Larry Blustein

MONDAY TAKE: Central Makes A Major Statement

Larry Blustein
November 19, 2018 - 9:57 am

Before the season began, those in the know realized that what Class 6A would come down to is a Miami Central and Carol City matchup.

When they met for the first time back on Oct. 21, the No. 1 Chiefs came away with a win, but with that victory is a weight that many south Florida teams have faced for decades.

Beating a team twice in a season would never be easy. It never has been and never will be. That’s why after the first win, everyone focused on last Friday. That was the date when the two would meet again.

In between Oct. 21 and last Friday, both teams dissected what went wrong and right from the first game. The adjustments that are often made, can be the difference between winning and losing.

That second meeting was once again a war, and while Carol City did everything possible to hold on to that No. 1 spot, it was the Rockets (10-2) that emerged from the shadow of their district rival – and won, 30-21.

The win was all about making adjustments from the first time they met – and while the focus on offense was on balance – it was a running game and line play that ended up making the difference.

Senior Lexington “Flex” Joseph, who has been a major football talent the past two years, ran for over 250 yards and the Rockets now advance to the Region 4-6A title game at home against longtime rival, district foe and defending state champion Northwestern on Friday (7:30) at Traz Powell Stadium.

What makes the Rockets special is a defense that will attack and cause you turn the ball over. Big play linemen who slow the play down for quality linebacker – and what is a Central defense without secondary stars who can run, tackle and make plays?

There is no doubt that this offense can – and will – move against anyone. The best offensive line in south Florida. They showed it against St. John’s in Washington, D.C., against St. Thomas Aquinas, Cardinal Gibbons and everyone they lined up against.

Last Friday, the line did what it wanted against a Carol City team that has been able to meet every challenge on the field this season.

Nobody has come further in the past year than senior quarterback Maurice Underwood. From his youth days until now, this is someone who grew up and matured, and this Marshall bound standout is ready to win a state title.

With Joseph running the ball along with juniors Shemar Paul and Kijon Owens, who just returned from an injury, there are no defensive teams left who can take those standouts out of the game – and still have to worry about five receivers who can all catch the ball and move the chains.

With easily the toughest schedule in Florida this season, the Rockets move on in the playoffs – and head coach Roland Smith continues to keep this program in the spotlight.

For the Chiefs, it was a really tough year off the field with the untimely death of coach and longtime supporter Andre “Coach Dre” Stafford. His loss was felt by every member of the Chiefs family.

On the field, second year head coach Benedict Hyppolite showed that this program is here to stay. He has done his best to surround himself with coaches who know the game and the community.

Along with Norland, they are in the epicenter for athletic talent, so they will once again return in 2019 with another quality team.

RICHARDSON IS NO. 1 

Lost in the setback to the Rockets was Carol City senior quarterback Daniel Richardson.

This four year starter ended his brilliant career as the all-time leading passer in Miami-Dade County history – after his performance against Central.

Richardson, who won a state title in his three seasons at Booker T. Washington, passed Miami Central Rakeem Cato as the all-time yards leader.

Cato, who went on to a record-setting college career at Marshall, had 9,411 yards and 103 touchdowns.

Richardson capped off a 2,966 yard final season with 32 touchdowns – giving him 9,501 yards and 113 touchdowns.

While he has no firm college offers, Richardson is someone who has always had to prove himself – so doing it at the next level will be nothing new for this record setter.

A LOOK BACK AT PLAYOFF WEEK 2

There were some tremendous matchups in the second round of the state playoffs that will certainly set up Round 3 this coming week.

The Final 4 is set in the Road To Orlando in all classes – and with Christopher Columbus and South Dade kicking things off on Friday afternoon (1:00) at Tropical Park, the winner will await the Palm Beach Central and Deerfield Beach.

St. Thomas Aquinas once again reached the third round as they will take on Dywer – with the winner going against either Venice or Bloomingdale the week after.

Defending state champion Miami Northwestern advances to the region final against No. 1 Central for the second time this season in 6A. The winner gets either Naples or North Fort Myers the week after for the right to go to the state finals.

In 5A, this game has been talked about since two time defending 5A state champion Plantation American Heritage lost to Cardinal Gibbons. The rematch is going to be another in the many impressive games these two teams have played over the past three seasons.

The winner will await a game between favorite Tampa Jesuit and fast-charging Tampa Jefferson for the opportunity 

University School fell behind early, but then came back and kept this dream season alive with a win against Miami Gulliver Prep, and will now set up a region final with a rematch against Glades Central (Belle Glade) - a team that head coach Daniel Luque’s team beat to start the season.

The winner of that game will get either Fort Myers Bishop Verot and 4A power Cocoa, coached by former St. Thomas Aquinas and University School Offensive Coordinator Ryan Schneider.

In 3A, defending state champion Chaminade-Madonna advanced to this week with an easy win against Palmer Trinity, and will host Delray American Heritage. The other side of the bracket has undefeated Clearwater Central Catholic and Tampa Berkeley Prep.

Defending 2A state champion Champagnat Catholic and first year head coach Hector Clavijo surprised No. 1 seed Moore Haven and moves to this week’s third round at Naples St John Neumann. Things don’t get any easier for the winner of the game as they will face off against either unbeaten Seffner Christian and Admiral Farragut. 

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