Hockinson’s defense ‘rose to the occasion’ in state title win

The Hawks held Tumwater well under its season average rushing yards

By Andy Buhler, Columbian staff writer

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TACOMA — One of Hockinson’s main concerns in the week leading up to the 2A state football championship was Tumwater’s vaunted Wing-T offense.

The team spent much of the week studying the run-focused offense, and game-planning for how to slow — if not stop — the Thunderbirds.

Well, it worked.

Hockinson’s defense delivered more big plays than it allowed in its 35-22 win over Tumwater at the Tacoma Dome on Saturday. And against Tumwater’s imposing size, the linemen stood tall.

“We won that game in the trenches today.” Hockinson head coach Rick Steele said. “I’m proud of my kids. We were exhausted, I’m glad it didn’t go to overtime.”

While a lot of attention will be given to the Hockinson offense, and rightly so, many were quick to praise the defensive performance.

“We rose to the occasion, defense especially,” quarterback Canon Racanelli said. I’m so proud of that defense.”

Hockinson held Tumwater to 268 rushing yards as a team. The T-Birds averaged just under 340 yards a game on the season.

Its stable of backs were led by Dylan Paine’s 105 yards. Zane Murphy had 79 yards on 11 carries. And the T-Birds passed more than usual — five completions on 11 attempts. When Hockinson took a 35-16 lead with just over two minutes to play, Tumwater was forced to find big plays through the air. And it led to the game-sealing pick-six.

“We knew they were going to be a run-heavy offense, they were big up front, strong, tough, we knew they were going to play tough — we just needed to play harder than them,” lineman Nathan Balderas said.

When the Hawks fumbled the kickoff back to the Thunderbirds in the first quarter after going down 7-0, holding the T-Birds to a field goal was a big defensive win.

“I’m just so proud of our defense to stand up and hold them to three,” Steele said.

“Big game, big stage big opponent. Lesser teams would’ve throw in the towel, and we didn’t.”

Not to mention it was a big defensive play, Aidan Mallory’s 43-yard interception return for touchdown with 2:12 left, that sealed it for the Hawks. During a Monday film review, Steele told them team that if the T-Birds were throwing the ball, Hockinson would be doing something right.

“It was a hard game. I knew a lot of the game was going to be about us,” Balderas said. “If we did good, I knew our whole team would build around it and pull this win out.”