Hockinson’s deep corps of receivers bring size, speed into 2A semifinals

By Andy Buhler, Columbian staff writer

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As young as third grade, Sawyer Racanelli and Peyton Brammer would run routes in the backyard — or even in the house.

One of them would be defensive back, the other receiver, and Canon Racanelli, of course, as the quarterback. Wherever they went, there always seemed to be a game of catch happening.

“A football has been at every event (growing up) — even basketball and baseball games,” Canon Racanelli said.

All those games of “500” and Thanksgiving Day turkey bowls have paid off now that the three are key contributors to Hockinson’s deepest playoff run in school history. The receiving corps, headlined by Brammer and Sawyer Racanelli, has played an enormous role in the Hawks’ success this season.

But the beauty of Hockinson’s receivers, anyone associated with the program would say, is the depth. When the Hawks head to Spokane to face West Valley in the 2A state semifinals on Saturday at noon, any number of players could step up.

When Canon Racanelli looks down each side of the line of scrimmage on any given play, he doesn’t need to see who is out wide to know he has reliable targets available. And throughout the season, Hockinson has spread its passes amongst a stable of reliable targets.

“We have kids all over the field that can catch the football and can run after the catch,” Hawks coach Rick Steele said. “We wear other teams down.”

Lots of attention has been put on Sawyer Racanelli, a 6-foot-3 sophomore who is among the most dynamic receivers in the area. And deservedly so. This season, he has an area-leading 1465 yards. His 24 touchdowns are twice as many as any other receiver in Clark County.

But that extra attention has been fruitful for the Hawks’ offense, which features tall and athletic Peyton Brammer, Matt Henry in the slot and sure-handed tight end Jake Beslanowitch — who moved over to tight end from the offensive line before the season.

The quartet of offensive weapons have caught a combined 44 touchdowns this season.

“We’ve got 6’4, 6’3, 6’4, oh, and then Matt (Henry) will run past you,” Canon said. “It’s pretty cool to have guys like that.”

Truth is, part of Hockinson’s success offensively has been due to the stability and depth of the receiving corps.

“We always tell them, ‘guys, you would start for (a lot) of other teams in this league,’ ” he said. “We really truly have a lot of depth athletically in every position skill-wise. Being able to trust that (guys) can make a play — it’s a coach’s dream.”

A quarterback’s dream, too.

Beslanowitch, a junior, moved to tight end this season after two years on the offensive line. The Hawks didn’t run a tight end set last year, but Steele felt Beslanowitch had the necessary tools to make the switch. So he worked with volunteer tight end coach Hayden Plinke on cuts, routes, catching the ball and changed the way he worked out. He also went to the 7-on-7 camps over the summer.

He caught three touchdown passes in Hockinson’s district win over Aberdeen and has 313 yards and six touchdowns on the season.

“If Sawyer gets too much attention, Jake is there,” Steele said.

And say Beslanowitch is picked up by the safety, Sawyer Racanelli is likely to open up one-on-one.

Henry, the quick slot receiver, has 540 yards and six touchdowns through the air.

It helps, too, that one of the top quarterbacks in the state is throwing the ball. Canon Racanelli, who has thrown an area-best 3505 yards and 50 touchdowns with a 71.5 completion percentage (more than double the number of touchdowns as quarterback in second).

His field vision and knowledge of the playbook give the receivers the boost to never give up on a play, partly because they know wherever they are — or even if the play is broken — Canon can probably make the throw. He also makes about half of the team’s play calls from the field.

For each receiver the trust is there, and vice versa.

“He’ll do certain stuff during the play that we’ll pick up during our route,” Sawyer Racanelli said. “It’s just eye contact, or a point, or something that we have to pick up as receivers on the fly.”

For Sawyer Racanelli, and Brammer, that connection started years ago in the backyard.