It’s fitting Brady Hawkins delivered Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan its first Class 11B state championship.

He grew up around the program as his father, Tim, is an assistant coach and Brady was a student manager. Brady was along for the ride as the Seahawks were regulars at the DakotaDome in Vermillion for nine-man state championship appearances.

He longed for his chance to shine on the same stage and give the storied program — which had won six nine-man state championships since 2001 — that elusive 11-man title. BEE suffered heartbreak in 2017 and 2018, falling to Sioux Falls Christian in the Class 11B final both times.

But Hawkins put the ultimate exclamation point on his football career and powered BEE to its first-ever 11-man title on Nov. 15, a 21-14 triumph against Winner at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings.

“It’s meant a lot because us kids growing up, we were the ones on the sideline running around watching and playing,” Hawkins said. “Every single day we dreamed about being up there with those kids, getting out on the field and playing like they did. That was just our dream, and seeing them win state championships and being able to do that was a dream come true to all of us.”

The football title was just about the only piece missing from his brilliant career and it led to Hawkins being voted The Daily Republic player of the year in 2019. He finished his senior season with 931 passing yards, 1,038 rushing yards, 15 rushing touchdowns, 17 passing touchdowns and 112 tackles in an undefeated 12-0 season.

Since 1994, The Daily Republic football player of the year has been selected by the newspaper's sports staff, and conducted via a point-based voting system that awards five points to the top player, four points to the second player on the ballot and so on. Hawkins was unanimously voted No. 1 in the voting and tallied 20 points.

Other players receiving consideration were Mount Vernon/Plankinton’s Jesse Hastings, Canistota/Freeman’s Trey Ortman, Winner’s Trevor Peters, Chamberlain’s Nash Hutmacher, Gregory’s Jackson Eklund and Canistota/Freeman’s Tyce Ortman.

Always a Seahawk

BEE coach Jeff Van Leur jokingly called Hawkins a “17-year redshirt senior,” cause of how long he’s been around the program. So naturally, Hawkins is like having another coach on the field.

“He knows what we want to get done and having that kind of leader out on the field is kind of like having your right arm out there with that kid,” Van Leur said. “He’s just a competitor and a great athlete. He’s got great athletic ability and he can make a good read for us and make things happen.”

He’s been going to practices with Tim since kindergarten and the two have broken down film together for years. That led to the pair forging a similar mindset on the field.

“He usually knew what I was thinking and there was a lot of times when I would go to tell him something and he would say it first,” Tim said. “He had seen it all. He knew what we tried doing for throughout the years.”

But the two did struggle separating player-coach and father-son.

“When he was younger, he found it kind of hard to separate dad from coach,” Tim said. “But obviously as he matured and got older, he understood there’s got to be two different sides to that relationship and I learned as well.”

Tim’s intentions were to make sure his son got everything out of his ability. It worked as the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder and all-state selection turned himself into one of the state’s best players.

“He’s a lot harder on me than other kids,” Brady said. “But it’s a good thing. My dad was a great leader for me and he taught me a lot. I was raised by two great parents. Both my mom (Gina) and dad are hard-working people. I was blessed they instilled that in me.”

Brady didn’t have a favorite BEE player growing up, but instead tried to take something from all of them. He singled out all-staters Josh Endres, Anthony Huber, Kendall Lindeman and Ryan Hanks as some of his favorites. Endres was The Daily Republic’s player of the year in 2007, but Hawkins is only the second Seahawk to receive the honor.

“When I was a little kid I wanted to be a running back because we’ve always been known for having good running backs,” Brady said. “Those kids just drove me to kind of have that motivation to grow up and be like them.”

Hawkins has done a little bit of everything for the Seahawks. After serving as student manager, he lined up at running back in junior high. He’s played everything from quarterback, linebacker, running back, tight end, wide receiver, defensive back, punter and kicker in high school.

“He’s got great athletic skills and that second gear to run away from somebody,” Van Leur said. “He can play physical and just has good knowledge of the game. He’s just one of those special athletes that come through once in a great while.”

Going out in style

Brady has left his stamp on the already storied program. He graduates as the career leader in passing yards (2,874), completions (138), passing touchdowns (35) and tackles (302).

But it wasn’t complete without the championship. Hawkins’ final football game will be remembered among Seahawk lore for years to come. Hawkins recorded 152 passing yards and three touchdowns in the title game, while also rushing for 77 yards. He posted 12 tackles on defense on his way to game MVP and Outstanding Back honors.

He threw pinpoint touchdown passes to Eric Gustafson, Jonah Hofer and Chase Arend for BEE’s three scores in the 21-14 victory. But Hawkins will always remember his teammates lifting him up after a late fumble that gave Winner life.

