How far has this Miami Springs football program come in such a short time?
Consider this: Just two years removed from setting a single-season national high school record (according to Rivals.com) in terms of losing point differential (556-49) and being the punchline for jokes around South Florida, the Miami Springs Golden Hawks were actually one of the featured teams this past Sunday when NBC-6 aired its weekly “High School Sports Show.”
The reason was that, under the direction of second-year head coach Darryel Bethune, the Hawks have turned things around in a major way. The latest evidence was last week’s 30-18 victory over Westland Hialeah at Milander Stadium. Not only was it an all-important District 16-7A opener for the Hawks, the win also was Springs’ third straight to move their record to 3-1.
Three wins and one loss? Huh? Now while many programs might chuckle at the thought of excitement over a 3-1 start, consider this:
As the Hawks put the finishing touches on their win over the Wildcats for their third win in as many weeks, that was as many wins over the last three weeks as it had been accumulated over the previous three seasons from 2010 to 2012 — combined! That’s 2-8, 0-10, 1-9 for 3-27 if you’re keeping tabs at home.
“Another nice stepping stone for the program, but we still have a long road ahead of us,” said Bethune, speaking like a coach who knows how delicate that slippery slope between winning and losing can be. “I was very pleased with how we played both offensively and defensively tonight, but we definitely struggled on special teams and will need to get that cleaned up.”
Bethune referred to the fact that the one downer on the evening for the Hawks was coverage by the kickoff team that was, in a word, atrocious.
Springs gave up so many long returns to Westland’s Darius Cheever, including a 69-yarder to open the game and a 75-yarder for a score in the third quarter, that kicker David Torres was instructed to either kick the ball out of bounds or squib it.
But if that was the only down side for the Hawks, there was tons of upside on the evening.
We can start on the defensive side of the ball where the Hawks defense, led by star defensive end Ja’ree Tolbert and Benjamin Guzman on the other side, held Westland to 178 total yards and sacked Wildcats quarterback Romel Guerrier a combined five times (Guzman three and Tolbert two).
Then we can move over to offense and talk about running back Malik Thomas and quarterback Gerald Anderson. Both were excellent as Thomas finished with 168 yards on 14 carries and a 16-yard third-quarter touchdown run that put the Hawks up 27-12. Anderson completed 8 of 11 passes for 155 yards and fired a pair of touchdown passes, a 57 catch-and-run score to Keavantra Floyd to give the Hawks an early 7-0 lead and then a 12-yard strike to Patrick Green to make it 14-0 in the second.
Thomas has now racked up 463 yards four weeks into the season, which had him currently ranked third in the county behind only Greg Howell of Coral Gables (529) and Joseph Yearby of Miami Central (515).
“We’ve all worked really hard to get this program back to where we think it can be,” said Thomas. “This is just the beginning. We’re out for greatness but we understand we have a lot of work still in front of us. Tonight was just another step.”
“It feels great to be off to a 3-1 start but we can’t go too crazy,” said Anderson. “We just have to take it one game at a time because we recognize we have a lot of tough district games ahead.”
Anderson isn’t lying about that. If we may peak ahead for a moment, the good news for the Hawks is that Hialeah-Miami Lakes is next up this Friday, Sept. 27 at Milander, followed with a bye week and then Goleman on Oct. 10.
With Westland, HML and Goleman as the three lower-tiered teams in the district, the Hawks easily could be 5-1 but then will come the three tougher teams in the district with the first up being a big first-place showdown with district favorite American on Oct. 17.
That will be followed by clashes with Mater Academy and Mourning on Oct. 25 and Oct. 31, respectively. A loss to American likely will leave Springs scrambling with those two for second place in the district and the program’s first playoff berth since 1995.