Video: Hurricane Irma strands Miami Central in Las VegasRockets hope to return home Friday after huge win for the program.
One of the nation's top high school football teams, still beaming from perhaps its most important win in school history on Friday, can't get home to celebrate due to Hurricane Irma.
Coming off a 24-20 win at defending national champion Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
, 50 players and 20-some coaches from Central (Miami)
are largely sequestered in a hotel near the Las Vegas Strip waiting to get weather clearance to return home. On Monday, they heard Tuesday was a possible departure date.
On Tuesday morning, Central head coach Roland Smith said the Rockets will be leaving Friday, making it a nine-day trip.
"We're just looking for normalcy," Smith said. "We're safe. We're humbled by all the hospitality we've received. And we're growing closer as a team."
Smith said the boys, three or four to a room, are in great spirits but antsy and constantly watching television updates on the Category 4 hurricane that as of Monday afternoon had claimed at least 37 lives in the Caribbean, 10 in Cuba and 12 in the United States.
"It's life man," Smith said. "You can't hide from a hurricane. We're obviously safe, but our families are not. We haven't heard anything catastrophic. Mostly just lights and power being off. We just keep crossing our fingers."
Smith said most of the players time is simply socializing among each other, communicating with family and watching for updates.
On Sunday, the team took a quick tour of the Strip after a makeshift practice in the hotel parking lot, something the Rockets continue to do daily.
"We could find a field, but it's really all we need," Smith said. "Gorman and the entire state of Nevada have been so accommodating and compassionate. So many people have done so many positive things for this team."
Among the many good deeds according to Smith: A local pizza establishment donated roughly 20 pies for the team to eat Sunday; A Las Vegas organization brought the team lunch and Bishop Gorman itself paid for all the hotel accommodations Saturday through Monday and for all meals throughout the weekend.
Gorman has extended that gift through Central's entire stay, Smith said on Tuesday.
"It sounds corny, but it really makes me proud to be an American," Smith said. "Everyone has treated us like Nevada citizens. We can't be more thankful. We could just be stranded at the airport without food. This whole experience is very humbling and eye-opening."
Floridians were proud of the Rockets on Friday. They were the only team in the state to play a game last week and Smith said the texts and words of encouragement from coaches before the nationally televised game was "overwhelming."
When the Rockets, who won four straight 6A state titles starting in 2012, knocked off a Gorman team that started the season ranked No. 2 nationally, the reaction from Florida was strong.
"We've had a lot of big wins over the years," Smith said. "But not where the entire state was behind us and supporting us like that. We didn't want to let them down."
School is canceled this week throughout Dade County and the team's game with Edison (Miami) has been called off. The next game on the schedule is at No. 2 IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) on Sept. 22.
"They're awfully talented, but frankly, nothing seems too daunting at this point," Smith said.