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New Central football coach Roland Smith excited about opportunity to return to sidelines

Roland Smith called me back this morning to talk about his new job coaching the defending state champion Miami Central football team.

The Rockets officially hired Smith Wednesday to replace Telly Lockette, who was hired to be the running backs coach at the University of South Florida in March.

Smith returns to coaching high school football in Miami-Dade County after six seasons away. Smith had been teaching at North Miami Middle School.

"I’m very excited for this opportunity and grateful to Miami Central for offering it to me," said Smith in a phone interview Thursday morning. "I’ve got a lot of energy and I’m excited to get back and help these guys try to win another state title and excel on the national level."

Smith guided his alma mater Northwestern to a state championship and a perfect 15-0 season in 2006. Smith was then removed along with the majority of his coaching staff at the time by former Dade schools superintendent Rudy Crew in the wake of the scandal involving former Bulls running back Antwain Easterling.

Smith and his coaches were cleared of all wrongdoing in the matter in the ensuing months.

During his six seasons as Northwestern’s coach, Smith led the Bulls to a 69-13 record (best of any team during that span), a state title, a state runner-up finish in 2001, and state semifinal appearances in 2002 and 2005.

Smith had been rumored to be in the running for a few premier coaching vacancies in recent years, including Northwestern and Booker T. Washington, before they hired their current coaches.

"I didn’t want to rush into just any situation," Smith said. "When Central contacted me I was at the Youth Fair with my son, and I was excited they had me in mind. I told them I needed a little time to think about it. The great thing is I get to coach again with a lot of guys that coached with me in the past and have done an excellent job here [at Central]. I’m so proud and happy to get a chance to coach with them again."

Smith takes over a Central program that ranks among the nation’s best, having won two Class 6A state championships in the past three seasons under Lockette, who guided the Rockets to a 60-10 record in five seasons.

Smith said he was set to meet with his new team Thursday afternoon.

Central has advanced to three consecutive state finals and have not lost to a Dade opponent since 2008.

In hopes of making it three championships in four years, the Rockets will take on a challenging schedule this coming season that includes a trip to New Jersey to take on national powerhouse Don Bosco Prep and games against defending Class 4A state champion Booker T. Washington, Class 3A champion Davie University School, Plantation American Heritage, Norland, Northwestern, Carol City, Homestead and Coral Reef.

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