BATTLE GROUND — Needing a jolt of energy after a sloppy first half left their 2A title defense on the ropes, a pair of Hockinson seniors found a bolt of lightning.
Two plays into the third quarter, with the No. 4 Hawks trailing No. 13 Ellensburg, Hockinson quarterback Levi Crum tossed it deep to receiver Liam Mallory, who pulled the pass in with one hand, sprinting past the defense for a 63-yard touchdown.
Mallory intercepted Ellensburg on the next play from scrimmage, giving the ball back to Crum, who ran in a go-ahead touchdown shortly after.
When the two connected once more on a two-point conversion, Hockinson led for good, winning 21-15 on Saturday afternoon at District Stadium to seal its ninth-straight playoff victory.
“That was a huge momentum shifter,” Crum said of his connection with Mallory.
“After that touchdown we knew this football game was ours. We wouldn’t let someone come and beat us on our home field this early in the playoffs.”
Hockinson (10-1) fell behind after a nightmare end to the first half that saw its last three possessions end in two interceptions and a safety.
The Ellensburg (4-6) defense had been giving the Hawks fits for most of the first two quarters.
The Bulldogs held Hockinson without a first down in the first quarter and looked to be hemming in big plays from the Hawks. To add, the Bulldogs started four drives inside the Hockinson 40 in the first half, taking advantage of its tremendous field position to take the early lead.
They scored the first touchdown of the game on a 27-yard drive before answering a Hockinson touchdown with a 64-yard connection to pull ahead 13-7.
“The locker room was real quiet, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” Mallory said. “We went out there as a family in the second half and we did what we needed to do.”
Hockinson’s defense found its form in the second half, following Mallory’s interception and the team’s third-quarter burst by holding Ellensburg scoreless on two drives inside the 10-yard line.
The Hawks closed the game by running out the final 6 minutes, 26 seconds, turning once again to Crum, who ran the ball 12 straight times while picking up four first downs and forcing Ellensburg to burn through all three timeouts before kneeling out the victory.
“Our offensive line was dominant,” Crum said. “We knew we had to keep running the ball to keep the clock going. Our coaches put us in position to make plays and we executed pretty good down the stretch.”
Crum finished with 130 yards rushing, including 70 on the final drive, and passed for 165 yards and a touchdown.
Mallory had two interceptions on defense to pair with his touchdown catch and Jeremiah Faulstick had two catches for 53 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Hockinson advances to play No. 5 Lakewood (9-1) in the 2A quarterfinals next weekend. The Cougars beat No. 12 Sequim 38-12 on Friday night behind four touchdowns from quarterback Jared Taylor.
HOCKINSON 21, ELLENSBURG 15
Ellensburg 0 15 0 0 – 15
Hockinson 0 7 14 0 – 21
E – Dion Hardeman 6 run (kick fail), 9:25
H – Jeremiah Faulstick 31 pass from Levi Crum (John Charles kick), 7:33
E – Brenden Swanson 64 pass from Ryan Ferguson (Elijah Harper kick), 5:33
E – Safety, 0:32
H – Liam Mallory 63 pass from Crum (run fail), 8:23
H – Crum 3 run (Mallory pass from Crum), 6:06
RUSHING – Ellensburg: Dion Hardeman 16-31, Brenden Swanson 5-10, Henry Rinehart 4-4, Elijah Harper 2-1, Ryan Ferguson 5-minus 20. Hockinson: Levi Crum 28-130, Daniel Thompson 3-12, Cody Wheeler 2-6.
PASSING – Ellensburg: Ryan Ferguson 17-24-2-194. Hockinson: Levi Crum 7-13-2-165.
RECEIVING – Ellensburg: Brenden Swanson 4-94, Nolan Meyer 4-35, Bryce Messner 3-23, George Wright 2-21, Dion Hardeman 2-16, Wyatt Nelson 1-8, Henry Rinehart 1-4. Hockinson: Liam Mallory 1-63, Jeremiah Faulstick 2-53, Makaio Juarez 3-37, Dakota Souders 1-12.