It has been 10 years since the Hawkinsville football team has played for a GHSA Class A title.
Understandably, there is a lot of built up excitement around the program’s first shot at a championship since winning consecutive titles in the early 2000s, and those emotions will be released this week.
The Red Devils face Irwin County at 1 p.m. on Friday at the Georgia Dome for the Class A public school championship. Hawkinsville won the last of the program’s five titles in 2004 after winning in 2003, as well.
“We realize we have something special here, and we want to keep it going,” defensive end Royce Owens said. “I’ve heard it a lot since (the semifinal win Friday) about how much we resemble the 2003 and 2004 teams and how much we play like those guys. If we’re going to be compared to any team, those are the teams we’d like to be compared to.”
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Running back/defensive back Malik Holliman knows all about those teams. After all, his brother played on them, and Kemuel Spivey has been bringing up those teams a lot.
“He’s always talking to me about his teams, and it’s inspirational to hear that,” Holliman said. “It’s great that we’re here and we get a chance to do what those teams did.”
The success in 2003 and 2004 actually started in 2002 with a run to the semifinals. That team finished 12-2, marking the first time since 1969 that the program reached double digits in wins.
The 2003 team went 15-0 and beat Lincoln County 18-8 for the championship, while the 2004 team finished 14-0-1 and tied Clinch County in the championship game.
Since then, however, Hawkinsville had not reached double figures in wins until this season. This year’s 12-1 team suffered its only loss to Marion County in October but avenged that loss last week in the semifinals.
Head coach David Daniell served as an assistant coach for four seasons before taking over as the head coach in 2012. The Red Devils finished 4-6 that season before going 9-4 in 2013, losing to Marion County in the semifinals.
“This is special, but it’s really special for me because it means so much to these kids and the community,” Daniell said. “I’m not sure if you’d call it rock bottom or not, but we hit it, and we have bounced back from that. That’s really satisfying so see this program have success and see the kids and community enjoy it.
“It’s crazy around here right now, and everyone is having fun with it. The folks in Hawkinsville love their football, and it’s going to be a ghost town Friday around here because everyone is going to the game.”