– Led by a standout performance from senior quarterback Rakeem Cato
, the Central (Miami, Fla.)
football team defeated Prattville (Ala.)
49-28 on Friday night at Traz Powell Stadium.
Cato, who broke the Miami-Dade County career touchdown passes record last week, previously held by current University of Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, continued his stellar play by completing a remarkable 32-of-38 for 368 yards and four touchdowns.
The senior standout, who also set all-time county records of passing yardage and competitions earlier in the year, now has 93 career touchdown passes.
"This was a great win for us," said Cato, who has verbally committed to Florida International University. "They played hard and gave us a tough fight early on. I'm just glad we were able to stick together and do what we came here to do."
The Rockets (7-1), who entered averaging 43 points per game, drew first blood when Cato connected with Charles Gaines Jr.
for a 30-yard touchdown pass. The drive was sparked by senior running back and Florida State commit Devonta Freeman
, who set up the score with a 35-yard run.
Prattville (7-3) answered as quarterback Justin Thomas
dazzled Central defenders with his feet, and then broke for a 48-yard touchdown run.
The score capped a seven-play, 80-yard drive that tied the game 7-7 with 6:40 left in the first quarter. Thomas, a junior with 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash, amassed 310 yards of total offense and two scores for the Lions (132 rushing, 178 passing).
The Lions went up 14-7 on their next possession after junior running back Deante Lawerance
scored from 3-yards out. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Lawerence was difficult for the Rockets to defend at times, finished with nine carries for 97 yards and two scores.
Cato seemed unfazed and capped a seven-play, 79-yard drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to receiver Durell Eskridge
to tie the game at 14 with 32 seconds left in the first quarter.
Prattvile sophomore running back Stanley Mays
gave his team back the lead, taking a screen pass from Thomas and turning into a 46-yard touchdown. Mays made a one-hand catch and then used some nifty moves to get into the end zone.
It was one of the top plays of the night.
From there, Cato and Freeman began to take over. Freeman (19 carries, 197 yards, three touchdowns) tied the game at 21-21 with a 5-yard TD run before Cato connected with D'Andre Randle
on a 49-yard touchdown.
Central senior receiver Tommy Shuler
was also instrumental on many of his team's scoring drives with 10 catches for 95 yards.
Undaunted, Prattville tied the game 28-28 on the first drive of the third quarter. Thomas connected with receiver Calvin Rogers
for 47 yards to set up Lawrence's second score of the night, a 1-yard run. On the completion to Rogers, Thomas was nearly sacked, scrambled to the opposite side of the field before finding Rogers all alone.
"It was a hard fought game," Thomas said. "Our guys came out and played their best, we just couldn't pull out the win tonight. They are a really good team"
With less than six minutes left in the third quarter, the Rockets managed to score three straight touchdowns on their next three possessions to seal the win.
The first was a 2-yard pass from Cato to Brian Deveaux
before Freeman put it away with TD runs of 18 and 11 yards. It didn't hurt that Cato completed 13 straight passes to start the second half.
"I'm proud of how our team played tonight," said Central head coach Telly Lockette. "Prattville starts their playoffs when they get back home and we knew they would be in that mind frame tonight. We still have some things to work improve on from our end, but our guys are getting the picture and we are coming together."