TAMPA — Since the summer, Miami Central High’s football program has considered itself the top team in the nation.
Loaded with many Division I recruits, including 14 in this year’s senior class, the defending Class 6A state champ, which faces Armwood in this season’s 6A final at 1 p.m. Saturday at Orlando’s Citrus Bowl, have been a consensus Top 5 team this season.
The Rockets (12-1) enter Saturday’s game as the No. 3 team in the country according to USA Today.
Central is the first football team in Dade County history to make four consecutive trips to the state championship game.
“We felt like we had the chance to compete for a national championship,” said first-year Miami Central coach Roland Smith, who spent 12 years as an assistant and head coach at Miami Northwestern, where he led the team to a state runner-up finish in 2001 and a state title in 2006.
“We still feel like week in and week out, we’re the best team in the nation. Things happen, but we say we’re going to go out there and play Rockets football and let the voters decide who they think is the best in the nation.”
Central’s lone loss was to consensus No. 1 Miami Booker T. Washington 28-17 in the second week of the season. It was a game Smith said could have gone either way.
Washington beat Jacksonville Bolles 40-21 in the 4A state title game last week to cap an undefeated season, making it hard for any team to jump ahead in the national polls.
“We think we’re the best team, we prepare like we’re the best team and we play like we’re the best team,” Smith said.
Miami has outscored its opponents 352-143 this season and outgained opponents by nearly 3,000 yards.
The Rockets once featured two of the country’s top running backs in seniors Dalvin Cook, who committed to Florida, and Joseph Yearby, who committed to Miami. Yearby, however, will miss Saturday’s game with a broken left fibula, which he sustained in the region championship.
Paved by a front line that includes four-star Miami-commit Trevor Darling, Cook and Yearby accumulated more than 50 touchdowns and 3,200 yards on the ground.
Senior quarterback Keith Reed has thrown for more than 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Defensively, the Rockets feature a defensive tackle committed to Florida State and a defensive back committed to USF.
“If you look at the film, Miami Central is very deserving of those accolades,” Armwood coach Sean Callahan said.