All Area: Hawthorne defense leads the way

2022 All Area small school defense - Hawthorne's Darian Smith-Williams (2) and Tyrique Robinson (25) field background
Hawthorne defensive back Darian Smith-Williams (2) and linebacker Tyrique Robinson helped lead the Hornets to a state title and found their way onto the 2022 Mainstreet Daily News All Area small school defensive team. (Graphic and photo by C.J. GIsh)
Graphic and photos by C.J. Gish
Editor’s Note
This is the second of five stories unveiling the 2022 Bosshardt Realty All Area Football Teams. Click here to read about the Small School Offense. Go to our All Area football landing page by clicking here.

Defense wins championships.

Just ask Hawthorne, which won the Class 1R state championship thanks to a defense that didn’t allow a score in its final two games and allowed just 9.3 points per game this past fall.

The Hornets (12-0), who defeated Northview, 13-2, in the state championship game, lead the way with four players on the 2022 Bosshardt Realty All Area small school defensive football team.

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The leader of the state championship defense, Jailen Ruth (6’5, 190), tops the list on the defensive line.

The Vanderbilt University signee, who was named the 1R Player of the Year, finished the season with 94 tackles in 10 games, including 27 tackles for a loss, 19 sacks, and two interceptions. His pick-6 led the Hornets to a win against Class 2S North Marion (Citra) in October.

“He brings the energy that his teammates feed off of,” said Hawthorne defensive coordinator Dustin Adkins. “One of the most coachable players I have ever had. Best motor in high school football.”

Joining Ruth up front is teammate Stanley Cooks (6’3, 290).

Hawthorne defensive linemen Stanley Cooks (left) and Jailen Ruth.
Photo by C.J. Gish Hawthorne defensive linemen Stanley Cooks (left) and Jailen Ruth anchored the Hornets’ defense during the 2022 state championship run.

The Georgia State commit finished his senior campaign with 53 tackles, 11 TFL, three sacks, and two fumble recoveries.

“Dominant when he wants to be,” Adkins said. “He still doesn’t understand how good he can really be. Accepts the challenges of the coaches and always seems to make plays in big time moments.”

Another Division-I lineman to make the first team is Markus Strong (6’4, 285) of Union County (Lake Butler).

Strong, who missed his junior season because of a torn ACL, helped lead the Tigers (8-3) to a state semifinal appearance with 21.5 tackles for a loss, including a team-leading 10.5 sacks.

The University of Oklahoma signee added 55 tackles and two fumble recoveries.

“Leader on defense,” said Union County coach Andrew Thomas. “He really anchored our defensive line and had a dominating senior year.”

Rounding out the All Area players up front is freshman Jon Adams of Chiefland.

“Adams is a generational talent, point blank,” said Chiefland coach James Corbin. “Standing at 6’3, 205 pounds as a freshman, the kid can do anything a coach asks of him, and he still demands more of himself.”

As an 8th grader, Adams made 2nd team All-State and first team All Area. This year, as a freshman, Adams hit a new milestone. He led the nation’s freshman class in sacks with 14.5.

Adams posted 58 tackles, 23.5 TFL and 14.5 sacks. He also blocked two punts, a field goal, had a strip-six and two pick-sixes, while also forcing six fumbles and recovering five of those.

“Not bad for a freshman defensive end,” Corbin said. “Aside from his work on the field, the best part of having Adams on the team is his character. He shows up every day and works until the lights turn off, he is ‘yes sir, no sir’ in his approach, and he demands the most out of those around him. Schools have already begun to show their interest in Adams, and rightfully so.”

Tyrique Robinson of Hawthorne, who led the Hornets with 106 tackles in 10 games, leads the middle of the All Area defensive team.

The senior linebacker, who added three sacks, finished with 12 TFL and a fumble recovery.

“Motor rivals that of Jailen Ruth,” Adkins said. “Very aggressive kid that has learned a lot of football within this year. Very coachable and definitely a sideline-to-sideline type of linebacker.”

Union County linebacker Dayvionta Thompson (5) and defensive lineman Markus Strong (2) helped the Tigers to the state semifinal round in 2022.
Photo by C.J. Gish Union County linebacker Dayvionta Thompson (5) and defensive lineman Markus Strong (2) helped the Tigers to the state semifinal round in 2022.

One of the leading vote-getters for linebacker, along with Robinson, was Williston’s Trace Clemenzi, who helped lead the Red Devils (10-1) to an unbeaten regular season and a postseason appearance after a 1-8 finish last year.

The senior finished with 87 tackles, two interceptions, and six TFL for the Red Devils, who won 10 games after winning just eight games total the previous four seasons combined.

“Trace is a physical linebacker and is a very instinctive player,” said Williston first-year coach Robby Pruitt. “He is very football savvy and was tough for us in the box, and he is a great student and leader.”

Dayviontae Thompson of Union County joins the duo in the middle. The senior had 58 tackles in 10 games, including eight TFL, six sacks, and a forced fumble.

“Versatile kid, played MLB but also played down on the edge and gave us a lot of options on defense,” Thomas said. “Plays with a great motor.”

Rounding out the linebacking corps is Davone Calhoun of Fort White, who helped lead the Indians (6-5) to a Class 1R state playoff appearance.

