Tumwater has the championship history while the Hawks have faith this is their year as teams prepare for state championship game
It takes a while to read up on the playoff football history of Tumwater High School because there is just so much of it.
The program has 15 appearances in the semifinals, nine trips to the championship game, and five state titles in various classifications.
It does not take much time to look up Hockinson’s history.
Last week was the first time the program played in the state semifinals. This week will be the first trip to the Tacoma Dome, first appearance in a state championship game.
The beauty of sports, though, is none of that history matters. Not on Saturday, at least. Hockinson players such as Canon Racanelli, Ryan Sleasman, Matt Henry, Colton Wheeler and the other 10 seniors on the squad do not care that Tumwater won a state championship in 2010. It does not matter to them that this will be the Thunderbirds’ fourth title game in the past six seasons.
Class 2A state championship game Hockinson (13-0) vs. Tumwater (11-2) 10 a.m. Saturday at the Tacoma Dome Cost: $17 for adults, $13 for students and senior citizens (This ticket is good for all four games in the dome Saturday. There are also championship games in Class 1A, Class 2B, and Class 4A. (It is $30/$23/$23 for a two day pass in order to watch Friday evening’s Class 1B and Class 3A title games.) Streaming: For a fee, all title games can be streamed online at: http://www.nfhsnetwork.com/
Class 2A state championship game
Hockinson (13-0) vs. Tumwater (11-2)
10 a.m. Saturday at the Tacoma Dome
Cost: $17 for adults, $13 for students and senior citizens (This ticket is good for all four games in the dome Saturday. There are also championship games in Class 1A, Class 2B, and Class 4A. (It is $30/$23/$23 for a two day pass in order to watch Friday evening’s Class 1B and Class 3A title games.)
Streaming: For a fee, all title games can be streamed online at: http://www.nfhsnetwork.com/
Playing in that building will certainly be different for Hockinson, and coach Rick Steele will do his best to get his players a feel for the place prior to Saturday’s game. But once the game starts, it does not matter where it is being played. The matchups take over in determining the outcome.
“We can’t be awed by just being in that building,” Steele said. “We’re going to go to one of the games the night before so they aren’t spending time looking at the venue. Let’s just get ready for a football game.”
The Tacoma Dome hosts six championship games this week. There are two Friday night, then four on Saturday. Hockinson and Tumwater drew the early assignment Saturday. To prepare for that, Hockinson scheduled two morning practices this week.
Steele said he and the Hawks have heard the murmurs, those who think that whoever won last week’s semifinal between Tumwater and Archbishop Murphy would go on to win the state championship. He acknowledged that Tumwater is going to be the best defense his team has faced all season. Then again, he thinks Tumwater has never seen an offense like that of Hockinson.
“I’ve got Canon Racanelli on my team,” Steele said, referring to the quarterback with all the Southwest Washington touchdown records to go along with his bravado. “When that kid told you in August they were going to play 14 games, he made it happen. When he tells me we’re going to beat Tumwater on Saturday, I believe him. That kid will do everything he can.”
That confidence from the quarterback is contagious. All the Hawks believe.
“Colton Wheeler’s that way. Matt Henry’s that way. Sleasman. Peyton Brammer,” Steele said. “These kids, they just win.”
Each team has plenty of video on each other from this season for scouting purposes. They also have three common opponents. Can’t really tell much from the final scores of those games, though. None were close, although Tumwater had larger margin of victories over Washougal, Columbia River, and Aberdeen.
Hockinson is 13-0, but the only big school it played in the non-league schedule was a team that finished with three wins. Tumwater is 11-2 but the losses came against Bellevue, a 3A power that reached the state semifinals, and 4A Greater St. Helens League champion Union.
“It’s what we’ve always seen from Tumwater,” Steele said of his impressions after scouting the Thunderbirds. “They’re just so well coached. They have a system, a system that has been in place for 40 years. These kids have been running it since second grade.”
Other coaches who have faced Tumwater through the years like to say that the Thunderbirds only have eight plays. That might not be true. It just seems that way. Plus, as Steele suggested, that is all they need.
“They just execute them so well,” he said. “Sometimes you know by formation what’s coming, but you still have to stop them. Not many people do.”
The Thunderbirds average better than 39 points per game and more than 300 yards on the ground. Dylan Paine has rushed for 24 touchdowns and has more than 1,600 yards.
Then again, not many people know how to stop Hockinson’s offense, which leads all of 2A football in Washington with 598 points in 13 games, or 46 points per game.
Tumwater is accustomed to stepping up on defense. Tumwater held Archbishop Murphy to six points last week in the semifinals. Archbishop Murphy had been averaging 43 points per game.
“Their defense, their front four, is the best front four they’ve had in years,” Steele said.
Plus, the coach said, he expects them to have a lot of help in trying to pressure Racanelli. The Hawks are preparing for a number of blitz schemes.
“We got to do what we do, and that’s to wing that ball around,” Steele said. “The films I’ve watched, teams are able to throw on Tumwater. Protect the quarterback. We challenged the linemen to give him four seconds. You give Canon four seconds, he’ll pick you apart.”
It all comes down to a belief system. The Hawks know most people around the state think Tumwater is going to win. The Hawks believe in themselves.
“On any play, Canon can throw a touchdown pass, from anywhere on the field,” Steele said. “If our defense is playing tough, keeps us in it, Canon can get on fire and look out.”
It will take the best game by all of the Hawks, Steele said, but he has faith.
“These kids know how to win. They have determination. They truly believe they can beat Tumwater.”