Hawthorne routs Pahokee to advance to state semifinals

Last Friday in the Class 1A regional semifinals, the Hawthorne football team trailed early against visiting Wildwood but the Hornets hit another gear and blasted the Wildcats, 50-14.

And just like last Friday, the Hornets turned an early deficit at home into a rout as the top-seeded Hornets crushed No. 2 seed Pahokee, 51-12, in a Class 1A-Region 4 Final on Friday night to advance to the Class 1A state semifinals.

“Great team win, great crowd, atmosphere,” said Hawthorne coach Cornelius Ingram. “This is why you do it. The game has to be fun.”

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It wasn’t enjoyable early, as Pahokee’s Tyreek McPherson intercepted a Tyler Jefferson pass and returned it 37 yards for the score and a 6-0 lead less than a minute into the game.

However, Jailen Ruth blocked a punt with 7:47 to play in the first quarter that swung the momentum the other way for the Hornets (9-0).

That led to the first of four touchdowns by quarterback Tyler Jefferson.

His 23-yard scoring run and two-point conversion gave the top-ranked Hornets an 8-6 lead with 6:13 to play in the first quarter. They would never trail again against the Blue Devils (8-2).

“They had us down a little bit but I knew I had to bounce back and help my team get back that momentum that we lost,” Jefferson said. 

Jefferson added a 14-yard touchdown run and a 15-yard scoring run in the first half. He added a 3-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and also added three 2-point conversions.

“Coming in our game plan was to run the ball and my offensive line, along with my running backs, did a great job of blocking, providing me with those four touchdowns,” Jefferson said.

In the third quarter, Anthony Morgan had a 50-yard pick-6, and Chris Jonas added a 66-yard interception return for a touchdown.

“With us establishing the run, it takes away from our passing game,” Ingram said. “So our two starting receivers (Morgan & Jonas) both had the pick-sixes. My pregame speech was, ‘let’s play for each other and if you’re a special teams player, you go make your play.’ Very unselfish guys. They were able to make great plays.”

Brian James, who went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season, finished the scoring with a 52-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter to impose a running clock.

Hawthorne will host Chipley in next Friday’s state semifinals. The Tigers knocked off defending 1A champion Baker, 22-7, in the Region 1 Final.

“I love being around this group,” Ingram said. “They really care about each other. We really have that family atmosphere. I’m just happy to play on Thanksgiving weekend and then play again after that. We have a very special team.”

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