River Cities Gazette

Miami Springs football team ends 18 year playoff drought

 
 
TEAMWORK: Springs players take the field before last week’s game with Mourning High School at Milander Stadium. Twenty-four hours later they would be a playoff team for the first time in 18 years.
TEAMWORK: Springs players take the field before last week’s game with Mourning High School at Milander Stadium. Twenty-four hours later they would be a playoff team for the first time in 18 years.
Gazette Photo/BRYAN CEREIJO

River Cities Gazette

    There was a now-all-too-famous press conference by then-New Orleans Saints head coach Jim Mora back in the mid-’90s.

    “Playoffs!! Playoffs? Did you say playoffs?” was the rant by Mora following one of his famous “meltdown” postgame press conferences and it has now been played a million times through the years via YouTube and other medium.

    We mention Mora’s now-famous rant because it’s the kind of reaction one might have gotten last August at the mere suggestion that the Miami Springs Golden Hawks football team, a program less than two years removed from one of the darkest times in the school’s 45-year history, could and would actually be a playoff team at the end of the season.

    Well, guess what, folks?

    Playoffs!!!! Playoffs? Yes. The official FHSAA state series football brackets were released this past Monday morning and, on the 7A classification, District 16 runner-up line are the words “Miami Springs.”

    A seemingly endless 18-year wait came to an end last Friday night.

    At approximately 10 p.m., it became official. For the first time since 1995, the Miami Springs Golden Hawks football team would be a part of the postseason. Miami Springs had the longest-running playoff drought of any large school in Miami-Dade County and now that dubious honor will be handed over to Coral Park, which last visited the postseason in 1998.

    Unfortunately for Hawks players, it wasn’t even a clearly defined moment on the field that they could actually enjoy.

    Following their 42-7 rout of Mourning High School the night before, they had only guaranteed themselves no worse than a three-way tiebreaker with American and Mater Academy on Nov. 4.

    What they needed to officially clinch a spot was an American victory over Mater on Friday night at Monsignor Pace High School, and that’s exactly what happened as the Patriots turned in an impressive 35-0 shutout of Mater to clinch a first-place finish in the district.

    Head coach Darryel Bethune, his assistant coaches and a handful of Hawks players made the trip up to Pace to see their fate decided, and it was just a few high-fives and handshakes when it was over.

    “I had been torn all week as far as how to approach it,” Bethune said of who to root for on Friday.

    After all, Springs’ one shot to finish first in the district was to see the three-way tiebraker forged and win it that way.

    Not only would they have been crowned district champs but it would have given them a first-round home game against Plantation. But that would have carried the risk of Springs potentially being the odd team out of the three and not making the playoffs at all.

    “I realized that these kids had worked so hard that just making the playoffs would be a terrific accomplishment and that having to play a Monday tiebreaker with a regular season game three days later would have been very difficult for everyone involved,” said Bethune, referring to Springs’ regular season finale this Thursday, Nov. 7 against Ferguson at Milander Stadium. “So we just settled in and watched the game and were certainly impressed with how well American played.”

    When the Patriots blew out to a 28-0 halftime lead, Bethune sent some of his assistants north to Fort Lauderdale to scout their first-round opponent.

    Ah, yes, Springs’ first round opponent. Did we mention them? Who will the Hawks play when the first round commences on Friday, Nov. 15?

    Couldn’t have drawn a tougher one as Springs will travel to Fort Lauderdale to take on perhaps the most decorated high school football program in the state in defending state champion and nationally ranked St. Thomas Aquinas.

    In what should be your classic David-vs.-Goliath matchup, it potentially could be a rough night for the Hawks, but anything that happens from this point on is clearly gravy on top of the mashed potatoes.

    What Bethune and his staff have done in 2013 has easily been the Cinderella story of Miami-Dade County high school football. So much so that there is already chatter inside the walls of The Miami Herald building that Bethune will be given serious consideration when the Coach of the Year Award is given out next May.

    “I’ve been so focused each and every week on trying to keep our kids focused and not looking past anybody that I never really had time to sit back and appreciate where we were at,” Bethune said. “It finally hit me over the weekend when all of a sudden I was getting a million text messages from coaches congratulating me, a phone call from the Miami Times wanting to interview me, a phone call from our principal wanting to set up a big pep rally before we leave for Aquinas. It was nonstop. Then it hit me: We did it.”

    Did he ever. Bethune arrived here in January 2012 inheriting a program not only coming off its first winless season ever, but one that had been outscored by record numbers over the course of the season and had just 23 players on the roster by season’s end.

    “This is by no means about me,” Bethune said, trying his best to deflect credit. “This is about a hard-working group of coaches under me and a bunch of determined young men who came in here and worked their tails off, determined to change the culture of this program and now we’ve done that. It’s really cool to see Miami Springs football once again getting the respect it deserves.”

 

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