Posted: 1:23 pm Saturday, August 27th, 2011
By Matt Porter
Well, they’re healthy.
That’s all the positive Dwyer coach Jack Daniels will take from Friday’s 33-14 preseason home loss to defending Class 6A state champion Miami Central. “Nobody got hurt,” he said. “That’s it.”
So the Panthers have a full roster going into their Labor Day battle with Glades Central, but it’s going to take a tough week of practice to bring them to full strength. Dwyer allowed eight sacks, gave up a punt-return TD, couldn’t wrap up tackles or fill gaps when needed, and seemed to run out of steam near the end of the first half.
The game was in Miami Central’s control from the first quarter on – not entirely shocking, given their level of talent, but still a rude awakening for a team with state title aspirations. It’s certainly a good learning experience for the Panthers. It’s unknown whether Glades Central is faster and more athletic than Miami Central, but the Raiders certainly compare.
Click here for the game story. Now, here’s some extended analysis of the game.
The lights came on.
They admitted they carried the weight of last year’s Class 6A state title, but Miami Central, a team much like Dwyer – graduated several BCS talents, young in spots, several key transfers – didn’t stay nervous for long.
After the teams traded punts to open the game, Dwyer put together a quick TD drive. Bauta latched onto big Pat Miller and got through the Miami Central line for 9, then hit sophomore Clint Stephens over the middle, and Stephens turned it into a 55-yard play. Showing impressive balance and strength, Bauta carried four defenders with him inside the 5. Junior Matt McMahon punched it in from there to make it 7-0.
Throughout Dwyer’s drive, Miami Central coaches were heard screaming at their defense to get after it. “Knock his skinny a** over!” a line coach said to a defensive tackle (note: Miami Central did not provide a roster before the game). That would be the Rockets’ M.O. for the rest of the game: punch Dwyer in the mouth up front.
Miami Central took over with 3:58 left in the first quarter. Dwyer junior cornerback Jonathan Moxey knocked down his second pass of the game (he was also flagged for pass interference on the previous drive, bringing the Rockets to midfield from deep in their own zone). Junior linebacker Jared Brown had an interception in his hands and couldn’t hold on. Senior linebacker Gage Batten got into the backfield and forced an incompletion. Junior defensive end Malik Brown bull-rushed off the right edge and sacked Rockets senior Austin Stock, forcing a punt.
If you’re looking for a turning point in the game, here it is.
On the punt, a roughing the snapper penalty on Dwyer gave Miami Central an automatic first down from Dwyer’s 30. With new life, Miami Central’s line widened the gap between tackles Miller and Mike Minns, and sophomore Joseph Yearby slipped through for 25 yards. Dwyer junior CB Deandre Bozeman knocked down a pass, and junior LB Evan Harvey saved a TD with a tackle, but Yearby dove over the pile for six. The extra point made it 7-7.
Miami Central’s entire team seemed to inflate with air. An appropriate metaphor made itself clear to Miami Central head coach Telly Lockette, who looked up at the top of Blum Stadium and saw the stadium lights shining for the first time that night.
“The lights are on,” he said, loud enough for his team to hear. “Now the lights are on.”
It’s going to take a few hours of film to break down everything that went wrong for Dwyer Friday night, but their line play on both sides, and tackling and gap control on defense are areas of emphasis.
After Miami Central tied it with 10:23 left in the first half, Dwyer put together a drive that lasted nine minutes, 45 seconds. The good: Bauta-to-Stephens for 15 yards, a nice 9-yard screen-pass grab by tight end Malik Brown, tough gains of 8 and 9 yards by Bauta. The bad: two sacks, one allowed by the line and one that was more Bauta trying to slip by too many defenders in the pocket. After Dwyer’s normally reliable Bobby Puyol missed a 47-yard field goal, Miami Central tried to score with less than a minute remaining in the half.
With Dwyer in its nickel package (five defensive backs), Miami Central’s Delvin Cook got outside once for 23 yards, then again for 17. Suddenly in field goal range on first down, Rockets kicker Emilio Nadelman – who wasn’t too far away from splitting the uprights with the opening kickoff – kicked a 52-yarder to end the half. Miami Central, 10-7.
