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Domingos silently keeps Hockinson defense humming

Hawks not all about their offense in reaching 2A state semifinals

By Andy Buhler, Columbian Staff Writer
Published: November 21, 2018, 9:05pm

HOCKINSON — Moments after a second touchdown put Hockinson down 14-0 during the first quarter of its district playoff game against W.F. West, Jon Domingos approached quarterback Levi Crum.

“Calm the defense down,” Domingos recounts Crum saying.

Domingos, the starting middle linebacker and anchor of the Hawks’ defense, responded: “OK, get the offense going and we’ll be good. Defense will be fine.

“And that’s what happened. Boom. 55 unanswered points.”

Simple as that. The respective leaders of the defending 2A state champions reassured each other their largest deficit of the season would not signal a season in jeopardy.

It was an interaction befitting of the two leaders, particularly Domingos, whose calming, lead-by-example presence has been ballast-like for a defense that often goes unsung.

“If the offense is going, the defense, we feel relaxed. We’re ready to go,” Domingos said. “And when defense is going, offense isn’t, we’re like OK, just got to play hard.”

Hockinson proceeded to score 55 unanswered points. A day later, the inaugural playoff seeding committee named the Hawks (11-0) the No. 1 seed in 2A. And now they have reached the semifinals, set to face Liberty of Renton (10-2) at 4 p.m. Saturday at McKenzie Stadium in Vancouver.

And while pass-driven Hockinson’s offense has drawn attention and praise over the past two seasons, the defense, which has allowed a steady 15 points per game this season, has flown under the radar.

That’s just how Domingos likes it. He’ll flash a big smile, and give thoughtful insight when called upon, but the senior isn’t overly vocal. He has 117 tackles on the season, yet has never been interested in making a highlight reel. It’s not his style.

“I don’t like being loud,” Domingos said. “I’m not very good at being loud and giving great speeches and all that, I leave that to (junior Garret) Gundy and them. But I’ve always been good about staying calm.”

This year, he’s stepped into a bigger role as a leader. Domingos was co-anchor to the Hawks defense last season alongside linebacker Colton Wheeler.

Like a see-saw, the pair provided a balance.

“There was a couple times last year where I’m moving, and I’m like, ‘OK, Colton got him,’ and I’d slow down,” Domingos said. “This year I’m like, ‘I’ve got to go get them every time.’ ”

At the beginning of last season, an injury to a senior linebacker thrust Domingos into the starting lineup. He proved himself, and never lost that spot, even when the senior came back.

Determined to be a more physical presence this season, Domingos packed on 30 pounds in the offseason, going from 165 to 195 pounds.

He sat out the wrestling season to nurse a shoulder injury suffered in the state semifinals, and compounded by playing through it in the finals. As he recovered, he was in the weight room every moment he could and followed the strict diet plan set up by his dad.

He told Domingos: ” ‘Whenever you’re hungry, eat.’ I was like, ‘OK.’ That was pretty easy.”

His favorite bulk meal? Mom’s spaghetti.

Hockinson coach Rick Steele said Domingos was a “tackling machine” last year, and that hasn’t changed. What has changed is how physical he plays. The extra muscle has proved helpful for Domingos.

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“He’s a lot more of a physical force this year,” Steele said.

He’s also more confident hitting, especially coming off a shoulder injury. Couple that with his increased carries as a backup running back — 12 attempts, 92 yards, two touchdowns — he’s thankful for the extra bulk in week 13.

“Especially when linemen come to get you, you’re like, ‘wow, those are big guys,’ ” Domingos said, “and you have to move around them. And with a little extra weight you can get into them a little bit more, just throw a shoulder into them and get around them. So it makes your life a lot easier.

“When you hit people, they feel it more. It’s a lot more fun to hit people.”

That’s Domingos’ competitive side talking. But no matter how fired up he gets, the senior always keeps his emotions in check.

As a junior, defensive coordinator Clint LeCount approached him and told him as the center of the defense, he has to stay calm. That’s why players look to Domingos in tense situations, like the Hawks’ first round state playoff game against Washington, where some described the other team turn from chippy to dirty.

As personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct flags flew seemingly in perpetuity, Domingos called on the advice from LeCount from the prior season. And when the oft-quiet, unheralded leader spoke up, teammates listened.

“You have to think about how this will effect us later in the season,” Domingos said. “Watch your back, make sure you’re not going to get taken out with a cheap shot, but don’t talk back, and just keep going. Just play.”

Columbian Staff Writer