Following its first state football title in program history, Hawthorne’s Jailen Ruth and Cornelius Ingram have been named the Florida Dairy Farmers Class 1R Player and Coach of the Year, respectively.
After back-to-back state runner-up finishes, Ingram led his team to a 12-0 record and the Class 1R state title with a 13-2 win against Northview (Bratt) on Dec. 10.
“Tremendous honor for a tremendous person,” said Hawthorne defensive coordinator and athletics director Dustin Adkins. “Couldn’t have happened to a better person. He puts forth his best every day for our athletes.”
“Cornelius has been a role model for many years and continues to be one on a daily basis,” he said. “I am blessed to be able to be a part of his staff and help contribute to history this year.”
In eight years, Ingram has compiled a 70-19 record.
“It feels awesome being able to do these special things at my former high school with my brother (offensive coordinator Greg Bowie) and other coaches I played with or went to school with,” Ingram said. “A lot of them I’ve seen grow up right in front of my eyes.”
That includes Ruth, who finished his senior season with 94 tackles, including 64 solo.
“I’m definitely not surprised,” Ingram said about Ruth’s selection. “He has been special the last three years. He’s a homegrown Hawthorne kid who has grown up right before our eyes. There was a time he wasn’t playing or being recruited and he never took a day off.”
The senior defensive end had 27 tackles for a loss, 19 sacks, 2 interceptions and 7 caused fumbles.
“Jailen definitely is deserving of this award,” Adkins said. “He has constantly put in the work in the off season, has accepted the coaching placed on him, and has risen to exceed expectations. He is a great human, not just a football player. If you can coach a ‘Jailen Ruth’ in your coaching career, then you truly have been blessed.”
Ruth edged running back Jamarkus Jefferson of state runner-up Northview (Bratt), 106-103, in total points to finish first. Jefferson, who rushed for over 2,300 yards (8.7 ypc) with a state-leading 41 touchdowns heading into the championship game, was held to 35 yards on 14 carries and no touchdowns in the title game.
“I wouldn’t be in the position that I am in without my support system being there every step of the way,” Ruth said. “Faith, coaches, teammates, and family are the true keys to success.”
Ruth, who had over 25 college offers, signed with Vanderbilt University.
“He’s a humble kid and getting everything, he deserves,” Ingram said. “When he was at full strength, he also played tight end. He’s just a great athlete and he deserves it without a doubt.”
Wes Summerford of Northview finished second in the voting to Ingram, 187-108, while Union County’s Andrew Thomas finished third and Williston’s Robbie Pruitt was fourth.
In the Independent classification, Oak Hall’s RJ Fuhr finished third in the voting for Coach of the Year. Fuhr coached the Eagles to an undefeated regular season before losing in the first round of the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Williston’s Kyree Edwards finished fourth in the voting behind third-place finisher Kayleb Wagner of Baker for the 1R Player of the Year.
One of the highlights in the season was Hawthorne’s game at Union County on Oct. 14. The Hornets rallied from a 21-0 halftime deficit to win 28-21.
“It was definitely a turning point,” Ingram said. “There were a lot of guys who grew up that night, our entire team.”
After allowing three touchdowns in one half to the Tigers, the Hornets only allowed 37 points in their final 6.5 games to win the school’s first state title.
“The kids deserve it,” Ingram said. “They worked their tails off all year on and off the field. I’ve seen a lot of them grow up and mature in just three or four months. It’s exciting to see what these kids have gone through and overcome.”
Ingram noted a lot of players split times with other players or just played on special teams. He deflected his recognition to his players and coaches.
“I have the most unselfish team there is,” he said. “This award wouldn’t be possible without a good coaching staff and the great players I have around me, so I have to give them a lot of credit.”