TACOMA — Elated teammates joined the sea of fans as celebratory smiles stretched across one side of the Tacoma Dome.
The Class 2A state title game was long over, the trophy presentation in the rearview mirror.
And for the first time since the final seconds of Hockinson’s 35-22 victory over Tumwater to cap an undefeated season, quarterback Canon Racanelli and his head coach, Rick Steele, made eye contact.
Few words exchanged, only tears shared when they embraced.
“That kid had it all on his shoulders,” Steele said, “all year long.”
No different Saturday, either, in the program’s biggest game to date. And Racanelli delivered — just like he has all season — but so did every single player, too, helping Hockinson win the school’s first football state championship.
Said Racanelli: “We’re excited to bring that trophy home.”
Senior Colton Wheeler had that speechless feeling of being a crowned a state champion.
“It’s so surreal,” he said. “We’ve worked so hard for this. So many hours off the field, on the field.”
For a school that opened 14 years ago that currently has 2A’s fourth-smallest enrollment, taking down a powerful Thunderbirds (11-3) program made the feat even greater. Saturday, Tumwater sought after its sixth overall crown in program history, and made its fifth 2A title-game appearance since winning it all in 2010.
This was Hockinson’s first state final in any sport.
Or in lineman Kordell Johnson’s words: “Just because we’re a small school nobody knows about, it doesn’t mean we can’t make a big impact.”
Big impact, they made.
The Thunderbirds had no answer for the combination that Southwest Washington’s known all season, and every team has fallen victim to.
Canon Racanelli set 2A title-game records with 27 completions on 45 attempts for 316 yards and three touchdowns, while younger brother, Sawyer, had 12 catches for 135 yards and touchdown catches of 11 and 3 yards.
Sawyer Racanelli’s 48-yard touchdown run on a reverse and Aidan Mallory’s interception return for a touchdown sealed it inside 3 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter after Tumwater pulled within 21-16 minutes earlier.
But even before that, it was pretty much all Hockinson — on offense and defense — for much of the game.
Tumwater had the momentum early behind a 10-0 lead in the game’s first four minutes. A quick five-play, 64-yard drive followed by a Hockinson fumble on the ensuing possession led to Tumwater starting its next drive on the Hockinson 18.
But holding Tumwater to a Nathan Seaman’s 44-yard field goal instead of letting up another quick touchdown and trailing 14-0, is the exact point in the game when Steele knew how much fight and heart his team had, and what was about to come.
“That was fantastic,” he said. “I knew we could win right there.”
Hockinson’s 14-10 halftime lead came on its longest drive of the half: eight plays, 73 yards, and Bailey Jones’ 17-yard touchdown reception couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Hawks needed just 1:40 off the clock to drive downfield, and Beslanowitch’s 38-yard grab on third-and-10 with 33 seconds left set up a first down. Two plays later, Hockinson took its first lead, and the lead for good.
From there, the defense stole the show. For a Tumwater team that entered Saturday averaging 341 rushing yards a game, it finished with 268, including negative yardage in the third quarter.
Hockinson limited Tumwater to just 12 points in the final 44 minutes after its 10-0 lead in the first four of the game before Mallory’s 45-interception return for a touchdown for the Hawks’ final points.
Steele called Tumwater defensive front the best “by far” its faced all season, and gave the game ball to the line on both sides. Once the opening series passed, the Hawks adjusted to Tumwater’s speed up front. Putting the 10-0 score behind them, they believed.
“We could take it to them, and not give them a chance today,” senior defensive end Kyle Brabec said.
Hockinson became the 2A Greater St. Helens League’s first state champion and is a believer is being the new Class of 2A. Canon Racanelli stated in August this team would play for a state title, and was right.
The Hawks want to make that a tradition starting in 2018.
“We’re that next team that’s going to keep on rolling,” Brabec said. “We have the pride, we have the drive. We’re the next team that’s going to keep it rolling and leaving that legacy that our mentality is we go to the Dome every season.”
Hockinson 35, Tumwater 22
Hockinson 0 14 0 21—35
Tumwater 10 0 0 12—22
T — Zane Murphy 10 run (Nathan Seaman kick), 10:11. Drive: 5 plays, 64, yards, 1:46 time of possession.
T — Seaman 44 FG, 8:04. Drive: 4 plays, -9 yards, 2:01.
H — Sawyer Racanelli 3 pass from Canon Racanelli (Nick Charles kick), 11:12. Drive: 9 plays, 44 yards, 3:00.
H — Bailey Jones 17 pass from C. Racanelli (Charles kick), 0:08. Drive: 8 plays, 73 yards, 1:33.
H — S. Racanelli 11 pass from C. Racanelli (Charles kick), 10:48. Drive: 11 plays, 75 yards, 4:19.
T — Jakob Holbrook 3 run (pass failed), 4:52. Drive: 16 plays, 80 yards, 5:56.
H — S. Racanelli 48 run (Charles kick), 2:58. Drive: 5 plays, 90 yards, 1:52.
H — Aidan Mallory 45 interception return (Charles kick), 2:12.
T — Holbrook 6 run (run failed), 1:27. Drive: 5 plays, 53 yards, 0:36.
First downs 23 12
Rushing yards 23-121 47-268
Passing 27-45-1 5-11-1
Passing Yards 316 36
Total yards 437 304
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 6-45 9-85
Punts-yards 1-40 4-180
Time of possess. 23:41 24:19
Sacks-yards 0-0 4-16
RUSHING — Hockinson: C. Racanelli 16-65, S. Racanelli 1-48, Colton Wheeler 3-11, team 3-(-3). Tumwater: Dylan Paine 22-105, Murphy 11-79, Holbrook 10-69, Raushaun Tate 2-11, Connor Clark 2-4.
PASSING — Hockinson: C. Racanelli 27-45-1-316; Tumwater: Elias Polito 5-11-1-36.
RECEVING — Hockinson: S. Racanelli 12-135, Peyton Brammer 7-78, Jake Beslanowitch 4-82, Jones 2-14, Levi Crum 1-5, Matt Henry 1-2. Tumwater: Holbrook 2-48, Austin Faught 1-1, Spencer Monahan 1-(minus-3), Paine 1-(minus-10).