Last week the Hawthorne football team advanced to its first football state championship game in school history, and even though the Hornets lost to Baker, 27-14, in the 1A state championship game, the future was on display in Tallahassee.
The state runner-up Hornets will have several key returnees for next season.
A total of seven starters are expected back on offense.
Junior quarterback Chaz Mackey accounted for both scores in the game with two touchdown passes. Although he did throw two interceptions, he finished the game 20-of-29 for a career-high 219 yards.
“He’s been huge,” said Hawthorne football coach Cornelius Ingram, who described his junior quarterback as mentally tough. “What people don’t always see is that we’ve had some key drops in games that should have been big plays or touchdowns.”
One of Mackey’s touchdown passes in the 1A Final was a 67-yard scoring toss to Terrell James, who was only a sophomore in 2020. James led Hawthorne in receiving yards, finishing the game with four catches for 88 yards.
Juniors Anthony Morgan (5 catches for 53 yards) and Camren Cohens (8 catches, 53 yards, 1 TD) also had a big day.
That will give the Hornets a solid foundation until they can get the ground game going.
Leading rusher Dre Lawrence will graduate, but sophomore Brian James will be back after rushing for over 350 yards.
Three of the Hornets’ five starting offensive linemen return next season in right tackle Kylyn Bryant (6’6, 340), left guard Slade Willis (6’, 220), and left tackle Mozell Williams (6’6, 350).
Seven starters will also return on defense, including the entire secondary.
Jailen Ruth (6’3, 180) will be back for his junior season after recording nine tackles in the state championship game to give him 131 total tackles as a sophomore. He led the team with 27.5 tackles for a loss and 13 sacks.
“Jailen's got a big-time motor,” Ingram said. “He never gives up on a play. He’ll continue to grow as a football player and a young man, but this is his coming out party this year. He hasn’t even peaked.”
Junior Jayquan Williams led the team with 134 tackles. He had 15 tackles in the state semifinals against Madison County and eight tackles against Baker in the Class 1A Final.
“He’s been special all year,” Ingram said. “A guy with size, speed and instincts.”
Williams was also the team’s kickoff specialist.
Nose guard Artavis Mallary returns after recording 11 tackles for a loss and 72 total tackles.
The entire secondary of Cohens, Maki Graham, Travon Clark, and Jordin Fluellen will be back.
Antonio Hubbert, who was the PAT and field goal kicker, also returns.
Hawthorne finished 10-3 this past season and 12-1 in 2018. With two state semifinal appearances and a state final in the past three years, the Hornets are building something special on the Eastside of Alachua County.
“I tell people all the time that the future is extremely bright and we’re just beginning great things,” Ingram said.