph Yearby, that's always someone that's hard to replace. But we have some other young running backs who can step up, plus our quarterback is doing a tremendous job of taking advantage of some one-on-one situations."

Cook, a Florida commit, is averaging 12.1 yards per carry and is just behind Yearby (committed to Miami) with 1,644 yards on the ground. He leads the Rockets with 30 rushing scores.

"He had two kickoff returns as a sophomore against us," said Callahan. "He's very elusive and a more polished football player now."

Armwood is very physical up front defensively. They are led by 2015 Rivals five-star Byron Cowart with 13 sacks and Hyriam Frederick with 24 tackles for a loss.

"They are very athletic on the defensive line," noted Smith. "Those two ends look like they should be at the collegiate level but we've faced guys like that before so we just have to buckle down and play football."

It's a big reason why the Hawks have held 11 opponents to nine points or less.

"Our defensive line is the strength of our team, but they're (Central) extremely big. We have to be very physical with them and change things up a little bit to confuse them in their protection."

Central played a daunting schedule that included nationally-ranked Don Bosco (N.J.) Prep, University School and Booker T. Washington, the Rockets' only defeat this season. They have won 11 in a row since and look to finish among the nation's best.

"We feel like we're the best team in the nation," reasoned Smith. "We think we're the best team, we prepare like we're the best team and we play like we're the best team, so in our mind we feel like we're the best team in the nation."


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