December 18, 2010

Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

A heavy fog limited the visibility on the field for most of the fourth quarter of the Florida Class 6A title game Saturday night in Orlando.

But it certainly cleared up any confusion about the state rankings.

Miami (Fla.) Central - behind a near-record setting effort by running back Devonta Freeman - came back from an early 17-point deficit to overwhelm Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips 42-27.

Freeman keyed the comeback. He ran the ball 38 times for 308 yards - just 1 yard shy of the state title game record - and two touchdowns; he caught three passes for 31 more yards and another score.

Afterward, the Florida State commit sounded as if he could go all night.

"I ain't even tired," he told television reporters following the game. "I could have played another two quarters."

His efforts should earn Central a spot in the Top 20 of the final RivalsHigh Top 100; it came into the game at No. 21.

Dr. Phillips, which entered the game at No. 6 and hoped to make a case for being the best team in the state - if not the country - figures to fall plenty.

The game did not appear like it was headed to this conclusion in the early going.

If fans were late to the stadium, they missed Dr. Phillips jump out to a quick 17-0 lead on a touchdown pass from Nick Patti to Chris Gallon, a 60-yard interception return by Ryan Luckett and a 34-yard field goal by Shawn Moffitt sparked.

From there, the momentum started to swing to Miami Central.

A touchdown pass from Rakeem Cato followed by an interception return for a touchdown by Charles Gaines Jr. brought the Rockets right back into the mix at 17-14. The teams then traded two more scores before halftime.

Even though Dr. Phillips still led at the half, 24-21, something clearly was wrong.

"It was like a funeral in there," Panthers coach Dale Salapa told television reporters following the break. "I had to remind them we were winning and we were getting the ball back."

It didn't matter.

A big no-call then swung the game.

A Dr. Phillips punt appeared to hit Durell Eskridge of Central before being recovered in the end zone by the Panthers. The play, however, was ruled a touchback instead of a touchdown and the game turned.

Central responded with an 80-yard drive that was capped with a 13-yard Tommy Shuler touchdown reception that gave the Rockets their first lead of the game at 28-24. They would never trail again.

Two pass interference penalties on the subsequent drive against Central nearly allowed Dr. Phillips back in, but the team stiffened up and held the Panthers to a field goal and stuck to a 28-27 lead.

On the next drive, Central answered with a Freeman touchdown. An interception and another Freeman touchdown stretched the game to its final score.

The Rockets overcame the 17 penalties for 143 yards against it to secure the school's first state football title.

"It's history. We are the first to do it," Freeman said. "Me and my offensive line are the cause of it."

The offensive line was an unheralded group much of the season, allowing Freeman to run wild and Cato the time to find one of his three Division I receivers. Cato finished the game 17 of 25 for 196 yards.

While much of the credit will go to the players, some should go to head coach Terry Lockette, who in his third season brought discipline to a team that had been lacking in that department for many seasons.

"I am so happy for the community and the fans," he said after the game. "This isn't about me, it is about these kids."

The community made the four-hour drive to support the kids.

Playing in front of over 10,000 people was an inspiration to the coach.

"We knew Liberty City would come here and support us," Lockette said. "We were the better team today."




 

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