It’s no secret Miami Central’s offense is a big play waiting to happen.
Unfortunately, that knowledge didn’t make it any easier for the Naples defense to stop the Rockets in Friday’s Class 6A state semifinal at Staver Field.
Central (11-3) ran just 41 plays in its 48-33 victory — 35 less than Naples. However, the Rockets gained at least 10 yards on 14 of them, including seven that went for 38 or more yards.
Perhaps the biggest came with 9:15 left in the fourth quarter and Central trailing 33-28. Following a holding penalty that wiped out a 39-yard touchdown pass that would have put the Rockets in front, Central faced a third-and-33 from its own 46. Junior quarterback Keith Reed dropped lofted a deep ball to junior receiver Tavius Brown, who outran two Naples defenders and came down with a 44-yard completion to keep the drive alive.
Three plays later, junior running back Joseph Yearby’s 2-yard touchdown run gave Central a 34-33 lead, one the Rockets never relinquished.
“Big-time players make big-time plays when the time is right,” said Reed, whose four completions in 12 attempts went for 219 yards and two touchdowns.
“That was a huge play not just for me but for our team,” said Brown, who only had that one crucial reception.
“I know I can run past anyone, single coverage, double coverage, doesn’t matter.”
For Naples (12-1), it proved to be the final crack in a defense that had held its own against the bigger and faster Rockets until that point. Central scored touchdowns on its next two possessions, drives that lasted a total of three plays, to put the game out of reach and end the Golden Eagles’ quest for a fourth appearance in a state championship game.
“That was a tough pill to swallow, and really a momentum changer,” Naples coach Bill Kramer said of Central’s third-and-33 conversion.
With such a quick strike offense, featuring junior standouts Yearby and fellow tailback Dalvin Cook, who combined for 296 yards of total offense and five touchdowns on just 24 touches, Central coach Telly Lockette said his team knows it’s never out of a game.
“Our kids stay resilient and they keep fighting,” said Lockett, whose team trailed Naples 24-7 with 6:05 left in the first half. “Joseph Yearby and Dalvin Cook are two tremendous kids. We’re just lucky to have them.”