PLAYERS TO WATCH:
THE OUTLOOK:A storm is brewing for Saturday's Class 6A title game between Gainesville and Miami Central.
Although the weather forecast calls for only a 10% chance of rain, both teams will have their own version of thunder and lightning in their offensive backfields, which includes change of pace backs that are all headed to Division-I schools.
For Gainesville (14-0), senior Ralph Webb, who has picked up offers from Vanderbilt and Utah, among others, leads the way with 1,860 yards and 26 touchdowns. He is averaging 8.7 yards per carry in the postseason.
Then there's Buchholz transfer and track star Tony James, who went over 1,000 yards last week in a 62-26 win at Navarre in the state semifinals. The junior, whose list of offers already include Florida,Miami, FSU[ and Ohio State, has averaged 6.4 yards per carry during the playoffs.
In fact, GHS has averaged 266.8 yards per game rushing in its four playoff games and they have outscored their opponents, 185-49, in the postseason.
"We've got kind of a two-headed monster," said Gainesville coach James Thomson, the Florida Dairy Farmer's 6A Coach-of-the-Year. "Both of our backs are good, but Tony is one of the fastest kids in the state, if not the fastest."
GHS has run the table this year, after losing to the eventual state champion the past two seasons. Last year, Gainesville went on the road and almost stunned Armwood, which was ranked second in the country, falling 17-14.
"We really pride ourselves on never backing down," said Thomson. "To get that close and come up short really left a bad taste in our mouth. That carried over and motivated us throughout the whole season this year."
Miami Central is led by juniors Joseph Yearby (FSU commit) and Dalvin Cook (Clemson commit), who both rushed for over 1,200 yards and combined for 32 touchdowns during their nine-game regular season.
"The thing that makes them so special is that they are good on both sides of the ball," said Miami Central coach Telly Lockette.
Yearby is more of a between-the-tackles runner, while Cook has homerun speed.
"We played Derrick Henry (Yulee) at the beginning of the season, and I'd put both of those two backs right up there with him," added Thompson.
The Rockets have won 10 in a row since a 44-34 loss at Bradenton Manatee. They are averaging 44.8 points per game during their playoff run.
While both teams possess outstanding running backs, they also have solid quarterbacks.
Senior [dm]Mark Cato[/dm] has thrown for 2,129 yards and 26 touchdowns for Gainesville.
His main target is senior [dm]Case Harrison[/dm], who has 52 receptions for 818 yards and 12 touchdowns, but UF commit [dm]Chris Thompson[/dm] (24 catches, 426 yards & 7 TD's) and junior [dm]Kenric Young[/dm] (32 catches, 567 yards & 7 TD's) both average over 17 yards per catch.
Miami Central's [dm]Keith Reed[/dm] has thrown for over 1,000 yards this season, including 250 yards on only six completions last week in a 48-33 win at previously unbeaten Naples in the state semifinals.
Analysis:Both offenses can move the football and put points up on the board. Miami Central, which finished with 498 yards of offense against Naples, has scored at least 34 points in nine straight games, while GHS has put up over 60 points twice in the playoffs and is averaging 41 points per game. But the defense might be the key for both teams. The Rockets held Naples to just 139 yards of total offense in the second half last week, and they have only given up a total of 25 points in seven of their last eight halves of football. Meanwhile, Gainesville's defense, which is led by linebackers Keith Kelsey, Alex Gonzales, Keon Jenkins and Matt Solt, all of whom are over 100 tackles on the season, has been opportunistic with 31 turnovers, while allowing only 12.6 points per game.
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