While the preseason Super 25 football rankings won’t come out until late July, this is one of a series on teams that could contend in the Super 25 high school football rankings next season. We previously looked at De La Salle (Concord, Calif.), South Panola (Batesville, Miss.) and Colquitt County (Moultrie, Ga.).
Team: Miami (Fla.) Central
2014 finish: The Rockets went 14-1, won the 6A state title, and finished No. 5 in the Super 25 rankings.
Tradition: Central has won three consecutive 6A state titles and four 6A state titles in the past five seasons.
Spring football: Spring practice began today and ends with an intra-squad Green and White Game on May 23.
2015 schedule: Opens at two-time consecutive Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champion DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) on Aug. 29. Will face 4A state champion Booker T. Washington on Sept. 4 and plays host on Sept. 11 to First Coast (Jacksonville), which went 12-1 last season, losing only in the playoffs to eventual 8A champion Apopka.
Top returnees: Seniors DE Keir Thomas, DB Jamel Cook, WR Darnell Salomon, QB Jerrod Thomas, LB Donavan Thompson, DE Eric Mitchell, DB Jamal Hudson, RB Mike Kenio and juniors LB Waynmon Steed and WR Jenard Phillips and sophomore WR Terrell Perriman.
Toughest to replace: WR Da’Vante Phillips, who had 148 catches for 2,406 yards and 29 receiving touchdowns in his career. He’s now a freshman at Florida State.
Outlook: There’s a certain expectation that players have at Miami Central and even though the team lost 19 players who signed college football letters-of-intent, there’s plenty where that came from.
“So far, we just trying to work on repetition and getting better,” Miami Central Coach Roland Smith said. “We want to make sure our players understand the scheme. We’re really excited about the nucleus of guys. This group is very excited about our tradition and making sure that this class won’t be the one that stops us from going to the state championship.”
Thomas, who has committed to Florida State, anchors the team’s defense and had 18 sacks and six forced fumbles last season.
“As he goes, we go,” Smith said. “He’s the leader of our defense and is the one that makes sure they are always talking.”
Cook is another FSU commit, and led the team with five interceptions last season. Another key defensive player is Thompson, who led the Rockets with 167 tackles last season and had 14 sacks.
On offense, Central returns Thomas, who could be pushed by Gulliver Prep (Miami) transfer Anthony “Mo” Hasan. Whoever wins the QB spot will have an elite receiver in Salomon, a transfer from Champagnat Catholic (Hialeah) and a good running back to hand off to in Keino, who transferred from Coral Gables.
Besides Salomon, the Rockets have two other outstanding receivers in Phillips (Da’Vante’s younger brother) and Perriman.
“Jenard is having a great spring for us,” Smith said. “He’s not as big as Da’Vante was, but he’s very quick. And in Darnell Salomon, we have a bigger receiver and we’re looking forward to that matchup. Perriman will be very good and has great bloodlines as his uncle (Brett) played wide receiver in the NFL and his cousin just got drafted (by the Baltimore Ravens).”