Hornet's Head Coach Cornelius Ingram, warms up his defensive backs before their game against P.K. Yonge on August 23.

Hawthorne’s Defense Propels the Hornets to a 14-6 Win Over Evangelical Christian, Featuring Two Former Gators as Coaches

On the road, the Hawthorne Hornets took a four hour trip to Fort Myers Friday afternoon to play a non-conference game against the Evangelical Christian Sentinels and the Hornets came away with a 14-6 win to move them to 2-1 on the season.

Turnover City

In the first quarter alone, Hawthorne put up all of its 14 points; both scores were the result of Sentinel fumbles. Key’Shaun Williams kicked off the game’s scoring by running in a touchdown from the eight-yard line.  After the game, former Gator running back and Sentinel coach Earnest Graham said his team was “losing the turnover battle every night.”


Later, Hawthorne quarterback Key’shaun Williams fired a pass to Jamal Nealy for another touchdown. After the extra point, it was 14-0 Hornets.


Changing Possessions

For most of the second quarter, neither team held total control. Possession of the ball was fluid and no more points were added to the board until the last two minutes of the half. With 1:19 left on the clock, Sentinel receiver Sean Shore scored the last touchdown for the night.

“They (his team)played soft in the first half and they should have been up 21-0 instead of 14-6,” former Gator and Hawthorne coach Cornelius Ingram said.


Back and Forth

For the remainder of the game, Evangelical Christian gave up two more turnovers. Interceptions by Key’shaun Williams and Sam Driver for the Hornets prevented any further scoring by the Sentinels. With one minute left in the game, the Hornets held possession at the three-yard line as time ran out.

“Great drops by our secondary, they got where they were supposed to be in the coverage,” Ingram said. “That gave us a boost. We knew we could play some defense- we were kind of struggling on offense- so we knew the D would be very important.”


Off the Field

Both sidelines held head coaches with not only NFL backgrounds, but also legends of Florida Gator football.

Home Base

Evangelical Christian’s head coach, Earnest Graham, played for the Gators from 1998 until 2002. He is seen as one of the best in UF running back history, finishing his time at Florida with 3,065 rushing yards and then signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003. After eight years with the Bucs, Graham’s NFL career ended with an ankle injury. Afterward, he was named head coach at North Fort Myers High School in 2013, where he remained until 2018. This past February, Graham jumped back into the high school football scene, where he remains the coach for the Sentinels.

He takes the things that he learned from his football career and brings them to his high school players. “I try to hold onto what a lot of guys taught me in terms of preparation. In terms of how to handle defeat. In terms of how to coach practice. I’ve played for some really great guys, some really great coaches. So, I have a really high bar of what a head coach is supposed to be,” Graham said.

The Away Side

On the visiting side, Hawthorne’s Cornelius Ingram wore his Gator jersey from 2004 to 2008. In his time with the Gators, Ingram had 64 catches for 888 yards, as part of two national championship teams.  In spite of an ACL injury that kept the tight end redshirted for his senior season, Ingram became a member of the Philadelphia Eagles as a fifth-round draft pick in 2009. He moved over to the Detroit Lions and then the following year, to the Denver Broncos. After two years out of the NFL, Ingram went back to his alma mater in 2014, where he became the head coach of Hawthorne High School’s football team.

Ingram knows how being a former Gator binds a community, as he has seen himself in Hawthorne as well as Fort Myers.

“He [Earnest Graham] is a former Gator Great and I have a lot of respect for him. I was just talking to a lot of their fans who are Gator fans, who have been in this community; they were saying how the program has changed since he’s taken over. That is just saying a lot about him and the character he has, how he motivates his kids,” Ingram said. “I know this will be a special program in the next couple of years. I am just happy that we were able to come and travel, it was big for our guys. A lot of our guys don’t get out of town as much, so us taking this trip, stopping to eat as a team, coming together basically as a family, and coming out here to get a win, was huge for our program and I’m glad we were able to come out.”

Written By: Rylee McIver

Interviews By: Chase Anschultz

Photos By: Rylee McIver

About Rylee McIver

Rylee is a fourth year journalism major with a specialization in sports and media at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications.

Check Also

Barco, Armstrong preview No. 1 Gators Baseball

Hunter Barco and Kris Armstrong are just two players of an incredibly deep, talented and …