By Robert Wilson
Hartfield Academy had its best football season in school history last year when the Hawks were MAIS Class 6A runners-up in their first year in the highest classification.
Hartfield has added two transfers who might take the Hawks to even greater heights this season.
Senior quarterback Trip Maxwell, a transfer from MSHAA Class 6A Oxford High, and junior running back Gavin Griffin, a transfer from MHSAA Class 2A Velma Jackson High, are expected to give Hartfield a big boost on offense.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Maxwell was a backup at Oxford High for the past two seasons, throwing for a combined 1,014 yards and 14 touchdowns in 17 games as a sophomore and junior. He is expected to get more playing time at Hartfield.
“Trip has been a great fit to our school and culture,” Hartfield coach Craig Bowman said. “He loves the game of football and works really hard at his craft. We have a great group of receivers and Trip has worked really hard with them over the summer.”
Maxwell won the 5-play pro day challenge, competing against junior college and high school quarterbacks, at the 601 Elite Quarterback “Top 40” camp at Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, put on by private quarterback coach Wyatt Davis, who assembled some of the best quarterbacks in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama for the event.
“Trip should be considered a top guy for our state in the 2023 class,” Davis said. “He is definitely a Division I guy. Trip has a lot of ability. He is a smart and instinctive player with a big arm who is very consistent. Trip can make all the throws around the perimeter. He is a leader and competitor, who plays for his teammates. Trip has the ‘it’ factor. He is someone you want to be the face of our program. Trip adds a whole new dimension to Hartfield.”
The 5-9, 190-pound Griffin gained 1,156 yards on 147 carries, a 10.3-yard average, and scored 16 TDs to help Velma Jackson to an 8-3 record and a No. 5 final ranking in Class 2A in MaxPreps.
“We are excited to have Gavin join our school,” Bowman said. “He is a good compliment to the running backs that we already have at our school.”
Griffin will be one of the running backs trying to replace the yards and TDs from last year’s star, Xavier Davis, now a freshman at Northwest Mississippi Community College. Davis finished with 1,349 yards on 148 carries – 9.1 yards per carry – and 20 TDs, caught 11 passes for 110 yards and two TDs and returned nine kickoffs for 242 yards and two TDs last season. Davis was named to the second team as an all-purpose player on the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Team last season.
Junior Reed Jesiolowski – Hartfield’s top receiver last season with 22 catches for 450 yards (20.5-yard average) and six TDs – is also Hartfield’s top returning rusher, 318 yards on 27 carries (11.8-yard average) and four TDs.
Davis isn’t the only All Metro Jackson player Hartfield has to replace. All Metro selections Melvin Collins, a 6-5, 325-pound offensive lineman, graduated and Tanner Welch, a 6-8, 325-pound offensive lineman and Southern Miss commitment, transferred to Northwest Rankin.
Hartfield returns nine starters (four on offense and five on defense) from last year’s team, which finished 9-3 and lost to Madison-Ridgeland Academy in the state championship game. Hartfield lost to MRA twice and Jackson Academy once, but defeated Jackson Prep twice last season. Junior linebacker Chris Jones (84 tackles, 14 for losses, and a team-high 8 sacks) and senior defensive back Gage Sorey (a team-high six interceptions) lead the defensive returnees.
Hartfield opens the season Aug. 26 against Class 5A Magnolia Heights at home.