The sight was a tough one to take for anyone who was a Miami Springs Golden Hawks football fan.
The scene was last Thursday night (Oct. 17) at Traz Powell Stadium and the event was a first place district showdown between American and Miami-Dade County’s Cinderella story of the 2013 season, the Miami Springs Golden Hawks.
The sight that was especially tough to take if you were Springs faithful was Golden Hawks players sprawled on the ground in despair seconds after American placekicker Diego Arcon split the uprights on a 25-yard field goal with six seconds left, snapping a 13-13 deadlock to give the Patriots the 16-13 win and the inside track to the District 16-7A championship.
“This is a tough one for sure but I’m still proud of our kids the way they came out here and competed tonight,” said Springs head coach Darryel Bethune. “This was a big stage for them tonight to play on and even though the outcome wasn’t what we wanted, to play in a game like this and compete the way we did is all part of a growing process.”
What probably gave Bethune a really tough time when his head hit the pillow later that night was his decision to gamble and go for it when the Hawks faced a fourth-and-14, not a favorable down-and-distance, at the American 35 with just over a minute left in the game.
Not only did Springs not convert but quarterback Gerald Anderson was sacked for an eight yard loss giving the Patriots the ball near midfield with 57 seconds left and two timeouts.
The precious 30 to 35 yards of field position Springs gave up proved costly when, two plays later, American quarterback Ed Crouch took off on a 40 yard scrambling zig-zag run all the way down to the Hawks 15 yard line with 27 seconds left. Three plays later, Arcon kicked his game-winner snapping a five game Springs winning streak.
“We really had a play we liked and I just felt like we could convert,” said Bethune after the game of his fourth-and-14 decision. “We had somebody open downfield but unfortunately we didn’t give our quarterback the protection he needed.”
What also likely had Bethune tossing and turning that night was the fact that his team came out red hot in the first quarter and a half, jumping out to a 13-0 lead but a lead that could’ve been a lot larger.
When American fumbled the opening kickoff and Springs recovered at the Pats 44, the Hawks cashed in six plays later when running back Malik Thomas went over from five yards out to make it 7-0.
The Hawks then squibbed the ensuing kickoff and when American couldn’t handle the ball, Springs recovered and was right back in busines again. Another trip to the red zone ensued but, on fourth-and-one, a quarterback sneak by Anderson came up inches short at the Patriot 19.
But, after lost yardage and a short punt on American’s first possession, the Hawks were right back in business at the Patriot 37. Six plays later, when the drive stalled at the 16, David Torres attempted a 33 yard field goal that was blocked.
One series later following another American punt, Thomas broke loose up the middle and outran defenders for a 69 yard touchdown run. A bad snap on the PAT left Springs leading 13-0 with 8:39 left in the second quarter but perhaps feeling they should’ve been ahead by a lot more.
“We really had a lot of opportunities early on and didn’t cash in on all of them and that eventually hurt us later on,” said Bethune.
American then started battling back. First came a 5 yard touchdown pass from Crouch to Quentin Collins to cut the Springs lead to 13-7 at the half. Then, after Thomas fumbled on the first play of the second half giving American a short field at the Springs 18, the Patriots scored three plays in on an 8 yard Isaiah Williams touchdown run. Arcon’s extra point attempt sailed wide left leaving the game tied at 13.
Thomas’ fumble was the only thing he did wrong all night as he enjoyed a spectacular night, rushing for 187 yards on 22 carries and the two touchdowns leaving him with 864 yards on the season, third best in the county.
“It really hurts right now because we were right there ready to take this thing tonight,” said Thomas. “I’m proud of my teammates because we came out and took it to them early and weren’t afraid of the big moment. We’ll keep fighting.”
As well they should as the Golden Hawks are still very much alive for the playoffs, a place they have not visited since 1995.
The loss left Springs 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the district while American improved to 4-3, 4-0. Now on the horizon is a huge contest this Friday night, Oct. 25 when they host Mater Academy for their Homecoming game at Milander Stadium.
Mater comes in with its best team in the program’s 10 year history sporting a 6-1 overall record and undefeated 4-0 mark in the district. If the Hawks can win Friday and then defeat Mourning in their final district game Oct. 31, they would be guaranteed no worse than a three-way tiebreaker playoff with American and Mater on Nov. 4 for two playoff spots, district champion and runnerup.
And, should they win both games and American defeat Mater when those two teams meet Nov. 1, then the Hawks would clinch the runnerup spot.
A loss to Mater however would mathematically eliminate Springs from playoff contention regardless of their game against Mourning.
No matter what happens from this point on until the rest of the season however, the gigantic strides this program has taken since the 0-10 debacle of two years ago that saw them get running clocked the last nine games is incalculable.
If you don’t believe me, listen to what American coach Corey Bell had to say after the game when asked about Miami Springs.
“This was a team we beat 70-0 two years ago and then only 7-0 last year when coach Bethune took over,” said Bell. “An amazing turnaround. He’s done a tremendous job of getting some talent in there and really has that program on the rise. You could tell by the way the Springs kids were playing out there tonight that they were playing with a great deal of confidence and they’re only going to get better.”