Everybody, including those in Golden Hawks Nation, had been getting tired of me pointing out that, despite being 7-2 heading into last week’s 2014 season finale, the Miami Springs football team’s seven wins had come against some awful opposition — a combined record of 14-49 awful.
That’s why last week’s matchup against Ferguson at Tropical Park, a very good 7-2 Ferguson team that had finished in a three-way tie for first in its district only to get bumped from the playoffs in a three-teams-for-two spots tiebreaker three nights earlier, was so important.
The Hawks and head coach Darryel Bethune Sr. wanted very badly, despite having already been eliminated from the playoffs, to win this game and perhaps move closer toward validating their final 8-2 record.
And that’s what they did.
Thanks to a great night from quarterback Gerald Anderson — and an even better night from his favorite receiver Johnny Rembert — the Hawks closed out the 2014 season on an upbeat positive note as they hung on to beat the Falcons, 33-30.
Rembert wound up with seven receptions for 157 yards and four touchdown catches and it didn’t end there. He also returned a punt for 35 yards and only a shaky penalty call for a block in the back kept him from also having a 95 yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
It was a wide receiver/returner performance not seen around these parts since some kid named Hilton wore a Springs uniform about seven years back.
Anderson put his finishing touches on a tremendous season by completing 17-of-22 passes for 256 yards and five touchdown passes.
“Just a great night for our offense and our team in general,” said Bethune Sr. “After the disappointment of a few weeks ago, we really wanted to have something positive to build on in the offseason and an 8-2 record will do it.”
The “few weeks ago” Bethune referred to were back-to-back losses on Oct. 17 and Oct. 24 to district foes American and Mater Academy. Both games would determine whether the Hawks would make the playoffs for the second year in a row after ending an 18-year drought a year ago. The Hawks lost both games by lopsided scores. And with that, it validated those who claimed Springs’ unbeaten 6-0 record was of the “Paper Tiger” variety.
“Even though we obviously had already been eliminated from the playoffs, we knew this was an important game for us tonight because the truth is we hadn’t really beaten a good team, even though we had done a good job of taking care of our business in those first six games,” said Bethune Sr. “We knew that Ferguson was a very good team and just missed out on the playoffs so it felt good to come out and compete tonight and get this thing done.”
They got it done thanks to a big offensive night from not only Anderson and Rembert but the head coach’s son, running back Darryel Bethune Jr., and another one of Anderson’s favorite targets David Bradley.
Bethune Jr. ran tough all night, finishing with 74 yards on 21 carries while Bradley reeled in five of Anderson’s completions for 70 yards.
The biggest of Bradley’s five came just 10 seconds before halftime when, with Hawks out on the Falcon 42, he beat his defender deep and Anderson hit him in stride in the corner of the end zone for the score. The touchdown erased a 17-13 Springs deficit to put the Hawks up 19-17 at the half and they would never trail again.
Springs took the opening second half kickoff and quickly moved 76 yards in just five plays, the payoff coming when Anderson, from the Ferguson 39, dropped back and threw a gorgeous high-arcing deep pass to Rembert who caught it in stride just inside the pylon in the right corner of the end zone to make it 26-17.
After the Falcons scored with 4:16 left in the third to cut the lead to 26-23 (a two-point conversion attempt failed), Anderson and the Springs offense once again had an answer.
Springs took the ball at its own 43 and drove 57 yards in nine plays, the payoff coming on a third-and-goal from the nine with Anderson hitting his number one target, Rembert for the score with just under 11 minutes left in the game to make it 33-23.
The Hawks seemingly had the game wrapped up as they had possession in the Ferguson red zone with less than four minutes left and enjoying their 10-point cushion.
But Bethune lost a fumble (Springs’ only turnover of the night) with 3:18 left and that was followed by an unforgivable gaffe on defense as the Hawks secondary allowed Ferguson wide receiver Andrew Velasco to get behind everyone. Falcon quarterback Richard Valdez hit him in stride deep and turned it into an 80-yard touchdown pass and there was still 2:32 left and Ferguson had all of its timeouts.
After Springs recovered the onside kick, thanks to a huge pass interference call on Ferguson on third down, the Hawks managed to run out the rest of the clock to secure the win.
It marked the second time in the last seven seasons that the Golden Hawks put together an 8-2 record and had to watch the playoffs from home, having turned the trick in 2008.
Springs actually improved on its 2013 regular season mark of 7-3 that saw them “make” the playoffs mainly because they defeated Mater to get the runnerup district playoff spot.