Hawkins won a grand total of five games in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, so the Hawks’ 5-0 start to 2020 may come as a surprise to many.
Just not to anyone in the Hawkins locker room.
Coach Scott Evans said the groundwork for his team’s early 2020 success came a year ago, when Hawkins reached a much-needed bye week having lost its first five games.
“I’ll be honest, that was the turning point,” Evans said. “We came of out of that and beat two teams we hadn’t beaten in years, and then we beat Big Sandy, our rivals from five miles away. That made these kids believe. We got to the playoffs and played a really good Normangee team – and they are good again this year – and we had the lead for quite a while.”
Those kids were primarily freshman and sophomores in 2019, including leading rusher Kayden Upchurch, a wizened veteran as a junior after rushing for nearly 1,500 yards over his first two seasons.
“We were really, really young for the last two years,” Evans said.
So young that Evans was forced to play Upchurch as a freshman “even though we knew he wasn’t ready.”
Upchurch isn’t the only Hawk who earned a varsity letter as a freshman. Senior quarterback Zach Conde played as a ninth-grader. So did fullback/linebacker Braden Adams and junior lineman John Hester, who’s since grown in to a 6-5, 265-pound monster with offers from UTSA and New Mexico. This year’s roster is older, and the results are beginning to show.
“We’re finally to a point where we don’t have to play a lot of sophomores on varsity,” Evans said. “That hasn’t always been the case of late.”
A year older and much more experienced, the Hawks saw what they needed to do and continue to do it.
“The kids built on the success we had when it really mattered last year,” Evans said. “Beating Big Sandy, that was the big one. They are very confident now. They play hard and expect to do well. We get a lot accomplished in our practices and the coaches do a great job of preparing the kids to do well on Friday.”
The 2020 results prove Evans’ point. The Hawks have won by leaning on both sides of the ball. They topped Maud in a shootout to open the season 57-34. Then the defense tightened up. In their next three wins, the Hawks allowed just seven points. They received a Covid-related forfeit last week, giving them extra time to prepare for a Beckville team that’s already got a 34-14 win over District 9-2A-1 favorite Price Carlisle.
“This will be our biggest test of the year so far,” Evans said. “They make you defend the whole field and their kids play really hard. It will be a good test and I think the guys are really looking forward to it.”
They’re looking forward to playing more games that matter. One more win will guarantee Hawkins its most successful season since 2003, but the Hawks aren’t thinking about that. They’re focused straight ahead, on the task at hand and no further.
“Our kids believe in what we are doing,” Evans said. “They come to practice and are ready to take on the objective of that day, no matter what it is, and get better at it. They are focused and ready to move.”
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