Members of the first Miami Springs Senior High football team (1965-66 and 1966-67) got together recently at Crackers to reminisce and catch up on life. The former jocks meet once or twice a year to recall the sort-of glory days and maybe exaggerate their football skills from way back when.
The mini-reunion included Gene Grimm (linebacker), Ron Johnson (linebacker), Louie Andrews (end), Rod McGee (quarterback), Richard Johnson (tackle), Mike Wilson (defensive end), George Giro (halfback), Ralph Giglio (receiver) and Jack Swanno (quarterback and wingback).
Two of the group still live in Miami Springs, one in Virginia Gardens and the others are scattered throughout South Florida.
“We were 4-4-1 the first year and 6-4 the second year,” said Swanno. “We didn’t have a losing season our first two years.” As for the best player on the team, Swanno wasn’t modest. He said, “Me, of course.”
Richard Johnson said, “Our very first game was in the Orange Bowl against Edison and we tied them. And Ralph was the best player.”
As for the worst player on the team, McGee nominated George Giro. “He got a broken nose and it never healed,” McGee said as everyone laughed because sports injuries are hilarious in retrospect.
“It will be 50 years in 2016 since our first varsity team,” said Swanno, who admitted that he no longer follows MSSH football.
Not that he still holds a grudge, but McGee, the former quarterback, still harangues Andrews for dropping a perfect pass at the goal line that would have been a touchdown.
“He (Andrews) was wide open against our rival Hialeah and I threw a pass that hit him right in the chest,” said McGee. “And he dropped it. We beat them 7-0 but we would have beaten them 14-0.”
Andrews’ side of the story: “McGee threw the pass way behind me. He’s one of the worst quarterbacks Miami Springs ever had.”
“Not true,” said Swanno. “McGee could pass but he couldn’t run worth a damn.”
A few team members went on to play college ball and a couple even ended up in bowl games but none turned pro.
Giglio played college ball at Carson-Newman in Tennessee. “I was mostly on the bench,” he said, “but I played receiver on kickoffs.”
As rounds of beers were downed, some tales started out about college football and then ended up being date-from-hell stories. “At Florida State, Richard fixed me up with a blind date and she was so ugly that I excused myself and crawled out the bathroom window,” said McGee.
During a rare serious moment, McGee said teammate George Dominguez (not present) was one of the best running backs in the county. “You could hear the ground thunder when he was running behind me and he was strong. He was All-City and got a full scholarship to UM, but when the coach wouldn’t start him as a freshman, he quit.”
McGee related an unverified story from the early years about how the school mascot was chosen.
“A certain body of us was given the chore of choosing the school mascot and we chose the Jets,” said McGee. “So we were going to be the Miami Springs Jets. However, the principal at that time, John Jenkins, didn’t like that name because the movie ‘West Side Story’ (1961) had a gang in it named the Jets. So Jenkins changed the name on his own (and) that’s why they’re the Hawks today.”