Seton Catholic falls to Royal in Class 1A state semifinals, but former Hockinson coach Rick Steele said the loss could inspire the Cougars to new heights in the coming years
Hey, I’ve seen this before, right?
If history repeats itself, look out for the Seton Catholic football program in the coming years.
The 2014 Hockinson Hawks had their best regular season in the football program’s history.
The 2023 Seton Catholic Cougars had their best regular season in the football program’s history.
The 2014 Hawks won in the postseason for the first time, won a second game, as well, to make it to the state quarterfinals.
The 2023 Cougars won in the postseason for the first time, won two more games, as well, to make it to the state semifinals.
The 2014 Hawks drove four hours to play in the quarterfinals, only to get crushed by Lynden.
The 2023 Cougars drove four hours to play in the semifinals Saturday, only to get crushed by Royal.
The Hockinson football program would go on to win a total of seven consecutive league championships, and three years after that loss to Lynden, the Hawks won the first of back-to-back state championships.
The future of the Seton Catholic football program will be determined soon enough, but the coach who led the Hawks to their glory years said Saturday night that his team’s loss to Lynden in 2014 catapulted the Hawks to the upper echelon of high school football.
“This is a butt-kicking, but to me it’s a valuable butt-kicking,” Rick Steele said via phone Saturday as Seton Catholic was falling to top-seed Royal 42-0. “Seton Catholic only has one senior. Every one of those kids will have seen the class football in the state of Washington at the 1A level. They now know what they have to do as a football team to compete at the state level.”
While I watched the broadcast of Seton Catholic’s game Saturday in Royal City, I could have sworn I’d seen this game years ago. Back in 2014, I was in Bellingham when Hockinson had no answer to Lynden’s complete performance.
In the ensuing years, I watched Hockinson get better and better. Through the weight room. Through offseason dedication. Through competition. The Hawks were committed.
In August of 2017, their starting quarterback guaranteed me that the Hawks would win the state championship. He and the Hawks delivered.
In 2018, the Hawks repeated.
“Lynden kicked our butt in 14, and we beat them in the state championship in 18. It was because, I think, of that butt-kicking we had in 14. It showed us,” Steele said.
Steele, who resigned from Hockinson after the 2021 spring abbreviated season and is now an assistant at Hudson’s Bay, was following the score Saturday night, and he recalled that feeling from 2014. He would not be surprised if Seton Catholic makes the leap.
“It does not feel good,” Steele said of being on the wrong end of a lopsided score.
The Cougars, just like the Hawks, will remember, though.
“Those kids will get something out of this loss, a lot more than what they think they’re getting,” Steele said.
As far as Saturday’s game, this one was over early. Royal scored on its first three possessions to take a 21-0 lead midway through the first quarter. It was 35-0 at the half. Royal scored early in the third quarter to make it a running clock.
In defeat, the 2023 Cougars can take comfort in their 11-2 record. They also hosted a home playoff game for the first time in program history, picking up their first district playoff win. Then, as the 12-seed, they hit the road and beat No. 5 King’s 56-48, then rallied from 14 points down in the fourth quarter of the quarterfinals to beat No. 4 Cashmere 42-35.
Saturday, the Cougars went up against the top-ranked team in the state.
In November of 2023, the Seton Catholic Cougars just are not at that level.
Still, two-time state champion coach Rick Steele said if the Cougars take Saturday’s result the way his Hawks took their loss in 2014, the future could bring some championship moments to Seton Catholic.
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