Pictures aren’t always worth a thousand words but the scene on the field at Milander Stadium last Friday night (Oct. 25) at 10:07 p.m. was probably worth more than a thousand.
Eight days removed from a difficult last second loss to American in a first place district showdown, the Miami Springs Golden Hawks football team was staring playoff elimination right in the face when the Hawks squared off against a Mater Academy football team having its best season in the 10-year history of the program.
And, when Springs placekicker David Torres cooly stroked his extra point attempt down the middle through the uprights giving the Golden Hawks an incredibly dramatic and clutch 35-34 overtime victory, the field was inundated with celebrating Golden Hawks. And not just players either. Even many students, having already enjoyed an evening of Homecoming festivities, jumped from the stands and sprinted on the field to celebrate with the players as well.
And with that, if there was any doubt who the Cinderella story of the season is in high school football for Miami-Dade County, there simply isn’t anymore.
The Miami Springs Golden Hawks, a football program just two years removed from a winless 0-10 season that saw them get running clocked nine times with a roster of 23 by season’s end, ‘arrived’ on Friday night in a key District 16-7A showdown with major playoff implications for both teams.
The game-winner came in the form of Springs running back Malik Thomas who went over from six yards out on second down in the first overtime. Torres then stroked the extra point through the uprights and the celebrating began.
Just a minute earlier, the Lions had scored on their first overtime possession (each team gets a first-and-goal from the 10 yard line situation) when Malik Brown fell on a Jamal Adjamah fumble in the end zone. What’s worse is that it looked like Springs’ Johnny Rembert had an angle to fall on the loose ball but somehow Brown managed to beat him to the ball.
But then Bobby Stinson became one of many Springs hero’s on this night when he knifed through from the outside and blocked Orlando Hayes’ extra point attempt leaving Mater’s lead at 34-28.
“What a game, what a moment for this program,” said Springs head coach Darryel Bethune. “I can’t be more proud of our kids for overcoming all kinds of obstacles tonight to find a way to pull this out. We’ve been gaining confidence every week and even though we had a tough setback against American last week (16-13 loss on last second field goal), I knew these kids had the heart of a Lion to bounce back.”
Bounce back indeed. When Thomas, who finished the night with 155 yards on 14 carries and three rushing touchdowns, scored from 16 yards out with 2:27 left in regulation, the Hawks led 28-21.
But Mater drove the field in dramatic fashion, converting a pair of third downs including a 21 yard toss to the Springs four with 12 seconds left and then broke the hearts of every Springs fan with eight seconds left when quarterback Brian Guerra dropped back and tossed a perfect fade pass to Brown in the corner of the end zone. Even the tying extra point had drama as Hayes mishit the ball and appeared to have hooked it low left. But the ball barely snuck inside the left upright forcing overtime.
The win moved Springs’ overall record to 6-2 and 4-1 in the district while the Lions, who could have clinched their first ever playoff birth in the 10 year history of the program with a win, fell to 6-2, 4-1.
While some Springs players mistakenly thought they had clinched a playoff spot when the game was over and had to be informed by the astute writer that they had not, Springs will play Mourning this Thursday, Oct. 31 and, believe it or not, still can’t clinch a playoff berth with a win.
What they can do is guarantee no worse than a three-way tiebreaker playoff with Mater and American (5-0 in district play) with a victory. American and Mater will square off Friday night at Monsignor Pace High School and if the Lions win they would force a three-way playoff tiebreaker which would likely be played at Milander on Monday, Nov. 4 with the three teams vying for two available playoff spots.
Should the Hawks lose to Mourning, they would be eliminated with a Mater win over American. But a Patriot victory on Friday, whether or not the Springs wins or loses on Thursday, would give them their first playoff berth since 1995.
“What this win did tonight was show everybody that we’re not a team that’s just rising slowly anymore, we’re a team that has arrived,” said Thomas. “What a great feeling to pull this thing out and now we’re really close to being a playoff team.”