The Hawthorne football team is one win away from a return trip to the Class 1A state championship game.
Last Friday in the Region 4 Final, the Hornets (9-0) fell behind 6-0 on a pick-6 just one minute into the game. However, a blocked punt by Jailen Ruth quickly changed the momentum.
Quarterback Tyler Jefferson then took over offensively.
The junior scored on a 23-yard touchdown run and added a 2-point conversion run for an 8-6 lead with 6:13 to play in the first quarter and the top-seeded Hornets never trailed again, on the way to a 51-12 win against No. 2 seed Pahokee (9-2).
The Hornets’ defense pitched a shutout.
“The game plan on defense going into Pahokee was to try and limit their running game, along with taking away the first read for their talented quarterback,” said Hawthorne defensive coordinator Dustin Adkins. “Their quarterback (Austin Simmons) is a highly-touted recruit who has a tremendous arm and we watched film of him picking apart teams throughout the year. All week we challenged our defensive backs to play tight coverage and play aggressive, and I think we executed the game plan at a very high level.”
Meanwhile, Jefferson finished with 169 yards on 24 carries with four touchdowns and three 2-point conversions.
“Being able to rely on our offense controlling the clock and being physically dominant allowed us to utilize some more athletes in the secondary, which was vital for our success,” Adkins said.
On Friday night, Hawthorne will host Chipley (9-3), which won at defending 1A state champion Baker, 22-7, in last Friday’s Region 1 Final.
The visiting Tigers are led by running back Harrison Adkinson, who has rushed for 1,327 yards with 13 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Neal Adams has thrown for 1,184 yards with 11 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
“Chipley is very fundamentally sound, and they have a great running back and multiple athletes at wide receiver that they will spread the ball around too,” Adkins said.
It could be a defensive slugfest.
Chipley is only allowing 10.8 points per game and Hawthorne is allowing 9.1 points per game.
“On defense they have a Marshall commit and play with great energy on that side of the ball,” Adkins said. “The keys to victory will be getting out to a better start than we have in the first quarter and to win the turnover battle. If we can play fast, smart, physical, and disciplined I like how we stack up with anyone, regardless of opponent.”
The game will be broadcast online (audio only) at MainStreetDailyNews.com beginning at 7:15 p.m. The kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
Chiefland will host Madison County in the other Class 1A state semifinal.
The Indians (11-1) advanced by knocking off previously unbeaten Union County, 29-27, in the Region 3 Final last Friday.
“I’m excited for the kids,” Chiefland coach Adam Gore said. “Our community needed something to cheer about and I’m glad we can give them a little bit of excitement on a Friday night.”
The visiting Cowboys shutout Blountstown, 35-0, on the road in last week’s Region 2 Final, handing the Tigers (9-2) just their second loss of the season. Blountstown was the No. 1 seed in the region.
“Madison County is an amazing program,” Gore said. “Mike Coe has done an unbelievable job there and being in the playoffs is just the expectation there. They have size, strength, and they can run.”
The Cowboys are averaging 25.4 points per game and they have rushed for 2,955 yards this season.
They have a pair of 1,000 rushers too.
Junior Jamie Hampton has 1,085 yards on 134 carries (8.1 yards per carry) with nine touchdowns, while senior Tommie House has 1,068 yards on 169 carries (6.3 ypc) with seven touchdowns.
“Our biggest concern will be dealing with their team speed,” Gore said. “They have a lot of it. We just have to focus on what got us in this position and give our community something to be proud of Friday night.”
Madison County (9-3) is peaking at the right time, with seven straight wins entering the game against the Indians.
“Just continuing to practice hard and get better daily,” said Madison County coach Mike Coe. “You can’t get bored doing the little things daily that show up in games. Ball Security, kicking game, shedding blocks, tackling, false starts, etc… our kids have continued to improve, and we have found our groove.”
Coe said he has several concerns about Chiefland.
“Coach Gore has done a great job at Chiefland,” Coe said. “They have a big [offensive line], speed at the skill spots, and scheme wise he does a great job of trying to move your eyes on defense and he has guys that can make you pay for eye discipline mistakes. They play hard on defense and their kicking game is solid.”
For the Cowboys to win, Coe said there are several factors.
“No turnovers, win 1st down, no pre snap penalties, play with great eyes and tenacity on defense, and win the kicking game,” he said. “Just like any other game, limit big plays and make big plays on offense.”
The Class 1A state championship game is Saturday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. at Gene Cox Stadium in Tallahassee.
Friday, December 3 – State Semifinals (start times at 7:30 p.m.)
Madison County (10-3) at Chiefland (11-1)
Chipley (9-3) at Hawthorne (9-0)
Buchholz (Gainesville) (12-1) at St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) (12-1)