All Area: Hawthorne leads small school defense

For the second year in a row, the Hawthorne Hornets were the dominant story among small school football in North Central Florida.

Hawthorne was undefeated all the way to the Class 1A state championship game at Gene Cox Stadium in Tallahassee before falling to Madison County by a single point, 13-12.

Coach Cornelius Ingram’s team was built on defense, pitching two shutouts and allowing only 101 points in 11 games. That standout season catapulted four Hawthorne defenders onto the small school defense for the 2021 Mainstreet Daily News All Area Football Team.

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Junior defensive end Jailen Ruth made the first team for the second straight year after leading his team with 102 tackles in 2021, including 29 tackles for loss and 17 sacks. That comes after Ruth’s sophomore year included 122 tackles and 13 sacks.

Teammate and junior defensive lineman Stanley Cooks joins Ruth on the first team. Cooks compiled 65 tackles, including 18 for loss, and was second on the Hornets defense with eight sacks.

Hawthorne's Jailen Ruth

Hawthorne defensive coordinator Dustin Atkins has been the beneficiary of these two defensive stalwarts over the past two seasons.

“[Ruth] is pound-for-pound one of the toughest kids I have ever coached,” Atkins said. “For the last two years I have not seen a team be able to block him. You have to know where he is at all times or he will single-handedly change the game.”

Atkins also has high praise for Cooks. 

“He is a dominant, physical player,” Atkins adds. “Him and Jailen set the tone up front each Friday night.”

Joining the Hawthorne duo on the defensive line is Union County senior Curran Webb for the second straight year. The Tigers finished 12-1 and advanced all the way to the region final round, where Chiefland eliminated them, 29-27.

Webb had a huge season with 99 tackles, including 31 for loss, and 14 sacks.

“Curran is a tough kid to block,” Union County coach Andrew Thomas said. “He’s a very active player that makes plays week in and week out.”

The final member of the defensive line is an 8th-grader from Chiefland, Jonathan Adams. Adams had 85 tackles, 24 for loss, and 12 sacks for the Indians, who were 11-2 and advanced to the 1A state semifinals.

Another Hawthorne senior, Artavis Mallary, leads the All Area linebacker corps.

Mallary was second behind Ruth with 86 tackles, adding 11 for loss and two interceptions as well as two fumble recoveries.

“This was his first year at middle linebacker—he had been on the defensive line the year prior,” Atkins said. “He was disruptive against the run and dropped into coverage and made plays against the pass as well. He matured and grew throughout his time in the program.”

Mallary is joined by another senior, Union County’s Trevor Holtzendorf, who also made the first team last year. Holtzendorf led the Tigers with 104 tackles, adding 13 and a half tackles for loss and five sacks.

“He’s a tough, hard nose, old-school kid,” Thomas said. “He’s a physical, downhill linebacker that’s always around the ball.”

The final choice at linebacker is senior Coby Lee of Fort White. Lee rolled up some huge tackle numbers, with an area-high 132 stops for a 5-5 Indians team.

Senior Camren Cohens, the fourth Hawthorne player on the team, leads the All Area secondary.

Hawthorne's Camren Cohens on opening kickoff return

Cohens was effective on both sides of the ball, logging 31 tackles and one interception, while hauling in eight passes on offense, including three touchdowns. He was also the Hornets main kick and punt returner.

“He’s one of my favorite kids I have ever coached,” Atkins said. “He does whatever he is asked without hesitation, and this year moved to corner after starting at safety the following year. He was also a dynamic punt returner over the last two years and it would be a shame if a college does not take a chance on Cam.”

Cohens is the fourth and final Hawthorne player on the small school All Area defense. He is joined in the secondary by the third Union County representative, junior Daylyn Diston.

Diston was fantastic on both sides of the ball, rushing for 10.5 yards a carry and five touchdowns rushing, while catching 15 passes for 372 yards and six scores. He also added 36 tackles and a team-high six interceptions on the defensive side of the ball.

“Daylyn has a knack for making plays,” Thomas said. “He reads things well in the back and has a nose for the football.”

Newberry DB Te'veon Tate

The final two members of the small school defense are Newberry senior free safety Te’veon Tate and Bronson senior Jesse Williams III.

Tate led the Panthers with six interceptions. Williams also had six picks and scored eight touchdowns on offense for the Eagles, who finished the 2021 season 5-5.

A panel of local sportswriters and coaches chose All Area offensive and defensive teams from Mainstreet’s eight-county coverage area. All 48 players and two coaches will receive commemorative plaques to recognize their accomplishments.

2021 Mainstreet Daily News All Area Football Team small school defense

DL (4) – Jailen Ruth (Hawthorne, Jr.), Stanley Cooks (Hawthorne, Jr.), Curran Webb (Union County, Sr.), Jonathan Adams (Chiefland, 8th-grade)

LB (3) – Trevor Holtzendorf (Union County, Sr.), Artavis Mallary (Hawthorne, Sr.), Coby Lee (Fort White, Sr.)

Secondary (4) – Camren Cohens (Hawthorne, Sr.), Daylyn Diston (Union County, FS/CB, Jr.), Te’veon Tate (FS/Sr.), Jesse Williams III (Bronson, Sr.)

Honorable mention

Bell: Colby Herring (DL, Sr.), Connor Hastings (ATH, Jr.), Kaden Carver (P, Sr.)

Bradford (Starke): Torin Brazell (DL, So.), Chason Clark (LB, So.), Sincere Hankerson (LB, Sr.), Bryson Bowen (LB, Jr.)

Branford: Devyn Mosley (DL, Sr.), Caden Coker (LB, Jr.), Matt Warren (LB, Sr.)

Bronson: Nicholas Washington (DL, Jr.), Matthew Miller (LB, Jr.)

Chiefland: Paul Davis (LB, Jr.), Anthony Blackman (DB, So.), Clint Thomas (DB, Jr.), Lawrence Rivers (LB, So.), James Laston (DL, Sr.)

Dixie County (Cross City): Kolton Hunt (DB, Sr.)

Fort White: Lecosta Byrd (LB, Fr.), Davone Calhoun (LB, Sr.), Najeeb Smith (DB, So.)

Hawthorne: A’ramion Armitage (FS/Sr.), Chris Jonas (ATH, Sr.)

Newberry: Logan McCloud (DL, Fr.), Jarquez Carter (DL, Fr.), Riley Hester (LB, Sr.), Mason Markle (LB, Sr.)

P.K. Yonge (Gainesville): Courtney Brown (DL, Sr.)

Trenton: Zach Braswell (LB, Sr.)

Union County (Lake Butler): Malcolm Odum (SS, Sr.), Hance Jones (LB, Jr.), Dayviontae Thompson (LB, Jr.), Jacob Jenkins (DL, So.)

Williston: Edariyon Wesley (DB, Jr.).

Editor’s note: This story has been updated.

This is the second in a five-part series on the 2021 Mainstreet Daily News All Area Football Team, sponsored by Pavlik Orthodontics. To read about the small school offense, click here

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