Hawthorne defense playing lights out

The Hawthorne defense has been stingy.

This past Friday night the Hornets pitched a shutout defensively, allowing a kickoff return for a score on the first play of the game, but not allowing anything the rest of the way in a 48-7 win at Newberry.

They’ve now outscored their three opponents 86-14.

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Hawthorne defensive coordinator Dustin Adkins said the key before every game is pre-snap alignment and recognition.

“Monday through Thursday we constantly are working on recognizing formations and the plays we have seen on film,” he said. “Being able to think less and react more enables us to play faster and fly around making plays on Fridays.”

Through 12 quarters the Hornets have given up just one offensive touchdown in a 14-7 home win over Yulee in the season opener.

“As good as we have performed so far this year, I still think we are only scratching the surface of how good we can really be,” Adkins said. “I think our group is very hungry and takes pride in everything we do, and it shows on Friday. I am pleased with the resiliency and ability to have short-term memory and not dwell too long on a negative play.”

Junior Jailen Ruth leads the team with 34 tackles for an average of 11.3 tackles per game, including a team-leading seven tackles for a loss.

Senior Artavis Mallary is second with 27 tackles and also has four tackles for a loss.

Ruth and junior Stanley Cooks lead the team with three sacks each.

Coming into the year Adkins thought his defense “had the potential to be very good, but even I could not imagine us coming into form this early in the season.”

He said a big reason for the success is that “the team is taking onus from some of the returning starters and leaders and rising to the demanding nature within our program.”

“Being able to buy in and take on the demanding coaching that we provide here at Hawthorne has allowed us to have some early success and hopefully continues for the remainder of the year,” Adkins explained.

Hawthorne (3-0) plays a very difficult schedule that includes eight teams outside of their classification this year.

I’ll get a chance to see them next Friday, Oct. 1, at Class 5A Suwannee (Live Oak) in a game that will air on 106.9 FM “I am Country.”

This Friday, the Hornets host Class 8A West Port (Ocala) at 7:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on www.MainStreetDailyNews.com (Audio Game of the Week) beginning at 7:15 p.m.

Adkins said the key against the Wolf Pack (0-4) will be “lining up correctly and staying gap sound.”

“We are a gap sound defense, so it is pivotal that we are in position to take away the plays that they like to run, along with making it uncomfortable for their playmakers,” Adkins said. “Playing fast, smart, and assignment sound will be the keys to the game this Friday.”

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