Slowly but surely, one building block at a time, Darryel Bethune is working to get the Miami Springs Senior High School football program back up to where it once was not long ago — respectable.
While the Golden Hawks haven’t been any kind of a powerhouse since they put together a magical undefeated 10-0 regular season two decades ago, Springs always found itself at the very least a competitive program. That was until the bottom dropped out two years ago with a winless season and lopsided losses by ridiculous scores.
Last year, Bethune was called in to take over and even though only one win was recorded, the Hawks found themselves battling tough and hanging in there most every week.
Progress, which can come in very small increments sometimes, became even more evident this past May when Springs capped off spring practice with an impressive 20-0 shutout of Varela.
The next step will come this Friday night, Aug. 23 when the Hawks travel to North Miami Stadium to take on North Miami High School at 7:30 p.m. in a 2013 Kickoff Classic, high school football’s answer to a preseason game.
It also will mark a mini-reunion of sorts for Bethune, who began his head coaching career from 2009 to 2011 when he ran the Pioneers program for three seasons and still knows plenty of folks at that school.
“We’re excited and looking forward to getting things going,” Bethune said in a quiet moment after practice last week. “The kids have been working hard and after a few weeks of going up against each other, it’s always good to see someone else in a different uniform.”
Springs will see plenty of different uniforms this season as the Hawks were part of a major classification and district shake-up during the offseason.
While Springs picked up many more teams than they had in just a four-team district a year ago, the Hawks also find themselves in a much more favorable situation not having to deal with powerhouse giants Northwestern or Central, which had been the case in the past.
Springs now will be in a seven-team district but, other than American, which enters as the clear favorite to finish first, you could throw the other six, including Springs, into a blender and not know who will come out of the pack with a second-place finish and coveted playoff spot.
“I feel pretty good because we’ve got the core of our team back from last season (15 of Springs’ 35 players are back) and many of those kids were key contributors,” Bethune said. “There is no substitute for experience and last year we had very little. We’ve been going at it pretty good ever since we hit the field a few weeks ago and certainly there was a real feel-good feeling around here the way we finished up spring practice with the win over Varela.”
The other “five in a blender” that Springs will contest with in the district will be Hialeah-Miami Lakes, Alonzo & Tracy Mourning, Goleman, Mater Academy and finally Springs’ new rival, Westland Hialeah, which represented the Hawks’ lone win last season.
“We feel we’ve got a good solid schedule with plenty of challenges and yet plenty of winnable games,” Bethune said. “I think putting together a winning season and even possibly a playoff berth is not an unreasonable goal and something we can work toward.”