What a difference a couple of weeks can make.
On Oct. 10, the Miami Springs football team had just defeated Goleman in its big Homecoming night and the school celebrating its 50th anniversary while moving to 6-0 on the season, it’s first start of such a kind in more than two decades.
In front of them were two huge district games against American on Oct. 17 followed by Mater Academy last Friday (Oct. 24) that would go a long way to determining their playoff fate.
Well, we all got our answer and if you’re a Springs faithful, it was an ugly two weeks.
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Not only did Springs come out and get smoked by American 33-14 in a game not nearly as close as that score would indicate but then, with their playoff backs up against the wall last Friday at Curtis Park, Springs got knocked around again by Mater.
The final was 28-9 Mater but the nine only came thanks to a last-play, who-cares touchdown heave to the end zone by quarterback Gerald Anderson to Johnny Rembert.
And, just like that, Hawks players and coaches discovered in a blink-of-an-eye seven day span that the trip from the penthouse to the outhouse, or the elevator ride from the luxury suite to the dungy basement, can be a very short one.
That’s because the loss to Mater meant, unlike last year’s magical run that saw the program earn its first playoff berth in 18 years, there would be no playoffs this year as Springs fell to 3-2 in the district while Mater improved to 5-0 and now will square off with 5-0 American this Thursday night at Milander to determine first and second in the district and who will play who in the first round of the playoffs.
Springs was absolutely blitzed in the American game, falling behind 30-0 midway through the second quarter.
The Hawks, to their credit, didn’t cave and fought the rest of the way, outscoring their opponent 14-3. But it was all window dressing as the Patriots, with a huge lead, clearly took their foot off the pedal and coasted the rest of the way.
The loss to American boxed the Hawks into a corner. They needed to defeat Mater or face playoff elimination.
Springs came out like it recognized the sense of urgency as Anderson led them on a long drive that resulted in a 27-yard David Torres field goal and 3-0 with 2:28 left the first quarter.
But that would be it as the Springs offense would never cross midfield for the rest of the night until the final two minutes when jubilant Mater players and coaches were more busy dumping water on each other than paying much attention to what was happening on the field.
In between, Mater scored four unanswered touchdowns. After Springs took that 3-0 lead the Lions answered Springs’ scoring drive by going 50 yards in just five plays, the big payoff being a 38 yard touchdown pass from Temothas Herrington to Daniel Doriscar to put them up 7-3. The killer was that it was a third-and-26 situation for Mater, clearly a deflating moment for the Hawks defense.
Still up 7-3, the Lions took over at their own 20 with 4:05 left in the half and drove 80 yards in 10 plays where, on third-and-goal from the four, Herrington rolled out to his right and sprinted to the flag to score with 13 seconds left to make it 14-3 at the half.
Two more touchdown runs had Mater up 28-3 midway through the fourth quarter allowing the celebrating to start early.
And there was plenty of celebrating to do as the win put Mater Academy into the state playoffs for the first time in the 10-year history of the program. And it also avenged a loss that none of the coaches or players could forget.
Doriscar and running back Kevin Sanchez, who led all rushers with 97 yards on 13 carries both referred to the pain of last year’s dramatic or painful depending on which side you were on, 35-34 overtime Springs victory which put the Hawks in the playoffs and knocked Mater out.
“It was all about revenge tonight,” said Doriscar.
“That loss stuck with us like glue for the entire offseason,” said Sanchez. “Every time we went to the weight room or out on the field for conditioning, that’s all we could think about was that empty feeling after that overtime loss. It drove us and tonight we got it back.”
“What was so disappointing was how many mistakes and penalties we made in the two most crucial games of the year,” said Springs head coach Darryel Bethune Sr. “You can get away with those mistakes when you’re playing teams that are struggling but you cannot do it against quality teams like American or Mater or you’ll pay for it and they made us pay for it. As disappointing as it was to lose both games, what was even tougher was that neither game was that close and you certainly would like to think that in games so important you would be able to hang in there and compete a little more effectively than we did.”
So where does that leave Bethune and his Hawks? They have what should be another easy one this Thursday night over at North Miami Stadium against a Mourning team that is not only 1-7 but has been running clocked in most of those seven losses. So that will prove nothing more than a 4-2 district mark and third place finish.
Bringing up a burning question that had been circulating around the county for the previous weeks leading up to their first big game with American.
Was their undefeated 6-0 record “puffed up?” Were the Hawks maybe not quite as good as that record said they were? Was the Miami Herald off base, resisting week-after-week from putting Springs into its South Florida Top 20 poll?
Many close to the program felt disrespected but the fact was that the combined record of Springs’ first six opponents, Hialeah, Hialeah Gardens, Edison, Westland Hialeah, Hialeah-Miami Lakes and Goleman, through those first six weeks was 8-29.
But, unfortunately when the opportunity came for the Hawks to gain that respect, they simply had no answer for either American or Mater and will now play out the string against Mourning this week before finishing up the 2014 season against Ferguson on Nov. 6 at Tropical Park.
“Hey, I told the kids that going 8-2 is something you can take a lot of pride in and will be the goal to shoot for at this point,” said Bethune. “We’re going to try and treat that Ferguson game like our playoff game because they’re 6-2 and a possible playoff team and that will be our one chance to beat a team with a winning record and help us feel better going into the offseason.”