Miami Central Reigns Supreme

There is special providence in a last-second field goal.

After losing its first game of the season in a heartbreaker in Georgia, Miami Central came full circle last night, defeating Orlando Dr. Phillips 42-27 for the first state football trophy in school history.

It was the Rocket's 14th straight win. Strangely enough, however, it all seemed predestined since that painful loss nearly four months ago.

Riptide couldn't have scripted Saturday night's victory any better. We've been following running back Devonta Freeman, quarterback Rakeem Cato, and receiver-cum-safety Durell Eskridge all season.

All three of them made crucial plays last night. Devonta made 36, to be exact. That's the number of times he carried the ball on the way to another monstrous play-off performance: 308 yards and three touchdowns.

Cato directed Central's potent offense, as he's done all year. He recovered after an early interception returned for a TD to guide his team back from a 17-point deficit. He threw his trademark laser-guided touchdown passes to Freeman, Tommy Shuler, and D'Andre Randle.

Last but not least, Eskridge -- who lost his starting spot on offense early in the season after suffering an eye injury -- made a crucial fourth-down interception near the endzone to preserve what was then only a one-point Rocket lead.

The victory was a remarkable -- but not entirely unexpected -- turnaround after a disappointing opening to what could have been a perfect season. Central was ranked second in the nation according to a preseason USA Today poll, putting them in prime position win a national championship. Then came the upset to the Camden County (GA) Wildcats.

"The kids took that loss to heart," said head coach Telly Lockette earlier in the postseason. "But they bounced back."

Yes they did.

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.