The senior had a team-leading 109 tackles, including 61 solo.

The secondary is led by Darian Smith-Williams of Hawthorne, who affected the game in a number of different ways for the first-time state champions.

“On defense, he is the glue guy for our team and can be both a physical in the box player, or a coverage safety, as he led us in interceptions,” Adkins said. “Accepts the challenges placed upon him. Dynamic special teams player who returned multiple punts and kickoffs for touchdowns this year.”

The senior had five interceptions along with 64 tackles.

Williston defensive back Edariyon Wesley led the Red Devils with six interceptions during the 2022 season.
Photo by C.J. Gish Williston defensive back Edariyon Wesley led the Red Devils with six interceptions during the 2022 season.

Edariyon Wesley of Williston joins him the secondary.

The 5’11, 180-pound senior free safety finished with 75 tackles, 9 passes broken up, and 6 interceptions. He also had three tackles for a loss.

“Wesley is a very intense player with a high motor and a tenacious tackler,” Pruitt said. “He was our leader in the secondary. He has great ball skills. He was our leading punt returner and did a great job at WB as well. He’s very deserving.”

Brice Criggall (CB/FS) helped lead Branford (7-4) to the postseason.

The senior led the Buccaneers with 101 tackles. He added six tackles for a loss and six fumble recoveries.

“Brice is a very intelligent football player, and that enabled us to put him at multiple positions and know he could still make the calls and get us aligned,” said Branford coach Tim Clark. “He is coachable, unselfish, and plays with wide-open effort.”

Rounding out the back of the defense is Daylyn Diston of Union County.

The senior free safety had three interceptions and five passes defended, one forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a sack.

“Leader in the secondary, playmaker on both sides of the ball,” Thomas said.

All first-team players led their respective schools to the Class 1R state playoffs this year.

Small school All Area defense

DL – Stanley Cooks (SR), Hawthorne

DL – Jailen Ruth (SR), Hawthorne

DL – Jon Adams (FR), Chiefland

DL – Markus Strong (SR), Union County (Lake Butler)

LB – Tyrique Robinson (SR), Hawthorne

LB – Davone Calhoun (SR), Fort White

LB – Trace Clemenzi (SR), Williston

LB – Dayviontae Thompson (SR), Union County (Lake Butler)

Secondary – Brice Criggall (SR), Branford

Secondary – Darian Smith-Williams (SR), Hawthorne

Secondary – Daylyn Diston (SR), Union County (Lake Butler)

Secondary – Edariyon Wesley (SR), Williston

Honorable mentions:

Bell – Elliot Spears (MLB, Sr.), Connor Hastings (DB, Sr.), Jonathan Belasky Jr. (DL, Fr.), Lucas Strapp (DL, Jr.), Gabriel Madrigal (DL, Sr.)

Branford – Cole Certain (DL, Sr.), Trevor Maddox (LB, So.), Braxton Young (DL, Sr.), Austin Malagui (CB, Jr.)

Bronson – Zach Turner (DE, Sr.), Matthew Miller (LB, Sr.), Matayon Jasper (DB, Sr.)

Chiefland – Reggie Adams (DE, So.), Lawrence Rivers (LB, Jr.), Paul Davis (DB, Sr.), Donovan Minichello (DE, Sr.), Junior Brown (LB, Sr.), Dakota Fischer (DB, Jr.), Anthony Blackman (DB, Jr.), Kwantriall Richardson (DT, Sr.)

Dixie County (Cross City) – Jaheim Taylor (DB, So.), Mister Williams (LB, So.)

Fort White – Najeeb Smith (DB, Jr.), Hayden Adams (LB, Jr.), Avery Giddens (Sr.), Gavin Heaton (DB, Jr.)

Hawthorne – Isaiah Donaldson (LB, Sr.), Demetri Perry (DE, Jr.), Jordin Fluellen (DB, Jr.), Leland Johnson (LB, So.), Zion Johnson (DB, So.)

Newberry – Jonathan Powers (LB, Jr.), Logan McCloud (DE, So.), Jarquez Carter (DL, So.), Mykah Newton (DL, So.), Wyatt Hester (LB, Jr.), Michael Moore (DB, Sr.), Jakarus Randolph (DB, So.)

Oak Hall – Aidan Jerkins (DL, So.), Abram Jerkins (LB, Jr.), Jake Quigley (DB, Jr.)

P.K. Yonge – Luke Sparkman (LB, Jr.), Rashaun Walden (LB, Sr.), Ernest Davis (LB, Sr.), Hayden Moore (DB, Fr.)

Trenton – Jonathan Furst (DL, Jr.), Dalton NesSmith (DB, Sr.)

Union County (Lake Butler) – Thomas Williams (LB, Jr.), Jacob Jenkins (DL, Jr.), Dalton Lane (LB, Sr.), Dayquan Diston (DB, JR.), Auntrell Ross (DB, Sr.), James Cox (LB, Jr.)

Williston – Ira Warren (DT, Jr.), Rance Moxley (LB, Jr.), Javon Brown (DB, Jr.), Reyce Knauff (DE, Sr.), Jace McDonald (LB, Jr.)

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