Hawkinsville has been on this stage before, but it has been awhile.
That makes the return special for those involved and for the fans enjoying the team’s run.
Now the Red Devils need just one more win to push themselves back to the top of the GHSA Class A football world as they face Irwin County at 1 p.m. on Friday in the Class A public school title game. The two teams will face off at the Georgia Dome.
Hawkinsville has won five state titles, with the most recent one coming in 2004 (the Red Devils also won the year before).
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“It’s been a dream of ours to get here and play for a state title,” quarterback Dakota Sloan said. “Finally, we’re here, and we just have to be ready to play. We can’t get overwhelmed by what’s going on.
“Irwin County doesn’t have anyone who has played in this game either, so they’re going to be equally excited about it. We just have to stay focused.”
The Red Devils (12-1) have kept their focus on the championship goal since losing to Marion County last year in the semifinals. That loss served as a motivating factor for this year’s team, and it gained its revenge last week in the semifinals, this time beating Marion County.
That game came on the road after Marion County won the regular-season meeting, also in Buena Vista. So the Red Devils are ready for yet another road trip, although this one will be at a much larger venue and on a larger stage.
“We just have to go play, nothing more than that,” said head coach David Daniell, whose team will stay with a normal-as-possible setup by driving up to the game Friday morning. “We just have to stick to our normal routine and continue to do the things we have done.”
This year’s senior class certainly has done a lot in its time with the program, helping to turn the Red Devils back in the right direction.
In Daniell’s three seasons as the head coach, Hawkinsville has improved from four wins to nine to this year’s 12, the first time Hawkinsville has reached double digits in wins since the 2004 season.
“We came in as freshmen, and we were thrown right into the fire,” Sloan said. “We were able to work all the kinks out as young guys, and now we’re here. We don’t just want to get here. We want to win the game, and that’s our focus.”