Hawkins put the ball on the turf as BEE was attempting to run out the clock. The Warriors drove deep the ball down to BEE’s one-yard line, but a goal-line stand helped preserve the victory.

“My teammates knew I was down (after the fumble),” Brady said. “But my biggest memory is going to be all of them picking me up and saying, 'That doesn’t matter. We are going to go stop them right here.' We all grabbed each other and said, ‘We are going to stick ‘em right here,’ and that's something I am never going to forget.”

The future

Hawkins has also starred for Mitchell Post 18 baseball program in recent years, and had a host of options to play football and baseball in college. He committed to South Dakota State University in August to play baseball. But major college football programs still showed interest before he recently signed with the Jacks. Tim was an all-conference punter for the Jacks, while Gina was a track and field athlete at SDSU.

Nebraska, Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan State and Stanford stayed in contact with him during the season. He visited Nebraska, but remained set on sticking with the Jackrabbits for baseball and called it the “hardest decision of his life.”

“It was tough because I love all sports equally, and I felt like I had so much more to me I could give in baseball still,” Brady said. “I just wanted to see how far I could go with that when I really get the attention at college. The training they give you and I want to see how much more I can develop in that sport.”

That’s what made going out with the state football title mean that much more for Brady and Tim.

“That was icing on the cake, knowing that I was watching him play his last game ever in a football uniform,” Tim said. “That was pretty special making sure he went out on top. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Here's a look at the other players who received consideration, with point totals in parentheses:

Jesse Hastings, Mount Vernon/Plankinton (12): Hastings, a 6-foot, 230-pound running back, posted a big senior season, carrying the ball 188 times for 1,713 yards and 30 touchdowns, and surpassing 5,000 yards for his career and 83 touchdowns. He also had 26 tackles, three sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss for the Titans. Hastings will play football at North Dakota State University.

Trey Ortman, Canistota/Freeman (12): The 6-foot-2 senior Ortman once again engineered the Pride’s Class 9A championship offense with efficiency, tallying 1,154 yards passing on 77 of 140 attempts and 16 touchdowns to three interceptions. He also ran 70 times for 438 yards and nine touchdowns. For his career, he threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 47 touchdowns, while adding 28 rushing touchdowns.

Trevor Peters, Winner (10): Peters was the leading rusher for the Warriors for a second straight year, helping the Warriors reach the Class 11B championship game. The 5-foot-10 senior ran for 1,299 yards on 167 carries and 27 touchdowns, and added 52 tackles and three interceptions on defense.

Nash Hutmacher, Chamberlain (4): Hutmacher, the 6-foot-3, 300-pound senior defensive tackle and offensive guard, once again posted a Class 11B all-state season, proving to be a menace on both sides of the ball. The future Nebraska football player had 88 total tackles, recovered three fumbles and had four sacks, while helping Chamberlain’s offense to 27 points and 306 yards of total offense per game.

Tyce Ortman, Canistota/Freeman (1): Ortman, who moved to running back from primarily receiver last year, had 1,465 yards on 142 carries and 18 touchdowns, while hauling in 25 catches for 329 yards and six touchdowns through the air for the Pride, helping them win the Class 9A championship once again. A 5-foot-11 junior, Ortman also made 77 tackles and had six interceptions on defense.

Jackson Eklund, Gregory (1): Eklund led the Gregory offense that posted more than 400 points this season with a 1,029-yard rushing season on 124 carries and 14 touchdowns. The 5-foot-8 senior Eklund also was among the Gorillas’ leading tacklers with 76 tackles on the season, as Gregory reached the Class 9A semifinals.

Previous award winners: 1994: Josh Ranek, Bon Homme; 1995: Josh Ranek, Bon Homme; 1996: Glen "Andy" Thomas, Gregory; 1997: Jeff Schultz, Freeman; 1998: Chris Mikkelsen, Gregory; 1999: Chad Greenway, Stickney-Mount Vernon; 2000: Chad Greenway, Stickney-Mount Vernon; 2001: Tim Dacy, Gregory; 2002: Justin Horn, Tripp-Delmont; 2003: Michael Veskrna, Gregory; 2004: Doug Carlson, Howard; 2005: Jim Williams, Hanson; 2006: Jake Steffen, Stickney-Mount Vernon; 2007: Josh Endres, Emery-Ethan; 2008: Earv Archambeau, Avon; 2009: Jayd Knodell, Winner; 2010: Jeb Olsen, Canistota; 2011: Jason Greenway, Mitchell; 2012: Jaden Bartling, Gregory; 2013: Brandon Kocmich, Avon; 2014: Luke Loudenburg, Howard; 2015: Windsor Barry, Winner; 2016: Spencer Neugebauer, Mitchell; 2017: Andy McCance, Gregory; 2018: Jackson Kinzer, Colome; 2019: Brady Hawkins, Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan.