It’s an often-used cliché that defense wins championships.
But for Hawthorne High School, defense has been the backbone of a Hornets’ team that just advanced to its first state football championship game in school history.
“We’re very physical and play fast,” said senior middle linebacker Jaden Mavin.
The Hornets (10-2) knocked off 3-time defending 1A state champion Madison County, 18-14, in last Friday’s Class 1A state semifinals.
“It was unbelievable,” said co-defensive coordinator Cedderick Daniels. “It’s one of those situations where you think that you would take down a juggernaut like Madison and when we did it was probably the biggest win in program history. Everything that we worked for was magnified.”
The win was aided by a defense that has yielded only 29 points in its last five games. They have been playing championship-level football.
“We’re not big, we’re not slow, but we pride ourselves on stopping people at what they do,” Daniels said. “Whatever their weakness is, that’s what we thrive on, trying to make you do what makes you uncomfortable. We want you to play to our strengths.”
Sophomore Jailen Ruth is the leader of the defense with a team-leading 27 tackles for a loss and 13 sacks.
“The sky is the limit for him and he’s only getting better,” Daniels said. “He hasn’t played much football, so a lot of this stuff is new, and he’s been very coachable and like ‘yes sir, no sir.’”
Junior Jayquan Williams leads the team with 126 tackles, followed by Ruth with 122.
Up next is the unbeaten Baker Gators in next Thursday’s Class 1A state championship game.
The Gators (13-0) have rushed for almost 5,000 yards.
Senior running back Joseph Brunson has rushed for 2,460 yards and 27 touchdowns and sophomore Kayleb Wagner has 1,261 yards and 16 TDs on the ground.
“They are everything people say they are,” Daniels said. “They don’t quit. They go hard. They are like Madison County. Brunson will be a handful. He’s one of the top backs that I’ve seen this year.”
Daniels said the key to beating the Gators is more about Hawthorne.
“We just have to do what we do which is play hard, play fast, and play smart,” Daniels said. “Don’t let the moment be bigger than us and go out there and be the most disciplined team on the field.”
The game between the Hornets and the Gators will be broadcast ‘live’ on 106.9 FM “I am Country” beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 17th.
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