With nightmares of a blown 17-point second-half lead seven days earlier perhaps still dancing in their heads, the Southwest Eagles looked like a team about to let it happen again.
Hosting 3-0 Miami High on Friday afternoon, the Eagles came out like a ball of fire, stormed to a 21-0 second-quarter lead, and then wound up having to hang on for dear life as they held off a furious Miami High second-half rally to knock off the Stingarees 21-16 in a non-district matchup.
Last week, in a crucial early-season district showdown with Belen, Southwest saw a 17-0 third-quarter lead spiral downward into a 24-17 loss.
And if there were any smiling faces on the Southwest side when the game was over, you couldn’t find them as quarterback Deundre Pickett-White took his team aside and went on a tongue-lashing tirade.
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“Basically I just told them in the little meeting we just had that it seems like we get relaxed and calm down once we go up, but the bottom line is we’re not going to be able to do that once playoff time hits and once we get to Gables,” Pickett-White said. “... We lose our intensity, and we can’t afford to let that happen anymore.”
With Miami High on its own 15 and under five minutes left in the game and trailing 21-10, it appeared the Eagles would not have to sweat this one out.
But that changed when Stings quarterback Keyshawn “Pie” Young, after nearly getting tackled for a safety, scrambled to his left and found Desmond Fairell down the sidelines for an 83-yard gain to the 2. Two plays later Young scored to cut it the deficit to five with 3:43 left.
After the two-point conversion failed, MHS kicker Eddie Oquendo lined a hard shot right at a Southwest player. The ball ricocheted off the player and right back to Oquendo who fell on the ball and the Stingarees, looking for their first 4-0 start since 1999, were in business at midfield.
But on the second play, Southwest’s Quindale Corker picked off Young’s pass and returned it 20 yards, and the Eagles were able to burn out most of the clock. The Stings got it back at their own 15 with a few seconds left but a couple of Young passes fell incomplete to end the game, leaving Southwest head coach Tim Neal shaking his head.
“I don’t know, I guess what happened last week, maybe it starts creeping back into the minds of the kids and that might’ve happened out there [Friday],” said Neal, whose team improved to 3-1. “The main thing [Friday] was at least we found a way to hang on and come out with a win, but we really do have to figure out what’s going on because we just can’t keep doing this.”
On the game’s second play, Pickett-White found C.J. McWilliams for a 40-yard touchdown pass.
On their second series, the Eagles went 62 yards in just six plays, Pickett-White finding Trevon Sands from 17 yards out and it was 14-0.
After a quick three-and-out and 48-yard punt return by Sands set the Eagles up the MHS 20, Pickett-White took off on a 20-yard touchdown run to make it 21-0 with six minutes left until halftime.
It was here the game turned as Miami High went on a 15-play, 73-yard drive to close out the half, Trent Gordon scoring from 12 yards out with 34 seconds left to make it 21-7 at the half.
“We start out great like a world of fire and then we just run right into a wall,” said Neal. “We did change some things up front so that probably might’ve held us back a little but we’ve got very little time to figure it out because we have a short week next week (Southwest plays Sunset on Wednesday) and we have to find a way to start finishing games.”