While many of its fans were either making final preparations for the pending arrival of category 5 storm Hurricane Irma or asleep, Miami Central was flexing its “South Florida muscle” in Las Vegas.
Senior running back James Cook had touchdowns runs of 83 yards and 87 yards – the latter serving as the fourth quarter game-sealer to power the Rockets to a 24-20 win over host Las Vegas Bishop Gorman Friday night in a nationally-televised game at Fertitta Stadium.
With his team clinging to a 17-14 lead late in the fourth quarter and operating deep in its own territory – after a big interception by defensive back Chris Metayer – Cook took a handoff and ran through the right side of his offensive line and dashed past Gorman defenders for a score.
The Gaels tacked on an inconsequential touchdown with 0:09 left – an 18-yard touchdown catch by University of Miami 2018 commit and No. 1 tight end prospect Brevin Jordan – but missed the extra point, leaving the margin at 24-20.
Bishop Gorman recovered the ensuing onside kick, but its desperation heave to the end zone drifted out of bounds and cemented the Rockets’ win.
Cook, the younger brother of Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, finished with a game-high 199 yards on 13 carries. Freshman running back Amari Daniels added a 78-yard touchdown scamper during the second quarter, which put the Rockets ahead 14-7.
After the game, “Jimmy” Cook told ESPN announcers that the experience of playing in Vegas meant a lot to the team.
“It was a great experience for us to get on the road and get a big win for our city,” Cook told announcers post game.
Central was the only South Florida (Miami-Dade or Broward County) that played a football game in week three, as school board officials erred on the side of caution and closed schools Thursday through next Monday and canceled all extracurricular and athletic activities over the same span.
The Rockets left Miami for Las Vegas early Wednesday and plan on staying out west through Monday – thanks to financial help from Bishop Gorman as ESPN announcers reported during the broadcast – since the hurricane is forecasted to be making its way up the state of Florida Sunday through Monday.
Beyond that, Cook – who’s typically terse with his words – gave the credit for his big performance to his offensive line.
“I appreciate my [offensive line], I love them,” Cook added.
Central (3-0), which entered Friday’s game ranked No. 16 in USA Today National High School Football poll, handed the Gaels their second straight loss – a huge snide considering Bishop Gorman (2-2) had won 55 straight games before losing to the Rockets and California Mater Dei High in back to back weeks.
The win will greatly help the Rockets’ standing in the national high school football scope – already notching wins over South Florida powers Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna and Miami Booker T. Washington – and looking forward to a Sept. 22 showdown with Bradenton IMG Academy, which is ranked No. 2 in the country.
The Rockets led by as much as 17-7 midway through the third quarter – after a 36-yard Angel Lopez field goal – but Bishop Gorman chipped away at the deficit when Gaels quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson connected with Jalen “Speedy” Nailor four minutes left in the third quarter to bring Gorman to within three points.
Central’s defense would bend but didn’t break Friday.
Though Thompson-Robinson, a UCLA verbal commit, connected on 16-of-25 passes for just under 250 yards and a pair of touchdown passes – he found it difficult to find running room against the Rockets defensive front and absorbed big hits throughout the night.
Central junior defensive end knocked Thompson-Robinson out of the game during the fourth quarter – seemingly injuring his non-throwing shoulder.
After the Rockets missed the playoffs this past season, snapping their run of six straight trips to the Class 6A state title game, a lot of people were calling for “the end” of Central’s dynasty – but this season’s 3-0 start has quieted critics.
“I’m feeling really awesome. The kids and the coaching staff did a great job tonight,” Miami Central head coach Roland Smith said after the game.
“I’m so proud of Central Nation…we did a tremendous job of representing South Florida and the whole state of Florida. Our hearts and our prayers go out to everyone back home.”