August 14, 2012

No. 16 Miami Central has nation's top schedule

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The Miami (Fla.) Central football team is not on the top line of the preseason RivalsHigh 100 national high school football rankings but the No. 16-ranked Rockets could be in the driver's seat for a national title thanks to the team's schedule.

A major factor in the final ranking is the schedule that a team plays and how it fared week-in and week-out as well as the overall strength of its opponents.

With games against Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee, Loganville (Ga.) Grayson, and Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington - three teams ranked inside the Top 10 - Miami Central was a runaway winner as broke down the toughest schedules among teams inside the preseason Top 25.

Fifth-year head coach Terry Lockette said that the challenge presents his players with an opportunity to succeed.

High school football kicks off this weekend with 16 teams inside of the RivalsHigh 100 opening play. A major factor in the final ranking is the schedule that the teams play and how each fared week-in and week-out as well as an overall strength of opponents. With that we rank the schedules of the teams with the inside track to claim a title.

For an expanded analysis of the schedules click here.
1. Miami (Fla.) Central
2. Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita
3. Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee
4. Loganville (Ga.) Grayson
5. Louisville (Ky.) Trinity
6. Olney (Md.) Good Counsel
7. Tampa (Fla.) Plant
8. Dallas (Texas) Skyline
9. Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington
10. Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County
11. Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes
12. Nashville (Tenn.) Ensworth
13. Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage
14. Concord (Calif.) De La Salle
15. Southlake (Texas) Carroll
16. Austin (Texas) Lake Travis
17. River Ridge (La.) John Curtis
18. Hoover (Ala.) High
19. Matthews (N.C.) Butler
20. Abilene (Texas) High
21. Bellevue (Wash.) High
22. Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith
23. Harrisburg (Pa.) Central Dauphin
24. Mobile (Ala.) McGill-Toolen
25. Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta
"It is our goal to win every game and win a state title," he said. "We think that with the national rankings and national exposure it can bring a sense of pride and we build on that, it is more than just football, but this game is an avenue to great things for these kids. They know that people are watching them and that can be a distraction from the day-to-day struggles of urban life - or life in the ghetto for some of the kids.

"Our success on the field is measure by the scoreboard and I get that but there are a lot of good things happening here. There is a different attitude now than there was a few years ago; when you get told what you can't do your whole life and then get a chance to show people the other side it is a motivating factor."

What the players at Central had been told for years was that they were second fiddle to their rivals, Miami (Fla.) Northwestern.

Lockette played at Northwestern before going on to play college football and then started his coaching career at Northwestern as well. His time with that program helped him build Miami Central to what it is today.

"Seeing what it took for that program to get into the next chapter of high school football was important," he said. "It was discipline to be committed to (football) every day and not just on the field. To succeed you have to be dedicated and we brought that here with us.

"So many kids will have it in their heads that can't make it. A lot of them grow up in one-parent homes or with grandparents because their parents are dead or in jail. To show them things can be different we had to channel that energy to something positive. We had to change the negative culture and we had to show them things they didn't think they would see."

Through the support of the surrounding community and school administration, the program has been very active in out-of-state games. It has played away games at Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County, Prattville (Ala.) High and Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder. Central will trip to Loganville (Ga.) Grayson this season, and the chance to get out of their current surroundings is more than ample motivation.

"We used to be that school that couldn't get out of the second round of the playoffs," Lockette said. "Now we are the team that competes for titles and plays on television. That is something that kids want to be a part of."

As one of the top-ranked teams in the country, schools from across the state and region have called Central and inquired about setting up a game.

"We have always wanted to get Manatee on the schedule so when they called it was something we were really excited about," Lockette said. "Then when Grayson wanted to play we just said, 'Sure, why not?'"

Lockette knows that just playing the games is not going to get his team to the top. He has to win them.

"We lost to Camden County and then rolled off 14-straight and won a state title," Lockette said. "We finished No. 20 that year and have to think it would have been much higher if we won.

"If we can get through this schedule, this year, it would be incredible."

It would likely lead the team to a national championship as well.

MORE: Detailed breakdown of the RivalsHigh 100 teams | List of ranked teams

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