When the Hawthorne football team left the field at the end of the first half in its home playoff game against Wildwood in the Class 1R-Region 4 Semifinals, the Hornets trailed 15-6.
But when they left the field the second time, the top-seeded Hornets (9-0) were celebrating a 33-15 win against the No. 5 seed Wildcats (8-3) thanks to 27 unanswered points.
“We have been in that situation before,” said Hawthorne football coach Cornelius Ingram. “As soon as I walked in the (locker room) door, the guys hadn’t even sat down yet, I was already saying ‘we’ve been here before, we’re fine.’ Our guys were still upbeat. We were confident.”
With good reason.
One month ago, the Hornets rallied from a 21-0 halftime deficit to beat Union County, 28-21, in Lake Butler. A week later against North Marion (Citra), after a scoreless first half, the Hornets scored 13 unanswered points in a 13-0 win.
Plus, Hawthorne defeated Orlando Christian Prep on the road in overtime in the third game of the season.
They find a way.
But early on it was Wildwood who was taking control.
Wildcats defensive back Lorenza Simmons intercepted Hawthorne quarterback C.J. Ingram and returned it 23 yards for a score and a 7-0 lead with 7:31 to play in the opening quarter.
The Hornets answered with a 70-yard scoring drive which was capped by the first of four rushing touchdowns by Ingram, who ran it in from three yards out with just 30 seconds to play in the first quarter.
However, a bad snap on the extra point prevented Hawthorne from tying it up and the Wildcats led 7-6 going into the second quarter.
Simmons made another big play, returning the ensuing kickoff 46 yards to put the Wildcats at the Hawthorne 38-yard line.
Wildwood took advantage of a short field and scored on a 9-yard keeper by quarterback Jamari Dickens.
Following a Hawthorne penalty on the extra point, Wildwood decided to go for two and Vincent Brown, Jr. completed a pass to Jeremiah Colebrooks for a 15-6 lead a little over a minute into the second quarter.
“We had a couple of mistakes in the first half, capitalized after the halftime speech we were given, so we’re pretty used to coming back in games like this,” C.J. Ingram said. “We’re built different. Our coaches always tell us that we’re always good. The game is never over. We have to play all four quarters.”
It didn’t take long in the second half to seize control of the game.
On its first possession of the third quarter, the Hornets drove 49 yards and capped the drive with a one-yard leap over the top by Ingram with 8:34 to play in the third quarter to move within two, 15-13.
Hawthorne’s special teams had blanket coverage on the ensuing kick and the Wildcats began their first possession of the second half at their own 15-yard line.
Jailen Ruth, who recently decommitted from Washington State, made the first of several big plays in the second half, sacking Dickens and stripping him of the football, which was recovered by Hawthorne’s Demetri Perry.
That led to a 4-yard touchdown run by Ingram for a 20-15 lead with 7:46 to play in the third quarter.
Ingram added his fourth scoring run — a 37-yard scamper — with 6:38 to play for a 27-15 lead and Isaiah Donaldson ended the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown run with 1:25 to play.
“I loved the way C.J. bounced back and I loved the way our defense picked it up in the second half,” Coach Ingram said. “It was definitely a great win against a good football team.”
Hawthorne will host No. 2 seed Pahokee next Friday. The Blue Devils advanced with a 50-28 win against No. 3 seed Chiefland in the other regional semifinal.
Friday, Nov. 18
Class 1R-Region 3
Union County (Lake Butler) 27, No. 4 Madison County 16
Class 1R-Region 4
Hawthorne 33, Wildwood 15
Pahokee 50, Chiefland 28
Class 1S-Region 2
P.K. Yonge 35, Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy (Melbourne) 3
Class 2S-Region 1
Suwannee (Live Oak) 17, West Florida 14
Class 2S-Region 2
Bradford (Starke) 37, Eastside 0
Class 3S-Region 1
Columbia (Lake City) 17, Escambia (Pensacola) 15
Class 4S-Region 1
Buchholz 54, Crestview 33