It’s the game everyone has been waiting for since the beginning of the season.
Next Friday night, No. 2 seed Hawthorne will travel to top seed Williston for the FHSAA Class 1R-Region 4 championship. The winner will advance to the state semifinals.
The defending 1R state champion Hornets took care of business at home on Friday night in the regional semifinals with a 27-7 win against No. 3 seed Newberry.
“That’s a championship-caliber team,” said Newberry coach Ed Johnson. “They maximize on your mistakes, they play with a lot of energy and effort, that’s a really, really good team and we made too many mistakes to beat a team like that.”
One of the more glaring moments was late in the first quarter.
Following Hawthorne quarterback C.J. Ingram’s 9-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead with 2:23 to play in the opening quarter, the Panthers struck quickly.
A 41-yard pass from Newberry sophomore quarterback Keil McGriff to senior Jayden Holcombe, followed by a personal foul on the play, gave the Panthers the ball at the Hawthorne 16-yard line.
However, McGriff slipped and fell scrambling and lost 10 yards, followed by a false start, a holding penalty, and a personal foul penalty which put the Panthers back at their own 35-yard line.
After a punt, Ingram completed a pass downfield to senior Matthew McKinley-Daniels, who somehow tight-roped the left sideline after an attempt to push him out of bounds on his way to a 79-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
“He’s that guy that you kind of forget about because you have a guy like Alvon (Isaac), you have a guy like Caleb (Rollerson), who are making big plays, and now with Matthew being our third receiver, which he could easily be a No. 1 receiver, it was an athletic play, it was a heads up play by him and he looked really fast tight roping the sidelines. That was a big play for us right there.”
A Newberry penalty on the play allowed Hawthorne to kick off from the Newberry 45-yard line.
Despite being backed up at its own 11-yard line, the Panthers moved the ball again.
A 25-yard pass play to running back Kaleb Woods put the ball at midfield, and a 16-yard run by the sophomore had them at the Hawthorne 35-yard line with a chance to cut the deficit in half.
However, the drive stalled as McGriff was intercepted inside the 10-yard line by Hawthorne senior Jamarion Davenport.
A few plays later, from the 36-yard line, Ingram completed a short pass to Rollerson, who broke a tackle at midfield and raced down the left sideline for a 64-yard touchdown reception and a 21-0 lead.
“Big, strong, physical guy, his nickname is actually ‘Megatron,’” Ingram said. “It was a simple hitch route, he came off the ball, he was explosive, coming back down to catch it with strong hands and when he spun out of it, there’s not too many guys that are going to tackle him when he’s full speed. He’s a big strong physical guy. Just a great individual play and we’ll need more of that in the playoffs.”
Ingram had all four touchdowns for the Hornets, two throwing and two rushing.
“He’s special,” said his dad. “Unselfish guy, just a great leader. He did a lot of great things with his legs and then also with his arm. He’s the total package.”
He added a 67-yard scoring run on their first offensive series of the second half for a 27-0 lead.
“I think I played pretty well,” he said. “I think I could have had some better throws, I could have run harder sometimes but we won the game and that’s all that matters. We’re on to next week and we’ve just got to capitalize on our mistakes, watch film, and execute against a very good Williston team.”
Woods scored on a 6-yard touchdown run with 1:36 to play in the third quarter to avoid the shutout.
“They kind of accepted the challenge going into this game,” said Hawthorne defensive coordinator Dustin Adkins. “I know Newberry has some confidence with 14 (wide receiver Hayden Moore) playing, he didn’t play the first time, and 5 for us (senior Jordin Fluellen) is out for the rest of the postseason, so they accepted the challenge.”
Standing in the way of another state semifinal appearance is Williston (11-0), which advanced with a 52-17 win against No. 4 seed Pahokee.
The Hornets are up to the task.
“I have a complete team,” Ingram said. “We can run it, we can throw it, and we’re always going to play good defense.”
Friday, Nov. 17
Class 4S-Region 1 Semifinal
No. 1 Buchholz 34, No. 4 Ponte Vedra 21
Class 2S-Region 2 Semifinal
No. 1 Bradford (Starke) 28, No. 4 Eastside 7
Class 1R-Region 3 Semifinal
No. 3 Union County (Lake Butler) 17, No. 2 Fort White 10
Class 1R-Region 4 Semifinal
No. 1 Williston 52, No. 4 Pahokee 17
No. 2 Hawthorne 27, No. 3 Newberry (9-2) 7