MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – With the formality out of the way, it’s now time for Miami-Dade County’s main event next Friday.
As expected, the most anticipated showdown in the 305 Area Code is set up.
Miami Northwestern made sure of that by handling Gulliver Prep, 39-0, on Saturday night at Nathaniel Traz Powell Stadium.
Running back Jamari Ford scored two touchdowns in the first quarter, on a 26-yard run and 29-yard pass from Taron Dickens.
Dickens had two first-quarter TD passes, with the other going for 43-yards to Andy Jean. Marlin Cochran scored on a 3-yard run and Northwestern led 27-0 after the first quarter.
From there, it was a matter of just playing out the string in the matchup of fourth-seeded Northwestern and five-seed, Gulliver.
Cochran had two TD runs, and Tarvail Mathis capped the scoring with a 3-yard run midway through the fourth quarter, creating a running clock the rest of the way.
The lopsided win now sets up the anticipated rematch of one of the county’s biggest rivalries. Northwestern (6-4) will face nationally-ranked Miami Central (10-0) on Friday in Class 2M-Region 4.
To high school football fans in Miami-Dade County, when these teams meet, it’s more than a game. It’s an event that will be played at The Traz.
“It is for all the marbles next week,” Northwestern coach Max Edwards said. “This what you practice for in the summer. One of the best teams in the nation. You get through them, and you can get you a prize. So, our ‘State Game’ is Friday. It’s do or die, and hopefully our kids prepare for it.”
As they say, you can throw records out the window for rivalry games.
Central, the top seed in the Region, has been the class of the county. The Rockets have been dominant all season. In their first-round game against eighth-seeded, St. Brendan, Central won, 60-0.
“This is bigger than a game because the kids know each other,”
Northwestern and Central met earlier in the season, with the Rockets rolling to a 42-7 win on Oct. 7.
Don’t read too much into the first encounter, because the Bulls were shorthanded. They were without Dickens, the county’s all-time passing leader, and Ford, their explosive playmaker.
“The first time we played them, we didn’t have a lot of guys,” Edwards said. “This time we’ve got them back, so it should be no excuses about nothing. We just want to go out and play ball like we can, and show them who we are.”
The Bulls are now healthy, and they’re peaking at the right time.
“We’ve been gelling off that L,” Dickens said of round one with Central. “Come to practice, grind and work for it. They’re not unbeatable.”
The Rockets may not be unbeatable, but without question they will be favored in the rematch.
Still, if Northwestern can run the ball like they did on Saturday against Gulliver, that will open the passing game more for Dickens.
“That’s really important next week,” Dickens said of running the ball. “That’s going to be big. That’s going to be major.”
Now it’s a matter of executing.
Central has won three straight state titles and eight overall. Northwestern, meanwhile, has seven total state crowns, with the last coming in 2019. Northwestern and Central weren’t in the same class in ’19.
Dickens was a freshman on his school’s last title.
Edwards wasted little time expressing to his team, and especially to his leaders, about the importance of next week.
“State Game this Friday!” Edwards repeatedly yelled to his players after the game.
With his top players specifically, Edwards approached each one and hollered to them individually what Northwestern’s theme of the week will be.
“State Game this Friday!”
“That’s just the tough coaching that I’ve been going through for four years,” Dickens said. “If you’re not built for it, you can’t be on 71st Street. Coach always preaches to us, 71st Street is not for everybody. As you can see, it shows.”
Saturday’s game was won handily by the Bulls, but it was a physical affair. There were plenty of penalties and jawing back and forth. Because of the score, Northwestern was able to get the backups work in the second half.
Now the road gets tougher for the Bulls as the Rockets await next week.
“The message I’m trying to get to them is, ‘Big time players make big-time plays in big-time games,’ “ Edwards said. “It don’t start game time. It starts in practice that week. So, if I can get them to practice well and take it to the game, we’ve got a good shot.
“I’ve got to let them know, I’ve got some guys who can play. But if they don’t play, the team is going to falter. If they do play, we stand a good chance to do what we want to accomplish.”
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