Madison County running back Tommy House had 82 yards on the ground in helping Madison County win the 2021 FHSAA Class 1A State Championship on Sat. Dec. 11, 2021 at Gene Cox Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. [Bill Simmons/Main Light Events]

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It was a game for the ages on Saturday night at Gene Cox Stadium for the 2021 FHSAA Class 1A State Championship between the Madison County Cowboys and the Hawthorne Hornets.

It all came down to the final play with 3.5 seconds left for Madison County (11-3) to lay claim to the state championship over Hawthorne (10-1) by one point, 13-12 to give Madison County their sixth overall championship in school history while sending Hawthorne home as the state runner-up for the second straight year.

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Here are four takeaways from the game:

SPECIAL TEAMS DEFINES THE NIGHT

If there is one major thing to take away from the Class 1A State Championship game it was the fact that special teams miscues or gifts were the story of the game for both teams.

And for Hawthorne, it was all miscues and no gifts with Christmas just right around the corner.

The first part of the miscues for Hawthorne came with the two-point conversions after both of their touchdown drives that left them with 12 points on the board instead of 16 points, resulting in a four point swing, one that would come back to hunt Hawthorne.

The next part of the miscues was the one that would prove the most damaging for the Hornets.

With 8:05 left in the game, Tyrcee Pryor for Madison County would make the play of the game with a blocked punt that he would recover and advanced the recovery down the Hornets two-yard line.

On the next play Jamie Hampton would call his own number for the Cowboys taking it in for the score and what would prove to be the ultimate dagger in Hawthorne’s hopes to win Alachua County’s first state championship since Santa Fe won it all in 1994.

All of those miscues ended up costing Hawthorne what was likely the best shot of their first-ever football state championship in school history.

QUARTERBACKS LEAD THE WAY

For both Madison County and Hawthorne, the game was carried on the shoulders of their quarterback, both who will be returning for their respective teams.

First up was Jamie Hampton for the Cowboys who was responsible for both touchdowns for the Cowboys.

Hampton finished the night 2-of-4 passing for 39 yards and a touchdown in the second quarter that would win the ball game for the Cowboys and had 12 carries for 47 yards and a final touchdown in the fourth quarter.

For Hawthorne, Tyler Jefferson had a better night overall statistically on the ground with 19 carries for 111 yards and both Hawthorne touchdowns, but struggled with the passing game going of 5-of-14 on the night for 63 yards, being intercepted twice by the Cowboys.

In the end the quarterback were another factor to how the game unfolded in Tallahassee.

STAT LINES THAT MATTERED

Looking through the stat lines Hawthorne won the game in the statistical department, except when it came to one thing and that was with special teams.

On first downs, Hawthorne had 16 compared to Madison County’s 13 first downs which in football games that are decided by seven or fewer points can be crucial.

Another line was that Hawthorne led with 222 yards compared to Madison County’s 208 yards of offense. While that might not mean much, statistically Hawthorne should have won in this one.

However, the most staggering stat line in all, of this was the penalty yards, something that usually defines who should win a game.

For Hawthorne they were penalized eight times for 60 yards but for Madison County the line was even worse with 19 penalties for 145 yards, a line that says that Madison County should have never won this game by any means.

And if you look further, one of those penalties wiped out a pick six that took points off the board for the Cowboys.

But at the end of the night only thing that mattered was the score on the scoreboards and having one more point than your opponent and that is how it played out for Madison County.

FOUR IN FIVE YEARS – BUT THIS ONE WAS DIFFERENT

For Madison County, Saturday night’s win gave the Cowboys their fourth Class 1A State Championship in the past five years. The win also gave the Cowboys their sixth overall state championship in school history.

But this one was different for Madison County.

This was not like the teams from 2017, 2018, and 2019 that went on the roll of the three-peat of Class 1A State Championship games. Instead the season saw some interesting twists and turns of adversity that tested the will of the Cowboys that would bend them but not break them.

The first part was a spring game brawl with Taylor County that put multiple players on suspension by the FHSAA that ranged from one game suspensions to six-week suspensions, suspensions that could prove costly for any team with a season that only has 10 games over 11 weeks.

In all of that Madison County would go on to appeal the majority of the suspensions with a lot of them seeing the penalties getting reduced.

The second part was head coach Mike Coe missing a couple of weeks with his team due to some health issues that saw the assistant head coaches run things for Coe while he recovered.

And the third part that really defined the team was the three losses that the Cowboys took to Valdosta, a team that missed the playoffs in Georgia; Chiles, a team that stunned people with their win over the Cowboys earlier in the season; and Dunnellon, a team the lost by two to and a game that Head Coach Mike Coe said was the turning point for his team that got them rolling for the rest of the season.

In the end the taste of victory of another state champion under Coe’s leadership was the end result of the season that the Cowboys had called #REBOOT21

COACH’S WORD – MIKE COE