On the first play of the second half, Cook went nearly untouched up the middle to make it 16-7. Then, Miami Central’s pass rush (one sack, one QB pressure) forced a punt. Dwyer punted, and Miami Central got back after Bauta (one sack). Dwyer punted, and Miami Central senior Darreal Joyner returned the punt 41 yards for a touchdown.
Though Bauta showed big-time power and some nice cuts for his size on a 21-yard run, the next drive sputtered as he was sacked, and he then fumbled. Miami Central hit a 38-yard pass play and then a 25-yard field goal to make it 26-7.
Bauta hit sophomore Johnnie Dixon (24 yards) and then Stephens for a 43-yard touchdown where the receiver ran a crisp route from sideline to the middle, caught the ball and burned the secondary.
But on the next drive, Miami Central sophomore tailback Malik Adams went off the weak side for 36 yards, then ahead for 8, then a 4-yard TD. “We’re out of gas,” a Dwyer assistant coach said on the sideline. “That’s on us.”
A rude welcome.
Though facing the defending 6A state champs a week before the regular season was a far more arduous task than Dwyer’s spring game against Palm Bay, Faton Bauta never expected to watch third-string QB Robby Nittolo run the offense in the waning minutes of a loss. Though his night was rocky, the new QB showed he has the power to stiff-arm defenders in and out of the pocket, and has good mobility for his size. He’s hard to bring down – it took four Rockets to stop him from getting into the end zone on one run in the first half. He put up 10 carries on 38 yards in the first half, a 21-yard run in the second, and proved tough to stop on third- and fourth-down sneaks.
In the air, Miami Central proved itself one step faster than Bauta. The QB went 7-of-9 for 92 yards in the first half, but the second half was a long one: He completed 3 of 9 passes, including a 43-yard TD, and was sacked five times (eight overall). With defenders in his face throughout the second half, he needed to get rid of the ball quicker. Sacks are rarely all the QB’s fault, of course. Dwyer’s line was repeatedly beaten, and Dwyer’s coaching staff couldn’t adjust to Miami Central’s up-front push.
“There’s a lot of things we have to clean up,” Bauta said. “We know what we have to fix, and we’re going to work on it. We’re going to do anything and everything possible to get better.”
The better team won.
Fans will use this game to prove whatever point they wish: They’ll call Dwyer overrated, say Dade County football is better than Palm Beach County football, say Glades Central’s going to whip Dwyer next week. This much can be said for sure: Miami Central is reloaded, and they were much better than Dwyer last night.
Though the Rockets are young in spots, they’re hardly babies. Many in Palm Beach County talk about Dwyer’s transfers, but this offseason Miami Central has welcomed in several of Dade County’s top senior prospects: receivers Joyner (transfer from Georgia) and Samad Hinds (Miami Pace), defensive back Donaldven Manning (Miami Edison), linebackers Brian Nicholson (Miami Coral Park) and Josh Ballesteros (Miami Edison), defensive tackle Jordan Hinojosa (Archbishop Carroll) and quarterback Austin Stock (Parkland-Douglas).
Nicholson, Hinojosa, Ballasteros and Hinds are Minnesota commits, while Joyner is a West Virginia commit. Outside linebacker Errol Clarke is a Cincinnati commit. They’re the defending Class 6A state champions and a contender to get there again. Dwyer wanted a preseason test, and it got one.
“We didn’t fight,” Daniels said. “We got outcoached, we got out-tackled, we got out-schemed.”
Next stop: The Muck.
Oh baby, Glades Central fans had to be relishing this one. They likely see their team just like Miami Central – fast, athletic, aggressive – and consider the Raiders a sure bet to dominate on Labor Day.
For sure, it’s going to be a difficult task for Dwyer: With a tough Belle Glade crowd and the hype surrounding a nationally televised game swirling, trying to beat a team it has never beat. So many good storylines headed into this game.
This week, Jeff and I will break down Dwyer-Glades Central from every possible angle, but we’ll have plenty of coverage of a ton of other games in Week 1. Oh, and the Playbook and Game of the Week are back, too. Gonna be a fun week. See you then.