Posted: 1:21 am Saturday, December 4th, 2010
By Jeff Greer
TAMPA — It was the rematch Tampa-Robinson craved. Glades Central, in Robinson’s backyard, with a state-title berth on the line. A chance at redemption. Last year, Glades Central smoked Robinson, 33-0, in Belle Glade. In the very same round.
Robinson had the running back to do it in JJ Hubbard, a scatback with crazy quickness and a shake-you-like-a-Polaroid-picture shimmy that has college scouts swooning.
But on Friday night, for the second year in a row, the Raiders were too much. Glades Central won 35-10, running the ball at will and keeping Hubbard in check — most of the time.
We had some pregame thoughts to whet your appetite. For the record, the band showed up and made its presence felt. The Glades Central Traveling Army showed up and made its presence felt. The supposedly undercooked chicken never reared its ugly head, and the postgame chicken from KFC was falling off the bone. (Read: It was crazy delicious.)
Anyway, here are my five postgame thoughts on Glades Central’s thorough beating of Robinson:
1. Speed kills. Now obviously Hubbard had his moments. He’s small and shifty, and if he gets outside, he might as well be gone. But tonight, Glades Central had its edges sealed. Numerous off-tackles and tosses were snuffed out. Hubbard had four runs of more than 3 yards. Just four. His biggest run was also the biggest play of the game, but for a different reason. Here’s why:
It was third down and 4 for Robinson at the Glades Central 23. Robinson quarterback Blake Rice flipped a toss to his left, just in front of Hubbard. As soon as Hubbard (5-8, 160) caught the ball, he was face-to-face with what looked like Glades Central defensive end Robert Way. That’s when Hubbard shimmied. Way slipped and caught his balance with one hand. If this was an And One mix tape, the crowd would’ve flipped out, Hubbard would’ve thrown the ball into the crowd and everyone would have gone home. But, uh, it isn’t.
Hubbard then darted down the left sideline to about the 5-yard line or so. That’s when Way caught up to him. Outstretched, Way knocked the ball loose. Glades Central recovered the fumble at its own 5-yard line, eliminating the scoring threat. Oh, the benefit of having a 6-foot-2, 200-pound D-end who runs better than most of his smaller teammates.
Hubbard ended the night with a decent-looking 71 yards on 20 carries, but 60 of those came on four carries. He had three rushes for negative yardage, and he had eight carries for one or no yards.
Pretty much everyone in the defensive side of the ball had a solid game, but junior linebacker Don’Kevious Johnson and sophomore ‘backer Wilky Orelin made a few noticeably big plays. The defensive line was as fast as it’s looked this year, thanks to Purvis Nixon, Delbert Clarke and Way.
Way weighed in (see what I did there?) on his team’s defensive performance:
“Speed-wise, we knew we could handle him,” he said. “He’s just quick. That’s all it was. We have speed on our defense. We read a little story about him that they said he wanted to try to break a record on us or something. We already knew we were going to contain him, but that was motivation.”
Glades Central coach Jessie Hester also shared his 2 cents:
“It was huge because we knew how quick the kid was,” he said. “We could not allow him to get into the open field because if we did, it would be trouble all night. Our kids were swarming all over the field to help contain him.”
Glades Central’s young secondary looked as experienced as anyone. Hester said his secondary played a huge role in limiting Hubbard. By keeping the talented Robinson receivers in check — Robinson QB Blake Rice was 8 for 17 for 44 yards and two interceptions — Glades Central forced Robinson to rely on Hubbard. That obviously didn’t work.
“Our secondary was key,” he said. “If they were able to move the ball effectively through the air, we really would’ve been in trouble, but our DBs held up really well in that area.”
Cornerback Will Likley, a sophomore, had another huge game. He had both of Glades Central’s interceptions. The second one was as simple as catching a punt — Rice threw a fade pass to no one and Likley just happened to be in the right spot at the right time.
But his first pick was a textbook play, the kind that makes your grandpa recall the old days. Likley was locked in one-on-one coverage on the right sideline. Rice tried to squeeze the ball in over Likley’s head and ahead of the receiver. Being the ball hawk that he is, Likley had none of it. He turned on the underthrown ball and came back to it on a dime. He took the return 32 yards and almost broke it for a touchdown.
But it’s hard not to write about him a little more. He took 21 carries for 142 yards and two touchdowns. His 38-yard touchdown run was a thing of beauty — he dragged two defenders into the end zone after breaking two other tackles earlier in his run.
Baker is a bruising back that gives Glades Central an in-between-the-tackles runner. That makes the Raiders an entirely different-looking offense. I talked to Hester and Baker both about the young back’s late-season breakout.
