A bunch of new players have had to step into big-time roles in order for Hockinson to make it to the state semifinals
BATTLE GROUND — The Hockinson Hawks finished the 2018 season with a second consecutive Class 2A state title and a 27-game win streak.
They immediately started to prepare for 2019.
They would have their quarterback back, Levi Crum.
They would have their top receiver and top defensive player and one of the best players in the state back, Sawyer Racanelli
And they would have another Division-I receiving recruit and shutdown cornerback back, Peyton Brammer.
Only, they wouldn’t have everybody. Only one is still playing.
“It’s Levi and a bunch of no-name kids now,” Hockinson coach Rick Steele said.
No names not for long, though.
Racanelli never played a down this season after a summer knee injury. Brammer went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 8.
Yet, here are the Hawks.
As they like to say, they are still here, still in the playoffs, still in the hunt for another state championship.
Hockinson will take on undefeated Tumwater at 4 p.m. Saturday at Tumwater High School in a Class 2A semifinal.
“For the last four years, we’ve been known as the Racanelli team (including older brother Canon) or the Brammer team,” Steele said. “I don’t mean it in a derogatory way. When we say it’s a team of no-name kids, it’s because they are kids you have not heard of before.”
Well, Levi Crum has to be throwing the ball to somebody. The guy has passed for 2,500 yards and 34 touchdowns.
The Hockinson running game is coming alive, too. And the Hockinson defense is still slowing down enough opponents to keep winning.
Interestingly, a lot of the guys doing the heavy lifting are juniors and sophomores. So the Hawks, in the final four again and hoping for more this year, are already feeling good about the future, too.
“This is going to be our team going forward,” Steele said. “No Division-I football players but some darn good high school football players.”
Liam Mallory had big moments as a freshman last year. This year, he has turned into a turnover machine on defense. He also has seven touchdown receptions on offense.
“It’s just the standards we have as a football program,” he said.
At the start of the offseason, he never figured he would be needed as much on offense, not playing behind Racanelli and Brammer. But, he said, he continued to work as if he were No. 1 on the depth chart.
That is part of being on a championship team.
When the injuries piled up, the Hawks were ready.
“We already knew we had the dudes,” Mallory said.
But it does not matter to Mallory if those dudes become stars.
“Everybody wants to make a name for themselves. In this program, that’s not how we do things,” he said.
Still, just by producing, by winning, names will begin to get recognition.
Makaio Juarez has eight touchdown catches. He is a junior.
Andre Northrup, a sophomore, sealed the state quarterfinal win with an interception.
Daniel Thompson (junior) and Cody Wheeler (sophomore) are doing wonders with the rushing attack. In the state quarterfinals, Thompson rushed for more than 120 yards and Wheeler rushed for three touchdowns.
Steele noted the play of Zackary Brandt, a lineman who missed the first eight weeks of the season due to a broken hand.
“He’s just been a gangbuster for us ever since,” Steele said.
And there is right guard Jake Rogers.
“He finally got his chance,” Steele said.
Yes, the Hawks lost two Pac-12 recruits in Racanelli and Brammer, plus they lost a Division-I talent on the offensive line.
Another “no-name” Steele admires is Adam Nute. Listed at 5-7, 161 pounds on the roster, Nute said he is actually 150 pounds. He plays outside linebacker. Not a starter earlier in the season, he got an opportunity due to another injury, and he has shined.
“The kids is 5-foot-nothing, 140 pounds, and the kid led our team in tackles in a game,” Steele said. “His mouthpiece is a binky. You can’t take that kid seriously.”
Yes, Nute wears a mouthpiece that looks like a pacifier — think D.J. Metcalf of the Seahawks — and yes, teams do have to take him seriously.
“I just put it on the line for my teammates,” Nute said. “We know we have to play as a team, play for the person next to you. We put it all out there and never quit.”
And they never worry about who gets the credit.
Sure, Levi Crum is a big name in this state. A championship quarterback who has won 24 of his 25 starts with off-the-chart passing and rushing numbers.
The rest of this players, though? The football community is just getting to know them.
Interestingly, they do not seem to care about the credit as long as the Hockinson Hawks get the recognition.