- Faith & Family
Two-out-of three ain’t bad. Three is the number of times the Central Rockets have competed for the state championship in the last three seasons. Two is the number of championships the Rockets have won in that time, including last Saturday’s 37-14 afternoon victory over previously undefeated Gainesville (14-1) at the Citrus Bowl.
The Rockets, who have endured the naysayers throughout the season, have now removed all doubts about their program’s legitimacy, joining the elite teams that have garnered multiple state championships.
“I’m so proud of my team and my community,” said Telly Lockette, Rockets head coach. WWe knew it’d be rough early on [but] we did some great things this year.”
In a community formerly known as Bull Country, the Rockets have managed to oust all competitors, including the historically-competitive Northwestern Bulls, whom the Rockets have beaten five times in the last three seasons. In fact, Central has not loss to a Miami-Dade County team in three years. And they may not be finished yet.
Future looks great for Central’s continued success
“We’re starting to get a program on 95th street,” Lockette said. “Every year the kids get better and better and they’re getting younger and younger too.”
The Rockets have a great shot at a repeat title next season bringing back more than 70 percent of their starters, including the dynamic duo running backs Joseph Yearby and Dalvin Cook who rushed for more than 200 yards in the championship game and scored two touchdowns each.
“It’s in the bag,” said Cook, who has committed to Clemson University, about next year’s championship. “I’m very excited [about having so many returning players] but we still have to work hard.”
“I want to cry right now, but I can’t in front of the cameras,” said Yearby, sharing his second championship with several other teammates. “It feels very good, but we have to come back and work harder.”
A celebratory day also marked the finale of one of Central’s key advantages in senior kicker Emilio Nadelman, who will attend the University of South Florida next season.
“I’m just blessed to have had him as a player,” Lockette said, shaking his head in disbelief after realizing that it was Nadelman’s final game. “But we will just have to develop some other kickers.”
Nadelman, who made three-of-four field goals, including a 45-yard kick, has limited the number of kick returns for the opponent’s special teams throughout the season and disallowed any for the Hurricanes.
“I started as a champion and finished as a champion [at Central],” Nadelman said. “It was a long journey, but I’ve learned how to be confident here.”
Learning from mistakes
The Rockets were determined to make up for last season’s disappointing loss against Armwood and made sure that they covered all aspects of the game. Defensively, the Rockets earned three sacks and held Gainesville to 70 passing yards.
The Hurricanes tried to trudge back into the game after an 80-yard touchdown run — the longest of the game — by senior halfback Ralpheal Webb. But it would not be enough to shake the Rockets’ onslaught. Webb finished with 155 rushing yards and scored both of Gainesville’s touchdowns.
The Rockets, who have closed out another championship season, say that the season left another message to the opposition.
“Don’t count us out early,” Lockette said.
By Akilah Laster