With nothing on the line but pride, it might have been a meaningless season finale to some, but Hialeah Gardens and Mourning went at it like it meant everything on Thursday afternoon at North Miami Stadium.
And in the end, it was Mourning quarterback Justin Days emerging the hero as he scored from 10 yards out with 30 seconds left to give the Sharks a 21-15 win over Gardens.
The score culminated an eight-play, 60-yard drive that began with four minutes left after the Gladiators had taken a 15-14 lead when quarterback Darian Hernandez scored from 1 yard out on fourth down and Yoan Castellanos stretched the ball over the goal line on the ensuing two-point conversion.
“I saw a little crease and just took it and went with my instincts,” Days said of his winning score. “We really wanted to finish the season out with a win to give us something to build on for next year.”
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After going 1-9 last year, Mourning finished the year 3-7. Gardens, after winning its season opener over Westland Hialeah, finished 1-9.
“It’s all about taking baby steps and going from 1-9 to 3-7 was big for this program,” Mourning coach Trevor Harris said. “When you’re trying to build something from the ground up, you need to show progress, which allows you to keep your coaching staff together and keep kids committed to your program moving forward.”
Harris watched his team rally from a 7-0 first-quarter deficit when quarterback Darren Holt found Wendy Celestin for a 34-yard touchdown pass just eight seconds before halftime to tie the score.
Mourning took a 14-7 lead early in the fourth quarter when, after Gardens gambled and lost on a fake punt deep in its own territory, Holt found Craig Green who made a beautiful diving catch for a 26-yard touchdown on a third-and-21 situation.
Said Harris: “It’s all about making plays at the right time and Justin (Days) was huge for us down the stretch.”