Look it up in a Webster’s Dictionary and it will give you: the process of improving or developing something over a period of time.
Drag the word on to the pages of this column and one can easily apply the word to the Miami Springs football program as well.
That would appear to clearly be the case following a 2014 season that saw head coach Darryel Bethune Sr. lead his team to an 8-2 record, one year after putting a 7-3 regular season record in the books along with the team’s first playoff berth in 18 years.
The irony is that, despite actually improving by one game over the 2013 record, the Hawks were left out of the playoffs by virtue of their two losses being to district opponents American and Mater Academy.
There also was some question — and there were many out there doing the questioning — about Springs’ 6-0 record out of the gate having very little weight because the combined record of the six opponents was so awful and had a lot to do with why they never made it into The Miami Herald’s Top 20 South Florida poll at any point in time.
Heck, even the season-opening win over Hialeah, the first time in seven years the Hawks managed to wrestle the Mayor’s Cup Trophy away from the T-Breds and much cause for celebration the following week in the halls of the school, turned out to be watered down thanks to Hialeah turning in its worst record (1-9) in more than 20 years.
That’s why the season-ending victory over a 7-2 Ferguson team a few weeks ago was so important. It allowed Bethune and his players to give a little Tarzan yell or two and feel like the 8-2 mark was legitimate.
Regardless of legitimate or not, the bottom line is that last summer, with some key losses due to the usual defections over to Central and Northwestern with the likes of Malik Adelson leading the way, things didn’t look all that rosy in Golden Hawk Land.
To the tune that not even yours truly was confident of an above-.500 season.
But, thanks to some outstanding individual performances, led by senior quarterback Gerald Anderson and receiver/returner Johnny Rembert on the offensive side of the ball and the likes of big nose tackle Stacey Shaw, linebacker Irrick McDonald (a transfer over from Champagnat) and safety Myron Morris (five interceptions) on the defensive side, Springs managed just fine despite the two disappointing district losses that kept them out of the playoffs.
Anderson and Rembert were, in a word, outstanding.
The Springs quarterback finished the season with huge numbers: 86-of-153 for 1,729 yards, 22 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Quarterback ratings are convoluted and complicated, but you can believe his rating was awfully good.
Rembert? He was money as he led the entire county in receiving yards with 698 on 32 catches for an eye-popping 21.8 yards per catch (also a county best) with 10 touchdowns.
Not to be overshadowed, running back Darryel Bethune Jr., the head coach’s son, rounded out a triple-threat offense as he racked up 862 yards (fourth in the county), averaging 5.7 per carry, and eight touchdowns as the Springs offense averaged 27.3 points a game.
Defensively, Morris finished tied for the county lead with his five picks; McDonald led the team in sacks with nine; and Shaw, like most good nose tackles, proved to be an immovable force in the middle, not necessarily racking up huge stat numbers but freeing things up for others around him. The Springs defense finished with an average yield of just 14 points a game.
So doing the easy math, Bethune is now 15-5 over the last two seasons and, at the risk of drudging up some unpleasant memories, one has to remember where this program was three years ago.
Rock bottom and if there is anything below that, that’s where it was.
Not only the program’s first-ever winless season but a season that saw every game after the season opener turn into running clock disasters.
Bethune Sr. was brought in to try to rescue a sinking ship and, after a 1-9 transitional season in 2012 that saw him slowly start to get a little talent trickle in the door, the major turnaround season of a year ago came to fruition.
So where is all of this headed? Where can we expect the Hawks to be next year?
That’s where we all get hit over the head with the old reality stick.
Because the truth is what we’ve seen in the last two seasons is about the best we’re going to see out of the Miami Springs football program.
No, folks, the reality of the situation is that we’re not, nor will be ever be up there with the likes of the Centrals, Booker T. Washingtons or Killians of the high school football landscape.
The pool of raw talent isn’t there and the frustration for Bethune Sr. and his coaches is that just when it looks like a group of top-tier players might be coming together, off a few of them (not all of them) go to “greener pastures.”
Do the names Willis McGahee, Rakeem Cato and Tommy Shuler ring a bell? Just a few who bolted out the door before their senior year at Springs to play elsewhere.
Anderson? Rembert? McDonald? Shaw? All seniors headed out the door. A load of talent that will need to be replaced.
Bethune Sr. has done an outstanding job of finding enough talent after he arrived here 21⁄2 years ago to at least make the Hawks football program not only relevant again, but competitive and tough.
The offseason awaits and soon the players will be back in the weight room preparing for spring practice next May. A shake-up in the FHSAA classifications and districts (something the state does every two years) also awaits and just where the Hawks wind up and who winds up in their district will also be important to the 2015 season.
But a big shout-out from these pages goes to Bethune Sr., his coaches and the Golden Hawks players who did a nice job of putting together a quality 2014 season.