TACOMA — Players gathered together near the 50-yard line teeming with excitement. The clicks of cameras were drowned out by the yells from the stands high above, and a cacophony of celebratory screams the team itself.
As the team posed with the trophy on the Tacoma Dome, marking its repeat as 2A state champions, Sawyer Racanelli stood in the middle flashing two fingers — for two titles.
For the second straight year, Hockinson mustered a come-from-behind effort to complete a perfect season with a 42-37 win over Lynden on Saturday.
Typically a wide receiver, and one of the state’s best, Racanelli had a role in all six Hockinson touchdowns — one passing and five rushing. He rushed for five second-half touchdowns to set the 2A state records for touchdowns in a state title game (previously three in 2012) and most rushing touchdowns (three in 2007).
“We put the ball in the hands of our best kid (to let) him make something happen,” Hockinson coach Rick Steele said, “and he did.”
Hockinson trailed 24-7 early in the third quarter, but pulled within 24-21 after a touchdown runs of four and three yards by Racanelli. On the next drive, Lynden quarterback Brandon Marsh threw a deep pass, which was picked off by Hawks senior defensive back Aidan Mallory, who returned it 30 yards to the Lynden 40.
“Huge momentum changer,” Racanelli said. “It just started to shift from there.”
The Hawks scored five plays later, a 7-yard run by Racanelli, to take its first lead of the game at 27-24 with 10:40 left in the fourth quarter.
It was the first of four lead changes in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter.
“Our offense just chipped away and we were big when we needed it the most,” junior quarterback Levi Crum said.
Crum completed 12 of 23 pass attempts for 160 yards and run 19 times for 86 yards. In addition to his 85 yards rushing (on 15 carries), Racanelli caught five passes for 55 yards.
Last year, when Hockinson beat Tumwater to earn the school’s first state title, the Hawks trailed 10-0 in the first quarter. A year later, a similar story.
Lynden’s Brock Heppner intercepted a pass by Levi Crum on the fourth play of the opening drive and returned it 31 yards to the Hawks’ 35. The Lions scored six plays later, a 12-yard post from James Marsh to Kobe Elsner into single coverage.
The Lions scored six minutes later on a 27-yard slant to Marsh. Both touchdowns, and additional passes of 26 and 40 yards, illuminated the absence of top cornerback Peyton Brammer, who suffered a season-ending injury in the quarterfinals.
Racanelli said he wore Brammer’s jersey No. 9 to honor his teammate and friend — a story he crafted after forgetting his own jersey at home.
After finding no success on its first two drives, the Hawks pieces together a 14-play, 63-yard scoring drive to pull within a touchdown with 9:59 left in the second quarter.
To Crum’s surprise, the Lions didn’t send an extra man in its defensive rush, and double-covered Racanelli.
“They stayed over the top,” Crum said. “That’s our football team, we like to go downfield. They’re going to try and take it away, but we figured it out.”
After Hockinson took its first lead at 27-24 early in the fourth quarter, Lynden ran the ensuing kickoff back 76 yards to the 13, then reclaimed the lead on the next play with a 13-yard run by Marsh.
Hockinson responded with a 10-play, 61 yard drive, capped by a one-yard touchdown run from Racanelli.
On the following kickoff, Mallory hit the ball loose and junior Niko Neihaus recovered the loose ball. Lynden would scored once more, a 23-yard pass from Marsh to Heppner, but Hockinson ran Racanelli up the middle to burn clock.
Hockinson’s move to the run game was a result of Lynden forcing its hand. But Steele said the quarterback-run package it deployed for Racanelli, and leaned on heavily during the final two drives, was a result of not being able to burn enough clock in the quarterfinals.
Hockinson led that game 35-7 at one point before allowing Steilacoom back in the game.
“So we really worked on that heavy formation and told the kids, hey, we’ve got to gain three yards a pop,” Steele said. “And if we do that, get first downs, we’ll never get that ball up. Tonight it came in real handy. They just couldn’t stop us.”
Brammer, who suffered a fracture in his right foot, saw a specialist on Wednesday to see if there was any way he could play. He was told that would risk surgery and an eight-month recovery, ruling him out for basketball season.
So Hockinson held a tryout this week for Brammer’s replacement on defense. Neihaus won the job (one person in attendance said he shut down all of the Hawks’ receivers in practice) and made his first start on Saturday.
The Hawks forced timely turnovers. And in the end, a team that has built a reputation over a now 27-game winning streak for its passing game, ran its way to another state championship — the first 2A program to repeat since Lynden won three in a row from 2011-13.
“You better bring a bigger stake if you’re going to get to drill to the heart of Hockinson,” offensive coordinator Josh Racanelli said.
HOCKINSON 42, LYNDEN 37
Lynden 14 3 7 13 — 37
Hockinson 0 7 14 21 — 42
L — Kobe Elsner 12 pass from James Marsh (Mark Samoukovic kick)
L — Marsh 27 pass from Brock Heppner (Samoukovic kick)
H —Levi Crum 11 pass from Sawyer Racanelli (Nick Charles kick)
L — Samoukovic 21 field goal
L — Marsh 2 run (Samoukovic kick)
H — Racanelli 4 run (Charles kick)
H — Racanelli 3 run (Charles kick)
H — Racanelli 7 run (Charles kick)L — Marsh 13 run (Samoukovic kick)
H — Racanelli 1 run (Charles kick)
H — Racanelli 12 run (Charled kick)
L — Heppner 23 pass from Marsh (Samoukovic kick)
RUSHING — Lynden: James Marsh 19-123, Trevin Melendez 8-30, Brock Heppner 5-7; Hockinson: Sawyer Racanelli 15-85, Levi Crum 19-86, Cody Wheeler 7-22, Makao Juarez 1-12, Garrett Gundy 1-5, Jon Domingos 1-4.
PASSING — Lynden: James Marsh 7-16-1-107, Brock Heppner 3-5-0-109; Hockinson: Levi Crum 12-23-1-160, Sawyer Racanelli 2-2-0-27.
RECEIVING — Lynden: Brock Heppner 6-95, Grant VanderYacht 2-82, James Marsh 1-27, Kobe Elsner 1-12; Hockinson: Sawyer Racanelli 5-55, Jeremiah Faulstick 3-60, Liam Mallory 2-31, Wyatt Jones 1-16, Garrett Gundy 1-14, Levi Crum, 1-11, Cody Wheeler, 1-0.