Ridaught: Saluting a great fall sports season

2022 fall high school sports collage
Area high schools and individuals had stellar fall seasons.

The fall sports season officially ends this Saturday night in Tallahassee.

That’s where the Hawthorne football team will play unbeaten Northview (Bratt) (13-0) for the Class 1R state title.

The Hornets, who are also undefeated, shut out Blountstown, 28-0, this past Friday night at home in the Class 1R state semifinals to advance to their third straight state championship game.

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Hawthorne (11-0) scored on offense, defense, and special teams in last Friday’s win against the Tigers (9-5). They also pitched their third shutout of the season.

“I thought we flew around and played very physical on Friday night,” said defensive coordinator Dustin Adkins. “We made a point of emphasis all week to limit big plays and we were able to accomplish that. We did not hurt ourselves with penalties or alignment issues, which is the start.”

Hawthorne head coach Cornelius Ingram said after the game that the team’s preparation during the week was one of the best he’s seen in his eight years of coaching. 

Adkins saw that focus on defense.

“I thought our players did a great job of rallying to the football and gang tackling all night,” he said. “When there were opportunities to create big plays we took advantage and that was the difference on Friday night. Always good to end a game and still see a 0 on the scoreboard.”

Hawthorne will hope the third time is the charm when the Hornets take on the Chiefs this Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Gene Cox Stadium in Tallahassee.

The game will be broadcast on 106.9 FM “I am Country” beginning at 6:30 p.m.

If the Hornets win the state title, which would be their first in school history, it would cap a big fall sports season that includes several individual state titles and three team state titles.

Within a span of 24 hours, the area brought home two team state championship trophies and a pair of individual state titles in early November.

Gainesville High junior Michael Mullen won two individual swimming state titles on Nov. 3 in Stuart, followed by the Oak Hall and Buchholz girls cross country team state titles the next day in Tallahassee.

Two weeks later, P.K. Yonge junior Lillie Nesty won a state title in the 200-yard freestyle and Eastside’s Hannah Ahn won the 100-yard butterfly.

That was sandwiched around the Santa Fe (Alachua) volleyball team repeating as state champions.

A total of five area football teams made the state semifinals this year — Hawthorne, Union County, Bradford (Starke), Columbia (Lake City), and Buchholz, which advanced to its second straight state semifinal but lost at Venice, 42-35, in the 4S state semifinals to finish 10-3.

“…very difficult for our seniors, but you know it was a great season, we just came up a little short against a really, really well-coached and talented program,” said Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore.

It was a good season overall for football, which has a chance to finish the fall with one more state championship.

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