Summer Sonic Highlights: Hawthorne football

Hawthorne celebrates with their first football state championship following a 13-2 win over Northside on Dec. 10.
Hawthorne celebrates with their first football state championship following a 13-2 win over Northside on Saturday.
Photo by C.J. Gish

Undefeated all season, the Hawthorne football team took home the state championship trophy in December for the program’s first title.   

Editor’s note: This is part of a summer series revisiting the best of Mike Ridaught’s 2022-23 weekly sports interviews at locally owned Sonic Drive-In of Gainesville. Ridaught and Marty Pallman will debut the 2023-24 show on Wednesday, Aug. 23.

The players and coaches joined Mainstreet Sports Director Mike Ridaught, and co-host Marty Pallman, on The Prep Zone Sports Show to discuss their season and incredible victory.  

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Below are excerpts from the Jan. 11, 2023, interview—edited for length and clarity—of The Prep Zone’s interview. You can listen to the full conservation online by going to

Q: What do you think was the key to winning at all this year? 

Hawthorne coach Cornelius Ingram (holding trophy) led the Hornets to their first football state title in December.
Photo by C.J. Gish

Ga’mon Randall (Sr.): We worked in preparation, a lot of field study and a lot of understanding all the players understand what’s going on in the field. It makes it easier on Friday. So just practicing everybody being together and we took it was hard time sometimes, but that’s come Park football. Coach Eric Williams came in to help a lot. We work hard every day, everybody. So, we expect to have good seasons. We put in the work and then just started to see that everything was going well. 

Q: Is there a game that stands out the most to you? And if so which game and why? 

Jiaden King (So.): I’ll say the Union County game. That game was down 21, and we came back.  Everybody had us down for the loss by 21. Everybody thought they were going to shut us out and we wouldn’t be able to score. But we still came out on top. 

Q: How hard is it to get to the state championship three times—that’s really hard to get to you know, the first two—you’re disappointed but then you got to lose by one. 

Coach Cornelius Ingram: It was extremely tough, but it shows the character of these characters. All of their parents or guardians are doing awesome jobs with them. And you know, that’s the kind of program we run. There’s a lot of people involved. There’s a lot of people behind the scenes. It was extremely hard, and I think sometimes outside people don’t realize how hard it is. They thought automatically that we would return to the state championship game even after the Baker year. They thought after losing by one point that we would automatically go back and win. Like, there’s a lot of things that has to go right and the guys must stay healthy. The schedule has to be perfect for home-field advantage, all those kinds of things, you got to play offense, defense. So, for these kids to continue to battle every single day, and not worry about the outside talk, if this focusing tells you what kind of a young man I get to coach 

Q: I just mentioned you know, your quarterback. I don’t even know if he was going to play or not. We knew he was hurt. And we know he was limited when he did play. So, excellent job of this particularly on that first drive I just talked about, because you did a nice job of mixing things up on the drive. 

Coach Ingram: Yeah, we want to definitely go out with some different formations. You know, move guys around, a lot of motion. But, at the end of the day, we still wanted to run the ball and set the tone. Obviously, our offensive line was our strength. And you know, we want him to go out of their best player with our best runner. Also played defense so we wanted to run a lot of power action, but we wanted to run it to him. I said that the opening drive definitely was a difference in the game and most of it was Brian James on that drive that opened the drive. 

Q: We’ll wrap up this segment with the quarterback C.J. Ingram who was injured going into that state championship. We didn’t know if you were going to play at all. Of course, you know, not only did you play but you made the plays when you had to but what was the extent of your injury? 

C.J. Ingram (So.): Going into the game, I was pretty nervous. It was my first time starting in that type of game. I knew I couldn’t do as much as I could or as much as I wanted to. But just being able to do as much as I can and just to help my team win, you know, pushing off any kind of hurt a little bit just to get the throws off. 

Hawthorne Hornets enter field at 2022 Class 1R State Championship game
Photo by C.J. Gish Hawthorne went 12-0 and claimed its first football state title on Dec. 10.

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