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ORLANDO - The Miami Central Rockets are champions of the 6A classification for the second time in three years following a 37-14 victory over undefeated Gainesville on Saturday afternoon at the Citrus Bowl.
Joseph Yearby (committed to Florida State) and Dalvin Cook (committed to Clemson) - combined for over 200yds and four TD's on the afternoon in combination with a suffocating defense to shut down the chemistry of Gainesville's tandem of QB Marquis Robins-Cato and WR Chris Thompson.
Cato was held to just 3-of-17 passing for 70yds and an INT while Thompson (heading to Florida was limited to just a single catch for 40 yards. Central's Defense actually converted more times in the red zone, than the 6-1, 195lb Sr. completed on the day, turning their tandem backfield loose in the second half after building a 27-7 at the intermission.
Central's season started shaky to say the least, but Head Coach Telly Lockette seemed to have an idea that he could have something special.
"I'm so proud of my kids and this community right now I don't even know what to do. I didn't what to expect coming out with these young guys this year," Lockett said. "We showed a lot of discipline and a lot character."
"I didn't like the way the game ended but as far as our kids our concerned we fought to the bitter end. We took some early losses, everybody doubted us, but we stayed the course, kept working hard and got better as the season wore on."
Central had points of reference on how to stop teams with talented RB's before and Lockette preached that to his players in preparation for this game against two quality RB's in Raphael Webb and Tony James.
Webb finished the day with 168yds on just 19 carries and 2 TD's, but Lockette wasn't going to let both players beat them on defense.
"I told my kids all week that we were up against it similar to the Dr. Phillips team we played that featured a stud RB and he had rushed for 2,500 yards," Lockett said. "I just told our kids we've got to be physical and we've got to hit. We unraveled on one play and gave up a big one, but overall our kids did what they were supposed to do. "
" We got beat by a good Armwood team last year and we simply had to lick our wounds and prepare ourselves for this moment today. "
Central jumped out to a quick 13-0 lead, but an 80-yd TD by Webb put the 'Canes back in business; only to have the Rockets counter with a 9-play, 63yd drive ending in a Dalvin Cook one-yard run to make the game 20-7.
"It appeared that Gainesville wasn't matching the physicality of the Central OL and DL, something in which Thomson addressed as a part of his adjustments.
"It's just unknown; we don't know anything about the guys down in Dade County and it took some time to adjust to it," Thomson said. "We anticipated it; we just didn't respond the way I wanted us to, but that's football. "
Both coaches put their seasons into perspective as best they could.
"I think every year our team has been getting better and better; the problem is our teams seem to be getting younger and younger," Lockett said. "My whole offense comes back next year and we've got a couple of senior guys on defensive, but we're going to get ready to go at it again."
Gainesville's Thomson, who was understandably not very much for words following consoling his players, spoke softly and simply stated; "I'm proud of them. We had a great season and fell one game short; that's life; we had a great run. I'm sorry it ended like this."