When Miami Central took on Camden County in Georgia to begin the season, the Rockets, who had believed they were one of the top teams in the nation, lost a thrilling, close contest to a very good football team.
Since that opening night loss that had most of the country watching to see if the Rockets lived up to their pre-season billing, the focus is back, and as they moved to 2-0 in the district with an impressive 70-0 win over Miami Springs, the swagger and confidence has returned.
"We have played four games this season, winning three, but until this week, we really haven't put it all together," said head coach Telly Lockette. "In Georgia, we made too many mistakes. When we went to Texas, it got better, and then the last two games - against Miami Beach and Miami Springs - we played with a purpose."
The Rockets defense allowed only 4 total yards, sacked Miami Springs quarterback Brandon Diaz 10 times and held Springs to minus-18 yards rushing.
Marshall commit Tommy Shuler and Durrell Eskridge each returned a punt for a touchdown. FSU-bound Devonta Freeman and heralded freshman Joseph Yearby each scored two rushing touchdowns.
Junior defensive lineman Boyd Toree got in the flow of the game as he picked up a fumble on the game's last play and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown.
Senior quarterback Rakeem Cato, playing against his former school, threw an interception on the first play of the game, but then settled in and finished strong, passing for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
``I was too really hyped at the start of the game,'' Cato said. ``Once I saw my teammates starting to make big plays, I settled down."
Elsewhere in Miami-Dade County, Week 4
- Northwestern 38, Hialeah-Miami Lakes 12: A week after losing 37 players, stemming from an on-field skirmish with Hialeah, the Bulls showed how versatile they were, using many players on both sides of the ball and breaking out a number of junior varsity players against the Trojans. Freshman cornerback Shamar Spence made his varsity debut, keeping up the family pipeline to the school. Spence, the younger brother of University of Miami starting linebacker Sean Spence, did quite well, but was not the only new player everyone was excited to see. That honor belonged to sophomore defensive back Jaline DeJesus, who was the first female to ever play in a varsity football game for the 3-0 Bulls. "We told the players before the game they had a chance to make history," said head coach Billy Rolle. "Having a female play is great, but she still needs to get back to the junior varsity and play more." Senior wide receiver Eli Rogers, who is headed to the University of Miami, was certainly the star attraction, finishing the game with 130 total offensive yards and two touchdowns, caught passes as a receiver but also played as a running back and defensive back. He also kicked off twice through the endzone. Senior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater also made an impression on HML with two touchdowns, five two-point conversions and 252 total yards.
- Homestead 22, Killian 3: Before the season began, many felt that the Broncos were the best defensive team in Miami-Dade County. After losing to Key West and looking rather sloppy in the first two games, things fell into place this week. Holding the Cougars to just 99 total yards and 5 first downs, senior standouts Ricardo Williams and Theiren Cockran, and junior linebacker James Burgess, Jr., stepped up to make a difference. Burgess played some offense, scoring from 5 yards out, and Isiah Jernigan and junior Herb Waters also paved the way on offense.
- North Miami Beach 22, American 0: Before this week's game against the district rival Patriots, North Miami Beach head coach Jeff Bertani wasn't sure what to expect from his team that has played up and down so far this year. With senior quarterback/defensive back/return specialist Ritchy Desir leading the way, the Chargers won their second game in a row. The versatile Desir rushed for 88 yards on 13 carries, completed 3 of 10 passes for 17 yards with two touchdown passes. Desir also intercepted a pass while playing defense. Juniors Freddy Leroy and Cody Ray did well on offense and defense, where the Chargers sacked quarterback Garyn Perriman six times.
- Columbus 38, Miami 7: There are those around the state of Florida that have been clouded by teams such as Dr. Phillips, Northwestern and Central as being impressive 6A schools. But in the first four games of the season, there may not have been a more impressive team than the Expolorers. Coach Chris Merritt's squad moved to 4-0 as Brandon Radcliff and Collin Alford ran for two scores each, with Alford rushing for 116 yards. Columbus has beaten Miami Palmetto (2-1), defending 3A state runnerup Belen Jesuit (2-1) and 2-1 South Dade before beating a previously 2-1 Miami High team.
