2A GSHL Football: Hockinson seeks four-peat with perhaps most balanced team yet

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What’s in a recipe for league-title success?

If you’re the Hockinson Hawks, winners of three straight 2A Greater St. Helens League titles, there’s plenty of ways to answer that.

There’s defense, the staple of the Hawks’ first two league titles. Hockinson posted 12 shutouts in 2014 and 2015.

Then there’s last year, when you have Clark County’s passing leader quarterbacking your offense.

Hockinson is the first team since the 2A GSHL’s creation in 2006 to win three straight league titles. It’s searching for a fourth behind reigning league offensive MVP Canon Racanelli. He already is the program’s career passing leader and headlines a roster loaded in all phases.

But don’t Columbia River, featuring reigning league defensive MVP Koben Jamison. The Chieftains want to prove equally as big a challenger to Hockinson with their depth and size in numbers.

No 2A GSHL team is as big in numbers as the Chieftains, and if last year’s one-point Hockinson victory over River is an indicator, the teams’ Week 7 showdown could have league-title implications again.

Speaking of numbers, the league has one more playoff berth allowed to it. This season, four teams will advance to the Week 10 state preliminary round.

Washougal was one of the surprise teams in 2016, winning its final three games to snag the final playoff berth and snap a nearly decade-long postseason drought. Now, the Panthers are eyeing more and have the returning experience to do so.

Woodland looks to end its two-year playoff-less streak with the league’s only four-year starting quarterback, Wyatt Harsh, and perhaps the league’s best all-around athlete, Tyler Flanagan. Harsh guided Woodland to its last postseason appearance as a starting quarterback his freshman season in 2014.

Expect bigger strides in the offense from Ridgefield under second-year coach Kim Ulman, and quarterback Dawson Lieurance, who showed growth at a number of off-season camps. How the season shapes up could depend on the play of the Spudders’ offensive line, which is thin in numbers.

Tough times could be ahead for R.A. Long and Mark Morris, which both struggled with program depth last season. The Lumberjacks feature their third coach in three seasons, while the Monarchs lost 23 seniors off a team that went 0-9.

Individual team previews

Columbia River: Chieftains boost excitement by bringing back familiar offense

Hockinson: Hawks believe they have right stuff to join state’s elite

Ridgefield: Spudders want late-season momentum to carry into this year

Washougal: Panthers don’t want to be one-and-done after ending playoff drought

Woodland: Record-setting QB Harsh hopes to extend season into playoffs

Projected finish

Picks by Columbian sports staff

1. Hockinson: Hawks expect another big season from multiple playmakers.

2. Columbia River: Big numbers, new offense bodes well for ­Chieftains.

3. Washougal: Could be one of best Panther teams in recent memory.

4. Woodland: Beavers have great ­playmakers in Harsh, Flanagan.

5. Ridgefield: Don’t be surprised if ­Spudders pull off some stunners.

6. R.A. Long: Return of QB Owen Enriquez a plus for interim coach Rob James.

7. Mark Morris: Monarchs hope growth from underclassmen pays off.