It was a banner year for the Hawthorne and Buchholz (Gainesville) football teams this past fall.
Following their successful seasons, Hawthorne’s Cornelius Ingram and Buchholz’s Mark Whittemore have been named the 2021 Mainstreet Daily News small school and big school coaches of the year, respectively, and for the second straight year.
Hawthorne (10-1) advanced to the Class 1A state championship game this past December, where the Hornets lost to Madison County, 13-12, in the state title game, giving them back-to-back state runner-up finishes.
“It was one heck of a year,” said Ingram, who also just won his 100th career game last week as the head coach of the girls’ basketball program. “I’m very honored to be named coach of the year, but I know it wouldn’t be possible without great coaches and players. Our future is extremely bright.”
Hawthorne defensive coordinator Dustin Adkins has known Ingram for over 20 years and said he is the same person today as he was when they played together in high school.
“Cornelius is the ultimate professional to work with,” said Adkins, who is also the athletic director at Hawthorne. “He is very competitive and makes sure to put the athletes in the best possible position to be successful each and every week. He has a tireless work ethic when it comes to breaking down film and knowing the tendencies and trends of each opponent weekly as well.”
Ingram built his team on defense, allowing only 101 points in 11 games, but there were plenty of playmakers on an explosive offense that averaged 33.9 points per game.
Hawthorne offensive coordinator Greg Bowie, Ingram’s older brother, said that C.I. is “a player’s coach.”
“The guys will run through a brick wall for him,” Bowie noted. “He’s passionate, motivated and he brings it every single day. He’s big on film. He puts in hours of film during the week and requires a certain amount of film time from the players.”
Bowie said that not many head coaches sweep the locker room floor, but C.I. does it every morning.
“The humility that he stresses to the players, he also displays it,” Bowie said. “The highlight of practice is when C.I. plays scout team quarterback. His pre-game and halftime speeches have everyone ready to play, coaches included.”
Adkins also noted Ingram’s vast knowledge and understanding of the game.
“I think one of the main attributes that is often overlooked is his ability to relate the material and game plans to our athletes in a manner in which they understand and can apply to the field, enabling them to ‘play’ the game rather than to ‘think’ the game,” he said. “While he has had tremendous success on the field since he took over the football program at Hawthorne, he has done even more outside of football for our athletes. He is a strong leader and mentor to each one of our student-athletes and is available for them 24/7.”
“It was an unbelievable year for our program,” Ingram said. “It’s just a great thing to see these kids mature as young men, and some will have opportunities to play football at the next level. Our program is definitely on the rise.”
Meanwhile, the Buchholz football team advanced to its first state semifinal since 1995.
The Bobcats (12-2) played a loaded schedule which included Class 4A state champion Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale)—their only regular season loss—4A state semifinalist Bolles (Jacksonville), and nationally ranked St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale), who they lost to on the road in the 7A statesemifinals.
“Having a season like the one we just had makes me remember the fantastic players, parents, and administrators that have made this possible,” said Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore, who just completed his 10th year as head coach of the Bobcats. “Buchholz is such a strong community of students and educators who believe in excellence. Winning this award truly brings this into focus.”
Buchholz defensive coordinator Chuck Bell, who played for Whittemore, was trained by him, and now works for him, said very little has changed about him.
“When it comes to football, Coach Whittemore is very demanding of everyone affiliated with the Buchholz program, but nobody within the program works harder than Coach Whittemore,” he said. “He never asks a player or coach to do something he hasn’t or won’t do himself.”
Bell said that some coaches spend enormous amounts of time planning and focusing on every minute detail, but not Whittemore.
“Coach Whittemore’s philosophy is just to out-work everyone, not out-plan everyone,” he explained. “One of his favorite quotes is that he will always work you hard, but he will always love you harder.”
Bell, who spent 10-plus years coaching college football, said Whittemore was the first call he made when he began to think about the idea of becoming a teacher and high school football coach in 2018.
“Coach helped me navigate the process to become a teacher and he is the main reason my family and I moved back to Gainesville,” Bell explained. “As a Buchholz graduate myself, I know there is no one else who bleeds Black and Gold like Mark Whittemore. To be able to share the same passion as he does for Buchholz means a lot.”
Bell also said that Whittemore’s value goes beyond the football field.
“He has helped me become a better father and husband,” he said. “With Coach Whittemore, faith and family always come first. I am so lucky to have worked and learn from a man like Coach Whittemore.”
“I am blessed to be the steward of such a strong and storied program. Thanks, Buchholz, for this opportunity.”
2021 Mainstreet Daily News All Area Football Team Coach of the Year – small school
Cornelius Ingram (Hawthorne)
Honorable mention: Adam Gore (Chiefland), Andrew Thomas (Union County), Roy Harden & Ken Snider (Fort White)
2021 Mainstreet Daily News All Area Football Team Coach of the Year – big school
Mark Whittemore (Buchholz)
Honorable mention: Dock Pollard (Gainesville), Chuck Dickinson (Keystone Heights)
This is the last in a five-part series on the 2021 Mainstreet Daily News All Area Football Team, sponsored by Pavlik Orthodontics. To see the full roster and previous stories, click here.