A terrific festive night filled with Homecoming activities, a 50th Anniversary parade across Dove Avenue the day before, and a gather of football alumni dating all the way back to the early 70s nearly all got ruined last Friday night.
Hosting Goleman at Milander Stadium, the Miami Springs Golden Hawks, sporting their undefeated 5-0 record squared off against a 1-5 Goleman team that not many thought would be able to challenge the them.
But, oh how wrong those “many” were as the Gators, with their vaunted Wing-T “ant-pile” style offense, proved to be every bit the challenge for the Hawks.
But in the end, thanks in part to the heroic efforts and clutch big plays by senior Johnny Rembert, Springs was able to escape with a 27-21 win to keep its perfect season alive.
More importantly, it moved the Hawks to 3-0 in the district and now sets up a highly-anticipated showdown matchup with preseason district favorite American this Friday night, Oct. 17 at Milander Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
Since an opening week upset loss to North Miami, American has reeled off four straight wins and is also 3-0 in the district.
“Whew,” sighed Springs head coach Darryel Bethune Sr. with clear look of a relieved coach who had just dodged a bullet. “That was a tough one out there tonight and give Goleman a lot of credit. They really came to play and we got caught a little flat in the first half. Thank goodness Duke came through with the big plays when we needed them because that really sparked us and got us going.”
Bethune Sr. referred to wide receiver/kick returner/defensive back Johnny Rembert, nicknamed Duke.
With his team having gone into the locker room at halftime trailing Goleman 14-7, Rembert grabbed a squib kick on the second half kickoff and took off around the right side speeding past Goleman players for a 60 yard kickoff return for a touchdown tying the game.
With the score tied 21-21 and less than four minutes left in the game and the Hawks on the Gator 25, Rembert ran a crossing pattern over the middle. After quarterback Gerald Anderson hit him in stride at the 10, Rembert actually ran backwards a few yards to avoid Goleman defenders, before breaking free and sprinting to the flag in the right corner of the end zone for the tiebreaking touchdown with 3:41 left.
“Duke” wasn’t done.
After the extra point got flubbed due to a bad snap, the Hawks were one Goleman touchdown and extra point away from losing the game. With the Gators at midfield, Goleman running back Jamal McIntyre broke free up the middle. But Rembert not only tracked him down but then got a hand in McIntyre’s gut and ripped the ball right out, emerging with the football.
The Hawks were then able to bleed out most of the remainder of the clock to secure the win.
Rembert also had a 70-yard kickoff return in the first quarter that set the Hawks up at the Goleman 15 leading to their first touchdown.
“Just trying to make a play,” said Rembert, a quiet, reserved young man of very few words who is a solid major college prospect although not yet academically eligible. “You just do what you have to do and that’s it.”
The win capped off a great night for Miami Springs High School as a whole. The day before had been highlighted by a Dove Avenue parade commemorating the school’s 50th Anniversary (See Wally Clark’s story on front page) and late Friday afternoon was highlighted by a big BBQ at the school where all kinds of former players from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s attended before heading out for the game.
On top of that were the week’s Homecoming activities making for a fun week for everyone that darn near got ruined by an upset loss.
“Homecoming is a tough week because you have to deal with a lot of distractions,” said Bethune Sr. “Not only that but then we lost Franklin on the opening kickoff and that was a tough thing to deal with as well.”
The evening definitely got off to an ominous and scary start for the Hawks on the opening kickoff when linebacker Franklin Natte, one of the best players on defense, lay limp on the ground after tackling the returner.
The game was delayed for 30 minutes as players returned to the sideline and Hialeah Fire Rescue was called.
Natte, as it turned out, had caught a knee in the side of the helmet and been knocked out cold on the tackle. He was transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital where he was diagnosed with a severe concussion and wasn’t released until Monday morning.
He is definitely out for Friday’s game and likely beyond that.
Natte’s injury stunned his teammates and it showed as the Gators, once play resumed took the opening kickoff and drove 72 yards in eight plays for a score and 8-0 lead following a two-point conversion.
Rembert’s 70 yard kickoff return then gave the Hawks a short field and five plays later, running back Darryel Bethune Jr. went over from five yards out to make it 8-7.
Thanks to the short field, the Hawks offense was able to reach the end zone but struggled for the remainder of the half and when the Gators crossed the goal line 2:54 before halftime, they were up 14-7 at the half.
After Rembert tied it with the kickoff return, the Hawks started to gain the momentum. On the second play after that return, the Gators fumbled and Dany Gonzalez recovered for Springs near midfield. Five plays later, Anderson found David Bradley for an 11-yard touchdown pass and just like that, the Hawks were up 21-14.
But Goleman showed why its 1-5 record is deceiving as they answered the Springs touchdown with a marathon 16-play, 80 yard drive that ate up the remainder of the third quarter and the first three minutes of the fourth to tie the game at 21.
“It feels good to get this one behind us,” said Bethune Sr. “Everyone’s been pointing to the American game for awhile and now we’re finally going to get to play it. We lost a close one to them last year (American kicked a field goal with no time left to win 16-13) so maybe we can get it back this year. Our kids will be ready and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”