Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Sept. 30, 2020

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Going on the defensive: Racanelli transitions from QB to DB

Central Washington football team going to use Hockinson High grad's athletic ability in secondary

By , Columbian staff writer

Canon Racanelli has a better appreciation now of football defenses.

He constantly studied coverages as a record-setting quarterback at Hockinson High School before starting five games for NCAA Division II Central Washington as a redshirt freshman.

But now, he’s part of a defense.

After a rocky 2019 college debut at quarterback, Racanelli is embracing a new role at defensive back for the Wildcats. And he’s enjoying every bit of it as he looks ahead to a redshirt sophomore season in 2020.

“I’m really excited for it,” Racanelli said, “and I think it’s going to be super fun. … It’s crazy how fast everything has happened.”

The school’s spring practices were scheduled to start April 5 and culminate May 4 with its spring game, but the COVID-19 pandemic ended spring ball before it began. CWU’s campus closed March 20. Like many college athletes, Racanelli is improvising. All academic learning — and football team meetings — is done online. Racanelli continues to train on his own, and the transition to defense was warmly accepted.

Even if it came from his own doing.

After winning CWU’s starting quarterback job in 2019, he started the first four games, including throwing for 146 yards and two touchdowns against the Idaho Vandals in his season debut.

But he struggled as the season progressed. By the time October hit, playing time diminished. He finished the season 62 of 138 passing for five touchdowns and four interceptions in six games. Racanelli takes ownership of his performance.

“I should have performed better than I did,” he said. “I think that at the end of the day, you have to do your job as good as you can. I wasn’t winning games.”

Racanelli went 1-4 as a starter, and was replaced by Christian Moore, who threw 28 touchdown passes and more than 2,200 yards in nine games.

While there’s some regret, Racanelli said he took something more away from it looking forward.

“I learned from it,” he said. “That was the biggest thing.”

Then came the off-season. Central’s coaching staff figured Racanelli’s football experience and athleticism as a 5-foot-11, 185-pounder could help fill voids in the secondary. That is, if he planned to stay at CWU. While Racanelli is a quarterback at heart, he said there’s more to him than that. That’s why he gave the green light when the offer to switch positions came up in postseason meetings.

“I’m a football player first,” Racanelli said, “and a quarterback second. … I love it here.

“I owe everyone else on the team more than just the five games I played my redshirt freshman year at 19 years old.”

The adjustment period from offense to defense has been swift. In fact, Racanelli’s experience playing defense was minimal as part of a stellar prep career at quarterback for Hockinson. In 2017, he set a single-season state record for total touchdowns (74) while leading Hockinson to the first of back-to-back Class 2A state titles. He finished his career with close to 10,000 passing yards.

He trained this off-season with the CWU secondary, and quickly realized how quarterbacking can benefit him at defensive back. And has gained a better appreciation for safeties and cornerbacks.

The biggest adjustment, he said, to learning a new position on a new side of the field is technique. With CWU’s Ellensburg campus closed, he continues to train at home in Hockinson, waiting for another chance to prove his worth.

This time, on defense.

“I had to completely relearn my footwork,” Racanelli said. “It’s totally foreign to me, but it’s fun to learn the opposite side.

“There’s a lot more scheme that goes into it than I’d even think coming from offense.”