- Palmetto 31, Coral Reef 27: Quarterback Wyatt Chickillo completed just 8 passes, but the senior made them count, sending his Panthers to a 2-1 start Chickillo threw a 79-yard touchdown pass to Darrick Jones early in the second quarter to put Palmetto up 10-0. He later scored one on his own with a 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line. He finished the night with 159 yards passing. Palmetto's defense also got into the flow of the game, forcing three fumbles and a punt block, which defensive back Ruben Pierre scooped and took into the end zone for a touchdown.
- South Dade 20, Southridge 0: After losing to Christopher Columbus the week before, there was no way a state playoff contender such as the Bucs could afford to lose the district opener. After knocking the Spartans out of the playoffs last year, the only team to beat Southridge in the past two seasons did it again as senior quarterback Jovani McCray made a late touchdown connection with Tevin Jackson for a score and kicker Carlos Toribio made both of his field goals. Junior running back Torry Clayton scored on an 18-yard run for coach Greg Dentino's team.
- Belen Jesuit 49, Hialeah Gardens 0: Senior running back Manny Sicre scored four times and established himself as yet another player to watch for the defending state 3A runner-up Wolverines. Coach Richard Stuart's team picked up a key district win as they posted yet another quality defensive effort.
- Coral Park 28, South Miami 0: For a program that won just 14 games in one decade, the Rams have really made some major strides this season as they moved to a perfect 3-0. Jordan Martinez rushed for 147 yards and three touchdowns as Coral Park improved to 3-0, 1-0 in District 14-6A under head coach Tim Wood. Carlos Aleman was impressive on defensive with an interception. Senior Sterling Darling, who transferred from Killian along with standout Arrington Jenkins, also stepped up for the Rams.
- Gulliver Prep 20, Archbishop Carroll 19: Senior linebacker Jorge Sanz tipped a third-down pass that forced Archbishop Carroll to attempt a 56-yard field goal for the win with 43 seconds left. Carroll junior kicker Brandon McClearon, who made two field goals earlier in the game and had three touchbacks, put some power into the kick, but the ball landed wide left and a couple of feet shy of the crossbar, allowing Gulliver to escape. Senior running back/defensive back Cedrick Walker stepped up for the raiders along with freshman quarterback Hunter Boyett, who threw a pair of touchdown passes -- covering 65 and 12 yards -- to Elston Lane to give Gulliver its first 14 points. Boyett completed 6 of 9 passes for 143 yards.
- North Miami 12, Carol City 8: The Pioneers won for the first time this season over a Chiefs team that has the talent to compete with plenty of schools. Senior quarterback Gerado Almendares led North Miami on offense along with junior running back Tony Ubri, who scored from 4 yards out. He later scored from 3 yards out. Ubri ended the day with 59 yards on 21 carries.
- Norland 42, Westland Hialeah 0: Senior running back Jordan Condinanzo and junior running back Randy ``Duke'' Johnson, who recently committed to the University of Miami, paved the way for the Vikings in the district opener. Johnson and Condinanzo combined for 188 yards and four touchdowns on nine carries, all in the first half. Vikings' senior quarterback Benji Philippe completed all five of his pass attempts and threw for 83 yards.
- Booker T. Washington 42, Coral Gables 14: Senior quarterback Jeremiah Hay completed 22 of 33 passes for 286 yards and four touchdowns. Senior receiver Derek Moise had eight catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. Akeem Martindale also had a strong performance for Booker T. The senior scored twice and contributed 47 yards receiving. Coral Gables senior linebacker Denzel Perryman stood out on both sides, scoring on a 52-yard pass play while he was lined up at tight end and later took an interception 36 yards to give the visiting Cavaliers good field position.
- Dade Christian 32, Miami Country Day 10: Junior quarterback Bilal Marshal had an impressive game, throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for 59 yards. Senior running backs Chris Elliot and Hugh Miles, who ran for 194 yards. With most players contributing on both sides of the ball, Miami Country Day's defense struggled to keep Dade Christian's offense in check. Miami Country Dade's sole offensive weapon was Izaac Surujon, who rushed 18 times for 65 yards.