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Keyone Jenkins throws for 3 touchdowns; Miami Central football outlasts Columbus

Stars step up to help Rockets prevail in a shootout at Traz Powell
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Add some more hardware to Miami Central’s already packed trophy case.

The nationally-ranked Rockets received a rare scare on Friday night, but they were able to hold off Columbus’ second-half comeback for a 42-35 victory at Nathaniel Traz Powell Stadium.

Keyone Jenkins threw for three touchdown passes, including two to long-plays to Lamar Seymore, and Rueben Bain showed why he’s one of the top defensive players in the nation, coming up with two sacks and a pressure that forced a crucial intentional grounding penalty in the closing minutes.

“This felt like a rivalry game,” Jenkins said. “They brought their fans. A lot of them came. It felt like a rivalry game.”

Miami Central star quarterback Keyone Jenkins passed for three touchdowns and the Rockets held off a second half surge from a talented Columbus squad to remain undefeated with 42-35, Friday night at Traz Powell Stadium.

Miami Central star quarterback Keyone Jenkins passed for three touchdowns and the Rockets held off a second half surge from a talented Columbus squad to remain undefeated with 42-35, Friday night at Traz Powell Stadium.

With the victory, Central (8-0) took home the first-place trophy in the 18-game Greater Miami Athletic Conference (GMAC) showcase. Columbus (8-1) made a gutsy second-half comeback after trailing 35-7 at halftime.

The Rockets are No. 5 in the SBLive/Sports Illustrated Power 25 national high school football rankings. 

“It’s definitely going to make us more hungry, more serious,” Bain said. “We’re not going to take opponents lightly. It doesn’t matter what the score is during the first half, the second half we’re going to come out and do our job the same as we did in the first half.”

The Explorers brought home the second-place trophy, and showcased their roster that’s loaded with power-five caliber talent.

“We relied a lot on our camaraderie and our bonding and that’s what carried us through,” Central coach Jube Joseph said. “That’s just the culture, man, fight until the end. You know, there’s going to be some tough games like this that’s going to show good character. Basically, and showcase our team in its entirety.”

Columbus quarterback Alberto Mendoza had a huge night, throwing four touchdown passes, and running for another.

The second-half surge by Columbus created the game of the year in Miami-Dade County, as well as South Florida.

Miami Central, winners of three straight titles, is rarely challenged. Friday seemed like more of the same in the first half.

After building a 28-point lead by scoring with 18.6 seconds left in the second quarter, it looked like the second half could be a running-clock situation. The clock runs with few interruptions if a team leads by 35 points in the second half.

The way the first half ended, it appeared a blowout was inevitable. Central used a trick play, a flea-flicker that resulted in Anjuan Coleman throwing a 72-yard touchdown pass to Lawayne McCoy.

The second half was a different story.

“They’re fighters,” Joseph said of Columbus. “They were undefeated. They practice, too. They are high in the state rankings as well, and they are a top team in the South for a reason. They showed that. They fought, but our kids fought a little harder tonight.”

In the second half, Mendoza took over, throwing three touchdown passes in the third quarter. The first was an 11-yard strike to Fadrelle Andrus. Mendoza then hooked up with Dariell Harper for scoring passes of 18 and 4 yards, trimming the margin to a touchdown.

“Columbus, definitely has great fighters,” Bain said. “I can’t take that away from them. They gave effort from the first whistle until the last. We always have to give credit for that.”

As for Central finding itself in a skirmish.

“Mental errors,” Bain said. “We can do better next week. That’s what we’re going to fix on this week in practice and we’re ready to move on to the next challenge.

“We felt like we were untouchable. We kind of got hit in the mouth, so we had to respond quick. Sometimes you don’t get back up. Luckily, we were able to get back up. We’ve got to do better next weekend and from now on.”

Highly recruited, Bain made a huge defensive play with Columbus driving in a 42-35 game. After reaching the Rockets’ 14-yard-line, Bain applied pressure on Mendoza.

Bain was wrapping up Mendoza, who threw the ball away. The officials called intentional grounding. It was a big moment, because it caused the Explorers to attempt a 30-yard field goal, which was no good with 4:57 left.

“That’s a big-time moment, really,” Bain said. “I feel like I should make that play. I could have done something differently, so we didn’t have to worry about the flag. Just get him down. But it happened. Got to make more plays, really. Give our offense back momentum, give our team back momentum, and take theirs away.”

Central was able to run clock, but Columbus got the ball back with 1:29 remaining and down a touchdown from their 28.

The Rockets’ defense came up big when Louisville commit, Stanquan Clark, forced a fumble near midfield. Javari Flowers recovered for Central with 1:03 remaining.

“I like those types of games,” Jenkins said. “A blowout every game is not so much fun. A little competition every once in a while, it shows character.”

Jenkins had the offense going early for Central. In the first quarter, the left-handed throwing quarterback connected with Seymore on a 52-yard touchdown pass.

Jenkins to Seymore connected again for 47-yards for a second quarter score, making it 14-7.

Backup quarterback Dylan Tulloch got some work in the second quarter, and scored on a 1-yard sneak. Tulloch and Corey Washington connected on a 31-yard scoring play in the second quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Jenkins and McCoy connected on a 5-yard scoring pass that provided the decisive points.

“You’ve got to finish strong,” Jenkins said. “Never get too lax.”