“He said, ‘Coach, it’s working, it’s working — the pumping of my feet,’ ” Hester said. “So I told him, ‘If you continue to move your feet, people will not be able to bring you down.’ He’s just a big kid who can run the ball extremely well. He’s just trying to take everything in and learn. He understands where the holes are. The game is coming to him mentally. Now everything’s fixing to be easy for him. Physically, he has all the tools. Now mentally, the game is there for him. So now he’s really gonna get scary.”
Here’s what Baker said:
“They told me I was gonna get the ball all night and that’s what happened,” he said. “I got 140 yards. I’ve been itching to get that the whole season. I stayed focused and I did my thing.”
I asked him what it means to the Glades Central offense to have a tough runner.
“It adds a lot,” he said. “Defenses worry about the pass all the time against us.”
Earlier this week, running backs coach Randy Williams gave me a better look at how the running game has broken out this year.
“It’s confidence in the offensive line,” he said. “Just confidence that, when they get to the hole, the hole will be there. We kind of had issues last year with our offensive line, but now (the running backs) have confidence that when they get to the 4 hole or the 3 hole, there will be a hole there.”
Quarterback Jamarious Rowley has come a long, long way. Mario will be the first one to tell you that he gets too hyped up for games sometimes. He was excited about coming into the season as the new quarterback for Glades Central. He has had some tough starts over the season. But lately, dude’s been on fire. His numbers weren’t off the charts tonight — a cool 104 yards, two touchdowns, one pick on 7-of-15 passing — but he played extremely well.
Robinson kicked an onsides kick to start the game and recovered it. Three plays later, Frankie Williams took an end-around 38 yards to the house. It was as big of an instant-coffee jolt as a team can get. But Rowley and company answered right back.
On an early third-and-10 — the first third down of the night for Central — Rowley hit Jaqavein Oliver on a 12-yard on an out pattern for a first down. (Side note: Is there a more underrated receiver in Palm Beach County than Oliver? Dude has 31 catches for 548 yards and seven touchdowns, but his name comes up fourth after Kelvin Benjamin, Davonte Allen and Jaime Wilson when you ask about Glades Central receivers.).
Then on second-and-6 a few plays later, Rowley found Oliver on a quick slant over the middle. Oliver had more space than a prairie dog in Kansas (do they have prairie dogs in Kansas?) and ended up with 28 yards. After three Baker runs for 17 yards and a facemask penalty on Robinson, Rowley found Jaime Wilson wide open over the middle for a 10-yard touchdown, which promptly tied the score at 7 apiece.
After Robinson kicked a field goal to make it 21-10, Glades Central faced what was the biggest possession of the game at that point. A bizarre sequence followed:
Robinson’s Division I-level kicker Kody Thomas kicked another onsides kick. It looked like it hit a Robinson player just shy of the required 9 yards, which is a penalty. The refs met. Talked to the coaches. Met again. Rinse, repeat. It took forever. Or, like, 10 minutes. So, 10 minutes later, Thomas had to re-kick. He fanned. Completely whiffed. Like, the ball only fell over because of the wind that came with Thomas’s leg swinging forward. The call was graciously offsides and not something like: (*Ref turns on microphone*) “Completely missing the ball on the kickoff and then falling on the ground, 15-yard penalty, Robinson will re-kick.”
What may be the worst part of all of it: After all that, Thomas kicked the kick that counted … out of bounds. So Glades Central started at its own 40. All that and all I got was this first down?
So, eventually, Glades Central faced a critical third-and-long and Rowley came up huge again. He felt heat in the pocket and scrambled right. Then he lofted a long, arching ball down the sideline. Somehow, after a Robinson defensive back just missed a pick, Oliver came up with it inside the Robinson 10-yard line.
Baker punched it in two plays later to make it 28-10. Ball game.
The point is, Rowley’s become more and more comfortable as the season rolls on. In the playoffs, he’s been awesome, throwing for eight touchdown passes and 696 yards. In tonight’s game, he made some big runs, too, including a 10-yard designed run for a touchdown. If he plays like that, and Baker is running well, Glades Central can beat Cocoa …
Which brings us to our last thought: Cocoa.
Here’s your rematch. It was 27-13 Cocoa last year in the Class 2A finals. When both teams played different opponents in Daytona Beach to start the year, everyone was abuzz about a potential rematch. Well here it is. Cocoa just barely beat a very good Madison County, 17-15, without its star running back Chevelle Buie. Buie was suspended for the game.
No word yet on if he’ll be back for the title game in Orlando. I’d guess he will be, but I also thought Taco Bell would keep the Flatbread Chicken Sandwich around and it didn’t, so what do I know? Either way, the Raiders are certainly excited about their second shot at Cocoa in two years.
Meantime, the ride back from Tampa will be fun. And Belle Glade will be a happy city tomorrow with its two schools headed back to the state championships in their respective classes.
See you in Orlando.