CLASS 1A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
WHO: Hawthorne Hornets (10-2) vs. Baker Gators (13-0)
WHEN: Kickoff is at 7:02 p.m. Our pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on 106.9 FM “I am Country” and online at IamCountryRadio.com
WHERE: Bobby Bowden Field at Doak S. Campbell Stadium on the campus of Florida State University in Tallahassee
HEAD COACHES: Matt Brunson (Baker) (10th season) and Cornelius Ingram (Hawthorne) (6th season) are both alums of their respective schools.
HAWTHORNE PREVIEW: Hawthorne is making its first state championship game appearance in school history. The Hornets knocked off 3-time defending state champion Madison County, 18-14, in the state semifinals to advance.
The Hornets are coached by Cornelius Ingram, who is also the girls’ basketball coach and led the Lady Hornets to their first state title in school history this past February. Ingram played football and basketball at Hawthorne before signing to play both sports at the University of Florida.
The Hornets’ defense is a big reason why they are in Tallahassee. Hawthorne has only allowed a total of 29 points in their past five games. They are allowing 10.8 points per game for the season. Sophomore Jailen Ruth (122 tackles) leads the team with 27 tackles for a loss and 13 sacks. Junior MLB Jayquan Williams leads the team with 126 tackles, and he is second with 15 tackles for a loss. As a team, the Hornets have 33 sacks and six interceptions.
Offensively, the Hornets are averaging 24.8 points per game thanks to a rushing attack that averages 132.2 yards per game. Senior RB Dre Lawrence, who is a member of the boys’ basketball team which won its first state title since 1987 this past March, leads the team with 944 yards per game on the ground and 14 TDs. Junior quarterback Chaz Mackey has completed 55.1% of his passes for 1,282 yards and 15 TDs with eight interceptions. Junior wide receiver Anthony Morgan leads the team with 34 catches for 430 yards and three TDs. Second leading receiving Johnquavis Jones (29 catches for 377 yards), a senior, has been suspended for the game after throwing a punch in the state semifinals against Madison County.
BAKER PREVIEW: Baker, which is playing in its ninth state championship game, is seeking its first state title since 1993. The Gators, who defeated Sneads, 41-7, in the state semifinals, are making their third state finals appearance in the last five years.
The Gators are coached by Matt Brunson, who played football at Baker and went on to play at Troy University. He has led the Gators to the state semifinals or a championship game appearance in six consecutive seasons.
Brunson’s son, Joe, leads the team with 2,460 yards rushing and 27 TDs. The senior has carried the ball 320 times and is averaging 7.7 yards per carry. Sophomore Kayleb Wagner is next with 1,251 yards on 118 carries (AVG. 10.6 ypc) with 16 touchdowns. Brunson has gone over the century mark 12 times, while Wagner has done it six times. As a team, the Gators have rushed for 4,947 yards (8.7 ypc). It’s an offense that averages 36.9 points per game.
Senior QB Brody Sharpe has only thrown the ball for just 395 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. He is also a defensive back and leads the team with four interceptions and has 17 pass breakups to go along with 27 tackles and two tackles for a loss. Senior LB Seth Baksa leads the team with 91 tackles (46 solo), including six tackles for loss, and has four sacks and three interceptions, a fumble recovery, and has forced two fumbles. Junior LB Brandon Moss who has collected nine sacks along with his 60 tackles (47 solo), 19 tackles for loss along with one interception, and one fumble recovery. Defensively, the Gators have 35 sacks and 15 interceptions and are allowing 13.5 ppg.
IN THE PLAYOFFS…BAKER d. Jay, 49-8 (Regional Quarterfinals); d. Freeport, 34-22 (Regional Semifinals); d. Vernon, 7-6 (Regional Finals); d. Sneads, 41-7 (State Semifinals)
IN THE PLAYOFFS…HAWTHORNE d. Chiefland, 40-0 (Regional Quarterfinals); d. Fort Meade, 12-7 (Regional Semifinals); d. Wildwood, 14-8 (Regional Finals); d. Madison County (State Semifinals), 18-14
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