Still bubbling with a truckload of momentum and confidence from a season-opening upset of Hialeah nine days earlier, the Miami Springs Golden Hawks, after a slugghish start in the first half, took care of the business at hand last Saturday night at Milander Stadium.
Hosting a much-improved Hialeah Gardens team from years past, the Hawks staggered around slightly in the first half before opening things up in the second half and cruised to a 44-0 rout of the Gladiators.
Gardens had lost 30 consecutive games dating back to the 2010 season before snapping that skid in its 26-0 season-opening win over Westland Hialeah and came in hoping to compete with Springs, which they did for a while.
But then Springs quarterback Gerald Anderson, with his team nursing a 17-0 halftime lead, came out in the second half and blitzed Gardens with a slew of big plays, including touchdown passes of 10 yards to Myron Morris, 66 to Jahwon Grant and 35 to David Bradley that eventually opened up a huge lead for Springs and ultimately initiated a running clock for the fourth quarter.
When it was over, Anderson had completed 9 of 12 passes for 237 yards and four touchdowns.
And with that, the Hawks are out of the gate with a 2-0 record and an important non-district game on the horizon this Thursday night (Sept. 11) against a very good Edison team at Milander Stadium beginning at 7 p.m.
“It was good to see some big plays tonight,” said Springs head coach Darryel Bethune. “Getting a fumble return in the first quarter, a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the second, David Bradley had some big catches and, of course, Lunch (quarterback Gerald Anderson’s nickname), what a night for him! He really had things going and came up big for us.”
“It was a great night, not just for me but for our receivers, our O-line and our defense,” said Anderson. “It’s always a team effort and it was out there again tonight. Everybody stepped up when it came time to step up.”
Gardens, a team that had not only lost 30 straight over three seasons but had looked pretty awful and uncompetitive in the process, looked nothing like that at the start of the game. The Gladiators actually took the opening kickoff and went on a 10-play drive down the field marching from their own 29 to the Springs 16, eating up nearly seven minutes of clock.
That’s when the first of many big plays for Springs on this night happened when HG running back Andres Menahem fumbled and Ephraim Casado scooped it up and took off downfield before being chased down at the Gardens 15. Two plays later, Anderson scrambled to his left and found Bradley wide open for a 15-yard score.
Early in the second quarter, Gardens punter Peter Carnero, standing in his own end zone, mishandled a snap and Springs’ Gavari Singletary fell on the loose ball for a Hawks touchdown and 14-0 lead. David Torres connected on a 37-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to give the Hawks a comfortable 17-0 lead, but the Gladiators had actually controlled the first half in time of possession, which did not please Anderson.
“We struggled a little bit in the first half,” said Anderson. “D.J. (running back Darryel Bethune Jr.) lost a fumble but he overcame that and we eventually got everything going. Coach talked to us at halftime about overcoming obstacles and that’s what we did. We came out in the second half and put up a bunch of points, which is what needed to happen.”
Springs received the second-half kickoff and Anderson wasted little time, leading the Hawks on an eight-play, 67 yard-drive — Bethune Jr.’s 4-yard run on fourth-and-3 at the HG 41 was a key play — and hit paydirt when he found Morris wide open for a 10-yard score.
Morris then contributed on defense when he picked off a Gardens pass (the Gladiators’ only attempted pass of the night) and returned it 80 yards for what he thought was a pick-six. But a block in the back on Springs brought it all the way back to their own 30. Not to worry, two plays later Anderson tossed a hitch pass in the left flat to Grant, who juked a pair of defenders and took off down the sideline for a 66-yard score and 31-0 lead.
After A.J. Pacheco recovered a fumble at the Gardens 35, Anderson reared back on the next play and found Bradley wide open again in the corner for the end zone for a 38-0 lead and it was time for the clock to run.
Not to be outshined, the Hawks defense, despite allowing Gardens to go on a few long drives, still managed to limit the Gladiators to 96 total yards thanks to some lost yardage in the second half, much of which was due to a strong performance by nose tackle Stacey Shaw, who finished with 11 tackles and four of those for losses.
“We went out there and just played hard tonight and I was just doing my thing,” said Shaw. “I just wanted to make a few plays for the team and try to get things done. They (Gardens) were reaching and double-teaming me all night and I just fought through it on every play. Feels great to be 2-0 and we want to keep it going.”
“It definitely feels good to be out of the gate 2-0,” said Bethune. “I think the kids gained a lot of confidence in beating Hialeah last week and found out just how good they can be. Now we have a big game against a much-improved Edison team. Last year was a great game (Springs won 25-24 in overtime) and it kind of defined both teams as we took off on a winning streak and went on to make the playoffs while their season kind of went downhill after that, so they’ll definitely looking to get back at us this week.”