After several months of delay, many Miami-Dade County high school athletic programs wondered whether there would be any sports played this year due to the growing concern of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was fitting that once things were settled and arrangements for the season were made that the teams that would kick things off again would be none other than two of the county’s powerhouse programs, the Miami Northwestern Bulls and the Miami Central Rockets.
Both teams won state championships in 2019: Northwestern won the 5A Title and Central won the 6A Title. They are two of the only five county public schools that will be opting in to the Florida High School Athletic Association’s state series this year. The other three schools are Homestead, Miami Edison and Miami Palmetto.
The game was played at the Miami’s historic Nathaniel Traz Powell Stadium – aka the “Mecca” – which recently underwent a major renovation that overhauled the playing field, track, press box, locker rooms, lighting and scoreboard. Teddy Bridgewater, NFL quarterback for the Carolina Panthers and a Miami native who played high school football at the stadium for the Northwestern Bulls stated, “Knowing the value of the stadium and the role it plays in producing high school athletes and hosting games in south Florida, it’s amazing that this renovation took place.”
Whenever Central plays Northwestern there are typically no seats available and it’s a standing room only type of environment. And what is normally the hottest ticket in town to get in Miami on a Friday night was even more so, as plenty of fans couldn’t enter the stadium because tickets were limited to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
However, there were additional options for fans to tune in to the game. Some were able to stream it online and others listened over the PA system in the stadium parking lot.
Northwestern, the reigning Class 5A champion and winner of three straight state titles, never trailed against Central after jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the opening minutes of the game. The Bulls opened the scoring with a 77-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Taron Dickens (Class of 2023) to wide receiver Romello Brinson (Class of 2021), who is verbally committed to the University of Miami. On the following Rockets drive, Northwestern linebacker Patrick Payton (Class of 2021) picked up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown to put the Bulls up 14-0. Payton is verbally committed to the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
In the second quarter, Northwestern safety Kamren Kinchens (Class of 2021) got an interception as well to add to the takeaways. Kinchens is verbally committed to the University of Miami.
Central answered both scores in the first period. Rockets quarterback Keyone Jenkins (Class of 2023) connected with receiver Zaylan Reese (Class of 2022) for a 9-yard score and then to receiver Robert McMinn (Class of 2021) on a 37-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14.
Running back Siddiq Jackson (Class of 2021) was the difference-maker for the Bulls as he ran for a 46-yard touchdown giving Northwestern the lead 21-14.
While the Rockets may have lost the game, they wouldn't have been in position to tie the game at the end if it weren't for Amari Daniels. Daniels is a Class of 2021 U.S. Army high school All-American who is currently undeclared. Daniels had a 74-yard run to move Central into the red zone in the fourth quarter but the team ultimately could not get into the end zone as Northwestern defense clamped down to finish the game.
This game featured several talented players on both teams that will definitely make an impact for their teams at the next level.
Up next for the Central Rockets is a matchup against Miami Edison at Traz Powell Stadium on Oct. 30. The Miami Northwestern Bulls will next play in a showdown against the top-ranked high school team in the nation, IMG Academy (Bradenton), on Oct. 30 in Bradenton, Florida. This will be the fourth meeting in four seasons between IMG and Northwestern, with the former winning the previous three meetings, outscoring the Bulls 79-14.