Last Friday the Hawthorne football team found itself in a position they haven’t been accustomed to much this season—behind.
Visiting Wildwood scored on a 2-yard quarterback keeper by Johnathan Harding with a little over four minutes to play in the opening quarter for a 6-0 lead.
“Honestly, when we called them to the sideline, we just let them know that they weren’t getting beat by Wildwood, we’re getting beat by Hawthorne right now,” Hawthorne defensive coordinator Dustin Adkins said. “We were prepared for everything we saw, we just were not reacting fast enough or trusting the game plan fully.”
Hawthorne failed to score in the opening quarter and trailed 6-0 heading into the second quarter.
“After the first quarter, it seemed like we settled down and found a nice groove and executed our assignments,” Adkins said.
Running back Brian James evened the score on a goal line rushing score, and then Tyler Jefferson added a 2-point conversion run to give the Hornets an 8-6 lead with 5:02 to play in the half.
With Wildwood backed up at its own 10-yard line late in the second quarter, Harding dropped back to pass and fumbled. Junior Jailen Ruth recovered and two plays later Hornets quarterback Chaz Mackey completed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Camren Cohens for a double-digit lead, 16-6.
The Hornets carried the momentum over into the second half and outscored the Wildcats (6-5), 34-8, and they advanced to Friday’s regional final with a 50-14 win.
“Once we began making a few plays, the energy was infectious and I saw a lot of athletes running around playing smart, assignment sound football,” Adkins said.
Up next in Friday’s 1A-Region 4 Final is a one-loss Pahokee team that eliminated Bradford (Starke), 38-20, last Friday. The Blue Devils’ only defeat was on Sept. 24 by one point, 35-34, to Class 8A Palm Beach Gardens.
According to MaxPreps, Hawthorne (8-0) is ranked No. 1 in the state and Pahokee (8-1) is ranked third behind Madison County.
“Pahokee has been dominant this season in the passing game, along with the running game,” Adkins said. “They boast a freshman QB (Austin Simmons) who has an offer from FSU, a 200-pound running back (Micah Steele), and are very big and physical up front.”
In the win against the Tornadoes, the Blue Devils were balanced offensively, with 181 yards rushing and 292 yards passing. Simmons completed 22-of-32 passes with two scoring tosses and Steele rushed for 156 yards and three scores.
“As always we are going to try and limit what Pahokee likes to do, but it will definitely be a contest where we need all 11 people on the field working as one unit,” Adkins said.
Pahokee received a bye in the opening round of the 1A playoffs and only led by seven at the half last week. Hawthorne hadn’t played in three weeks, which could explain its slow start against Wildwood.
Expect both teams to be in a better rhythm after Thanksgiving.
“Being able to match their physicality will play a role in that aspect, and we are glad to finally play back-to-back games after waiting a month before facing Wildwood last week.”
The Pahokee at Hawthorne game will be broadcast on 106.9 FM “I am Country” and online at IamCountryRadio.com beginning at 7 p.m. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
FHSAA Football Regional Finals
Friday, November 26 (All games at 7:30 p.m.)
No. 7 Nease (Ponte Vedra) (9-3) at No. 1 Buchholz (Gainesville) (11-1)
No. 3 Union County (Lake Butler) (12-0) at No. 1 Chiefland (10-1)
No. 2 Pahokee (8-1) at No. 1 Hawthorne (8-0)