ORLANDO — The runs had been set up the same way all game, but aside from a 37-yard touchdown dash in the first quarter, Dalvin Cook’s signature explosiveness had been kept somewhat under wraps.
Each time it was one key block, Cook said, that kept him from breaking free. So during halftime of Saturday’s Class 6A state final, Miami Central coaches drew up the play on the board in the locker room.
And just seconds into the fourth quarter, it finally clicked. On the first play of the Rockets’ drive, Cook ran right up the middle for an 80-yard touchdown. No Armwood player was even close to Miami Central’s golden boy with the shimmery gold shoes.
“ ‘It’s over. We ready to get these medals and these rings,’ that’s what I was thinking,” said teammate Da’Vante Phillips, who met Cook in the end zone for a chest bump following Cook’s third touchdown of the afternoon.
To be fair, the game — which Miami Central won 52-7 — was over long before that flashy run. And Cook was the primary reason.
Cook’s 37-yarder put the Rockets (13-1) on the board with 6:46 to go in the first quarter. Armwood (14-1) went into the locker room at halftime trailing by just 14, but a minute and a half into the third Cook was back in the end zone with a 6-yard rushing touchdown to deflate the Hawks once more.
The 5-foot-11 running back, who added a 5-yard touchdown two plays after a blocked Armwood punt in the fourth quarter, finished with four scores and 223 yards. He accounted for all but 31 of the Rockets’ rushing yards.
Armwood’s defense, a source of pride all season, simply couldn’t stop him.
“He is what he is, what everybody says he is,” said Armwood linebacker Jordan Griffin, who finished with a game-high nine tackles. “He’s that running game. We had a time stopping him.”
In the 2011 6A state championship game, Cook, considered by some to be one of the best class of 2014 running back recruits in the nation, had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Armwood. It was all for naught, though, as the Rockets fell to the Hawks 40-31.
He has since masked that disappointment with a pair of state titles. He’s committed to Florida — a commitment that seemed quite soft as Cook fielded questions about his recruitment after the game. In just the past two weeks he said he has been visited by coaches from Texas, Florida State, LSU and Miami.
Cook’s got a lot of things on his mind. But as he stood on the Citrus Bowl turf after Saturday’s win, surrounded by a bevy of reporters, it couldn’t help but wander to the time he did the exact same thing two years ago after a slightly different outcome.
“I did an interview when I was here,” Cook recalled. “I told the whole world, ‘I’m going to be back.’ ”
And as he somersaulted into the end zone to cap the 80-yard gut punch of a play that the Hawks could only stand back and watch, Cook showed he’s here to stay.
Kelly Parsons can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @_kellyparsons.