Unbeaten Hawthorne hosts Gibbs tonight

Hawthorne football Brian James (left) and Jailen Ruth
Hawthorne's Brian James (left) led the Hornets with 259 yards rushing and Jailen Ruth tops the Hornets with 30 tackles and six sacks this season. (Photo of James by C.J. Gish; of Ruth by Suzette Cook)

On Monday night, three area football teams remained undefeated as Oak Hall School (5-0) cruised past Bronson, Bradford (Starke) shutout Keystone Heights and improved to 6-0, and Williston (5-0) ran over Newberry.

They join Chiefland (4-0), Buchholz (4-0), and Hawthorne as the only unbeaten teams remaining in the Mainstreet coverage area.

Tonight at 7 p.m. the Hornets look to remain in the group.

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The Hornets (4-0), who are ranked third in the state in Class 1R by MaxPreps, host Gibbs (St. Pete). It’s the first game for Hawthorne since a 48-6 win at home against P.K. Yonge on Sept. 23.

Due to Hurricane Ian, the Hornets were unable to practice for most of last week. However, the Hornets took advantage of the Florida High School Athletic Association’s (FHSAA) permissible day of practice on Sunday.

“We were able to get a practice in on Sunday which was very beneficial to our team as we were not allowed to have any practice or be on campus since Wednesday of last week,” said Hawthorne defensive coordinator Dustin Adkins. “Being able to get together and go over game plans, assignments, and the little nuisances that come during a football game was a relief and a sense of normalcy that was welcomed after dealing with everything surrounding the weather and hurricane that the state dealt with last week.”

While some teams have to play two games this week, this was an open week for the Hornets until their game against Gibbs got moved from this past Friday to tonight.

“While it is nice that this is the only game we have to play this week, we still only have nine games on our regular season schedule as we had scheduling conflicts earlier this year,” Adkins said. “I would love for our team to be able to play a full 10 game regular season, but at the same time safety and health are critical for any team trying to sustain a long run once the postseason starts. Playing on Tuesday almost gives us two weeks to be ready for our game on October 14.”

Next Friday the Hornets will travel to Union County (Lake Butler) for a Class 1R showdown between two of the top three teams in the state.

Adkins said there is plenty of work to be done.

“Honestly, our team is just scratching the surface of what we could really be this season,” he said. “We talk daily about the need to put together a complete game in all phases of the game, offense, defense, special teams. There have been games where one or two of those units have played lights out, while another unit did not execute up to our standards.”

The visiting Gladiators (0-5), who are in Class 2M, are seeking their first win of the season. They are coached by former Gator wide receiver Louis Murphy.

Murphy was Hawthorne coach Cornelius Ingram’s teammate at the University of Florida in 2006 and 2007 before being selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft in 2009.

“We’re also trying to work something out with St. Augustine, Brandon James, he was my teammate as well,” Ingram said. “He’s the offensive coordinator there so we’ll definitely have them the year after next.”

Gibbs lost at St. Augustine, 48-12, on Sept. 2.

Hawthorne also has comfortable wins this year at Middleburg (24-7) in the season opener, and at Parker (Jacksonville), 36-18, on Sept. 9. However, it took overtime to beat Orlando Christian Prep, 14-11, on the road on Sept. 16.

“Being able to be undefeated right now knowing we have not put together a complete football game is motivation in itself, as we want to see how good we can really be once this happens,” Adkins said. “The biggest thing moving forward this regular season is to fix little mistakes and fully commit to the weekly game plans and assignments we place on our athletes.

Adkins said if the Hornets “can shore up the little things and play up to our standards in all phases of the game, I love the potential that this team has.” “We have a lot of unselfish athletes who care solely about winning and do not worry about their individual stats or fame,” he said. “Coaching a team that is unselfish is any coach’s dream and something we definitely do not take for granted.”

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