American coach Corey Bell was hoping to identify his team Thursday night.
Are the Patriots the team that has looked sloppy in three losses so far?
Or are they the team that looked dominant in three district wins?
Bell left Traz Powell Stadium without that answer but was relieved to have another important victory.
American showed signs of both yet managed to squeak out a 16-13 victory against Miami Springs to retain the top spot in District 16-7A.
“We keep on with this Jekyll-and-Hyde-type thing,” Bell said. “We just never know with all this inconsistency. It drives me crazy. On paper, we have the talent. These guys just have to keep coming out and showing it.”
Diego Arcon’s 24-yard field goal with 6.4 seconds left delivered the victory for the Patriots. Miami Springs tried to ice Arcon twice calling back-to-back timeouts.
But Arcon calmly kicked the ball through the uprights.
“Diego is one of the best kickers in the county, and he’s only going to get better,” Bell said. “He never got fazed and did a great job.”
American (4-3, 4-0) entered the game tied for first in the district with Miami Springs (5-2, 3-1) and Mater Academy (5-1, 3-0), which plays Mourning on Saturday night.
The winning field goal was set up by American quarterback Ed Crouch’s spectacular 40-yard run to the Springs’ 13-yard line with 27.9 seconds left. Two plays later, Arcon set up and delivered the game-winner.
“Fortunately our kids were able to overcome the mistakes,” Bell said. “Early on this week, I got on Crouch and told him he has to make more plays with his legs. He’s starting to understand he can do that if the play breaks down.”
While the final drive was a positive for American, the first quarter continued to show the team’s inconsistencies and how much Miami Springs has improved.
The Golden Hawks, who are less than two years removed from the school’s lone winless season (a year in which they were outscored 556-49), jumped out to a 13-0 lead, capitalizing on two special teams mistakes on kickoffs by American.
The Patriots fumbled the opening kickoff, allowing Springs to recover near midfield and score first on a 5-yard touchdown run by Malik Thomas.
The Golden Hawks recovered a squib kick on the ensuing kickoff but were unable to score. On their next drive, however, Thomas broke through the middle for a 69-yard touchdown.
Thomas, who ranks fourth in rushing Miami-Dade County after Thursday’s games, ran for 187 yards on 22 carries.
“An amazing difference over the last two years for [Miami Springs],” Bell said. “Coach [Darryel] Bethune has 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.”
Crouch passed for 175 yards on 9-of-19 passing and threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Quentin Collins to get American on the board in the second quarter and cut Springs’ lead to 13-7.
American’s defense recovered a fumble at the Miami Springs’ 18-yard line early in the third quarter, setting up a game-tying 8-yard touchdown by Isaiah Williams. Arcon hooked the extra point wide left, keeping the game tied at 13.
“We fell behind, but it was still early in the game,” Bell said. “I have a lot of kids who have been in those situations before.”