TACOMA – When the fire alarm sounded at the Hockinson team hotel at 12:30 Saturday morning, Canon Racanelli wasn’t rattled.
When his team fell behind 10-0 before he had even touched the football, Racanelli wasn’t rattled.
At no time Saturday against a deeper Tumwater team with a state championship pedigree was Racanelli rattled.
Instead, Racanelli was a rock.
Hockinson built the foundation of its 35-22 2A state championship victory on the senior quarterback’s poise and leadership. He threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns Saturday in the Tacoma Dome.
“He had to have poise,” Hockinson coach Rick Steele said. “He’s been able to back up everything he said he was going to do.”
Those weren’t humble boasts that Racanelli backed up. In August, he told everyone around the Hockinson football program what was going to happen.
Hockinson was going to win 14 games.
Hockinson was going to win a state title.
“When that kid tells you that, you believe him,” Steele said. “And guess what, he made it come true.”
Having never advanced past the state quarterfinals, Hockinson didn’t have history on its side. So the Hawks set out to make their own tradition.
This year, that included a long trip to Spokane for a semifinal game against undefeated West Valley.
It included facing a Tumwater team with as much of a championship tradition as any team in Washington. The Thunderbirds were playing in their ninth state championship game, having won five.
As players lined up shoulder-to-shoulder for pregame introductions, Hockinson stretched across three-quarters of the field. Tumwater players had to get snug just to fit sideline to sideline.
When Racanelli looked across at the team with a deeper roster and richer tradition, he saw an underdog.
“We’ve been proving people wrong all year,” Racanelli said. “You come in and everyone says ‘but you’re playing Tumwater.’ Well, they’re playing Hockinson.”
That self-belief was Racanelli’s biggest weapon Saturday. He did get an assist from the pickle juice he drank in the second half after his legs began cramping.
“You’ve got to have the mindset that you’re better than that team,” Racanelli said. “Then go out and do your job and you’ll win. That’s what we did.”
Despite throwing for 4,121 yards and 56 touchdowns this season, Racanelli hasn’t gotten a lot of interest from larger colleges. At six-foot, 180 pounds, he’s smaller than most top QB recruits.
Saturday, Racanelli showed why he and his team keep coming up big. He escaped pressure. He had just one interception. He led his team in rushing, carrying 16 times for 65 yards.
“That kid is one of the best quarterbacks, if not the best, in the state of Washington,” Steele said. “I don’t care what level you’re talking about. Somebody is going to strike it rich. Some college is going to take a chance on that kid and they’re going to get one hell of a player.”
As sweat dripped off his bald head down his cheeks, Steele marveled at the quarterback who stayed cool all season.
“I think they saw something today, a kid that refuses to lose,” he said. “You can’t go wrong with a kid like that.”