Miami Central head coach Roland Smith holds up the teams eighth overall state championship after winning the 2021 FHSAA Class 5A State Championship, 49-14 over Merritt Island on Fri. Dec 17, 2021 at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. [Joshua Wilson/FloridaHSFootball.com]

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The expectations were for the 2021 FHSAA Class 5A State Championship game to be a one-sided affair and that is exactly what happened Friday afternoon at DRV PNK Stadium between Miami Central and Merritt Island.

Miami Central (12-2) clinched their third straight state championship with a 49-14 victory over Merritt Island (13-2).

Here are four takeaways from the game.

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ROCKETS DEFENSE LIGHTS UP THE BOARD

When they say defense wins championships, the Rockets showed off why they are one of the top teams in the Sunshine State with a defensive output that collected 31 tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, both returned for pick-sixes, three pass breakups, one blocked field goal, and seven quarterback hurries.

Ezekiel Marcelin led the way for the Rockets in tackles with four total tackles, while Joshisa Trader and Trent Henry collected up the pick-sixes. Henry finished game three total tackles as well.

JOSHISA TRADER SHINES

Trader, who transferred from Monsignor Pace to Miami Central midway through the season made a huge statement in the game with an outstanding performance both on offense and defense.

And that accounted for 18 of the Rockets’ 49 points.

Offensively, Trader hauled in four catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns with his longest touchdown reception coming on a 50-yard reception in the first quarter.

However, Trader is likely going to be most remembered for his play that came late in the first half when Merritt Island was facing first and goal at the Rockets’ six-yard line that came after a blocked punt by Logan Cody on the play before.

That is when Denaburg took a drop back to throw a potential touchdown pass but instead, Trader stepped in front of the pass, intercepting it and returning it down Rockets sideline that would make the score 21-7 for Miami Central with 3:12 left before half.

Overall, Trader finished the game with 212 all-purpose yards in the game.

OFFENSE EXPLODES FOR THE ROCKETS

When the Rockets were giving Merritt Island fits with their defense, they were giving the Mustangs defense issues with their offense.

The Rockets finished the state championship game with 390 yards of total offense and that is compared to the 229 yards of offense that the Mustangs racked up.

No Rockets players finished with more than 100 yards of offense, however, Ean Pope finished with 86 yards rushing on five carries and a touchdown.

The Rockets’ two-quarterback system did well as well with Keyone Jenkins going 6-of-7 passing for 176 yards and two touchdowns and also had one rushing touchdown while Dylan Tulloch went 3-of-7 passing for 67 yards and a touchdown.

Trader led the team in receiving with 116 yards.

EIGHT STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS IN 12 YEARS

For Miami Central, this marks the Rockets’ eighth overall state championship in school history, with all the state championships coming since winning the first one in 2010.

Also, the victory for the Rockets over Merritt Island was the second time that Miami Central has been able to win three straight state championships having done the three-peat back in 2012-2014.

Now in 2022, Miami Central will have a chance to match their state-tying four straight state championships when they did it back in 2012-2015.

COACH’S WORD – ROLAND SMITH