Hawthorne players celebrate in the end zone during their 40-0 win over Chiefland Friday night in Round 1 of the FHSAA Playoffs (Photo Credit: Keishla Espinal/ESPN Gainesville).

Hawthorne seeks First Football State Title

The Hawthorne Hornets (10-2) will take on the Baker Gators (14-0) in the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) football state championship game at Doak Campbell Stadium on Dec. 17. This will be Hawthorne’s toughest challenge all year, as they make their first state title appearance against an undefeated Baker.

Baker Gators

The Gators have an incredible season, as they are still unbeaten even in the uncertain times that the world has faced due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, Baker is coming off a dominant 41-7 win against the Snead Pirates on Dec. 4. 

Their offense was led behind their senior quarterback, Brody Sharpe. He threw one touchdown to senior Seth Baksa, completing three out of four passes. Sharpe also rushed for 37 yards and one touchdown on two carries in the win.

Gators senior running back Joesph Bronson rushed for 131 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries, averaging 7.3 yards per carry. Bronson has a tremendous season as he has rushed for 2,460 yards and 27 touchdowns as well as had 12, 100-plus yard games this year.

Sophomore running back Kayleb Wagner and Junior running back Ryan Fleming both contributed to the score with one touchdown apiece. Wagner is also having an incredible season rushing for 1,251 yards, 16 touchdowns and had six 100 plus yard games on the ground. 

The Baker defense forced four sacks, one interception, and one forced fumble, which held the Pirates to seven points as they prevail in the State Championship game. 

The Gators should look to run behind their two-back running system against the Hornets defense. Hawthorne struggled to stop Madison County running back in the Semi-Finals matchup.

Hawthorne Hornets

The Hawthorne Hornets did the unthinkable on Dec. 4 by beating the Madison County Cowboys 18-14, who were the Class 1A state champions for three years straight, trying to capture their fourth state title but came up short to the Hornets.

Hawthorne’s defense came up big against the Cowboys, recording four fumbles, two sacks and one interception to end the game. Hornets senior cornerback Samuel Driver had one of the most impactful moments in the game as he recorded a fumble and returned it for a touchdown to put the team up by four points.

The team will need an outstanding performance against a loaded Gators offense. They will need to contain Bakers running back duo who each has over 1,000 yards rushing this season.

Meanwhile, on the offensive side, the Hornets will need to rely on senior running back Dre Lawrence to get tough yards on the ground to open up the passing game for junior quarterback Chaz’ Mackey.

Lawrence has rushed for 944 yards, 14 touchdowns and averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He has rushed for two 100 plus yards games in the FHSAA playoffs this season.

Mackey needs to play a vital role in the state title game. Finding open receivers can put the game away early. This season, he has thrown for 1,282 yards, 15 touchdowns, and a quarterback rate of 85.5.

Hawthorne Head Coach Cornelius Ingram spoke on his upcoming matchup against the Baker Gators:

Hawthorne’s Key to a Win

The Hornets will need to play well on both sides of the ball to bring home their first football state title on Thursday night. And if they pull it off, they would have won three state titles in one calendar yard as they won the boys and girls basketball state title earlier this year.

About Syltavius Kelley

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