Not long after he thought he may have cost his team a victory, Miami Springs Golden Hawks placekicker David Torres got a second chance and made the most of it.
Seconds after D.J. Bethune scored a Springs touchdown in overtime, temporarily tying the game at 24, Torres coolly stroked his extra-point attempt through the uprights to give the Golden Hawks a dramatic 25-24 win over Edison at Curtis Park.
Trailing 18-12 midway through the fourth quarter, Springs tied the game on a 37-yard Malik Thomas touchdown run. But with Springs players still celebrating Thomas’ touchdown on the sidelines, Torres yanked his extra-point attempt left, leaving the game tied.
“I was plenty nervous for sure, but I just took a couple of deep breaths and tried to think about my mechanics and swinging through the ball,” said Torres. “It was definitely a second chance for me because I felt awful after that first miss and I wasn’t going to let my teammates down again.”
And with that, the measuring stick of progress continued to move in the right direction for head coach Darryel Bethune and his program. Just two years removed from the most miserable season in the program’s 45-year history (0-10 and lopsided losses of gigantic proportions), followed by a “build-it-back-up” 1-9 season last year with only one lopsided loss, Bethune and his Hawks must feel like they’re on top of the world at 2-1 after three games.
Not only that, but Springs begins its district play this Thursday, Sept. 19 with a very winnable game against Westland Hialeah at Milander Stadium, followed by another district contest against Hialeah-Miami Lakes on Sept. 27, another winnable game.
Hawks players flooded the field in mass celebration following Torres’ boot, mobbing the newest member of their team. That’s right, the newest member.
It was only two weeks ago that Bethune, desperate for a placekicker, summoned his special teams coach Carlos Ojeda to “roam the halls” and see if he could find someone.
“He’s a soccer player and had never played a down of football before he came out,” said Bethune. “David has performed really well since coming out and I was really happy when he got a second chance at that extra point to win it for us and was confident he could get it done.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the Red Raiders paid the price for not having a kicking game.
They could have won the contest in the final seconds of regulation when they drove from midfield to the Springs 2-yard line with 30 seconds left. But after the Golden Hawks defense turned in a terrific goal-line stand, it was fourth-and-goal at the 4 with six seconds left.
Normally, a team would send in its kicker to kick the winning field goal but with no kicking game to speak of, Edison was forced for go for it and, thanks in part to great pressure by the Hawks defensive line, quarterback Maurice Nelson’s pass fell incomplete in the end zone, forcing OT.
When Nelson scored from 2 yards out on third down in overtime, Edison led by six but was forced to go for two and Nelson was tackled 2 yards short of the goal line.
The Hawks then got their possession and, on third-and-goal from the 2, D.J. Bethune plunged up the middle and into the end zone, setting the stage for Torres’ game-winning PAT.
After falling behind 6-0 just four minutes into the game, the Hawks battled back.
First came a safety where, led by defensive end JaRé Tolbert, the Springs D-line put major heat on Edison quarterback Eduardo Mendez as he dropped back in his end zone and was forced to throw the pass away, prompting an intentional grounding call.
After another Springs punt pinned Edison deep in its own territory again, safety Donte Smith picked off a Mendez pass and returned it to the Edison 7. Three plays later, Thomas, who finished the night as the game’s leading rusher with 128 yards on 18 carries, skirted right end from 4 yards out and the Hawks, following Torres’ successful extra point, were up 9-6.
Torres then came through again midway through the second quarter when a Springs drive stalled at the Edison 16 and he calmly nailed a 34-yard field goal to make it 12-6.
But the Red Raiders would seize the momentum from there, scoring once before the half to tie the game at 12 at halftime and again midway through the third to go up 18-12 (all three of their two-point attempts failed).
With just under nine minutes left in the fourth, Springs took advantage of a big Edison miscue when a high snap on a punt attempt gave the Hawks the ball at the Red Raiders 38. Two plays later, Thomas broke through a gaping hole in the left side and raced untouched to the end zone for a 37-yard score. That’s when Torres yanked his PAT, leaving the game tied and setting up the frantic finish.
“Just a great win for the program and definitely another step in the right direction,” said Bethune. “I guess it’s been quite awhile since they had back-to-back wins around here (2009), so everyone is feeling pretty good right now.”
But Bethune, like most football coaches off a couple of wins, knows that you’re only as good as your last game and now understands that the next seven weeks (all district games with a bye in between) will define his team’s season.
“These are district games now and take on a whole new importance,” Bethune said. “The celebrating from Edison is over. It’s time to get down to work and win the games that really count.”