The Hawthorne Hornets scored in each quarter as they eased past visiting Chipley 24-6 in a 1A state semifinal game on Friday night.
Now the Hornets have some unfinished business to attend to in the state capitol next Saturday.
A year ago, Hawthorne advanced to it’s first state championship game appearance at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee but came up short against Baker, 27-14.
But the Hornets (10-0) are heading back to Tallahassee, this time at Gene Cox Stadium in the 1A state championship game against Madison County, who Hawthorne beat 18-14 in the state semifinal round in 2020.
Against Chipley (9-4), Hawthorne’s defense once again set the tone. A week after returning two interceptions for scores in a 51-12 romp over Pahokee in the Region 4-1A final, the Hornets took the lead in the opening period as senior Anthony Morgan picked off a screen pass by Chipley junior quarterback Neal Adams and took it back 50 yards for a 6-0 Hawthorne lead.
Morgan had two interceptions against the Tigers, giving him four interceptions in three games.
“I am so proud of him (Anthony),” Hawthorne coach Cornelius Ingram said. “He has been starting on defense for three weeks, since the playoffs started, and he’s a great kid that everybody likes.”
Hawthorne’s lone turnover of the night led to Chipley’s only points, as the Tigers scored on a 1-yard plunge by senior running back Harrison Adkison to tie the game at 6-6. Chipley only had to go 30 yards for the score after the Hornets muffed a punt.
Hawthorne answered as they finally got their offense going. Junior quarterback Tyler Jefferson ripped off a few big runs, capping off the drive with the first of two 1-yard scores as the Hornets took a 12-6 lead into halftime.
The Hornets received the second-half kickoff and drove down the field for another 1-yard Jefferson score, and for the first time in the game Hawthorne had a two-score lead with 6:54 left in the third period.
Jefferson wasn’t part of the state runner-up team of a year ago but senior quarterback Chaz Mackey was, and he picked up a couple of big first downs on the ground in the second half. Ingram likes what he sees in using two quarterbacks.
“We love playing both quarterbacks because both have different things we can use,” Ingram said. “When we put Tyler in we can use another running back to block. It’s a tough situation for Chaz being the starter before but he and Tyler are good friends and they both help each other out.”
Hawthorne continued to grind out the clock in the second half, and extended the lead to 24-6 on the first play of the fourth quarter as junior running back Brian James scored from six yards out. The Hornets defense also forced two Chipley turnovers in the final period to keep the Tigers at bay.
Ingram is very proud of his team and his program for making it back to the state championship game for the second straight year. While they are going to Tallahassee again, it feels different this year.
“These kids will go home and hear how great they are all weekend,” Ingram said. “And since they made it to state last year, everyone thought it would just be easy to go back, and it isn’t. But we stayed humble and that’s a credit to our kids and coaching staff.”
And Ingram says this time he and his team expects a different result.
“Going there and not finishing the task was tough, but we know what to expect now,” Ingram said. “And we figured Madison County would be in the way. We overcame that obstacle to make it to state last year, now we have to do it again to be state champs.”
Madison County advanced to the state title game after shutting out Chiefland on the road Friday, 37-0, in the other state semifinal.
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