Sawyer Racanelli talks about injury, faith, and his future

Hockinson standout, one of the best football players in the state, will miss senior season with knee injury

Sawyer Racanelli’s senior football season with the Hockinson Hawks came to an end this week, five weeks before the first official day of practice.

Or to put it another way, his senior season ended last month — only nobody knew it at the time.

Hockinon’s Sawyer Racanelli, the reigning Class 2A state football Player of the Year, is expected to miss the 2019 season after suffering a knee injury in June. On Thursday, he talked about the injury and how his faith is helping him deal with a difficult situation. Photo by Mike Schultz
Hockinon’s Sawyer Racanelli, the reigning Class 2A state football Player of the Year, is expected to miss the 2019 season after suffering a knee injury in June. On Thursday, he talked about the injury and how his faith is helping him deal with a difficult situation. Photo by Mike Schultz

Racanelli, one of the top football recruits in the state who has announced his intention to sign with the University of Washington, found out Wednesday that a knee injury he suffered in June was indeed a high-grade partial tear of the ACL. 

“I did not think it would be like this,” Racanelli said. “I thought it was going to be something small. Turned out to be something.”

Racanelli was at a church camp when he got confirmation. Racanelli said he wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else, surrounded by fellow Christians during a difficult moment.

Sawyer Racanelli. Photo by Mike Schultz
Sawyer Racanelli. Photo by Mike Schultz

“I know God has a plan,” Racanelli said. “You know what? It happened. I can’t really do anything about it. It’s the life of an athlete. These things happen. I’m just going to put my trust in God and just run with it.”

Making this injury seem even crueler, if that is possible, was a month of thinking it was nothing too serious. Racanelli and the Hawks were holding scrimmages with Union and Evergreen on June 15 during spring drills. Racanelli tried to execute a come-back route.

“I planted a lot harder than I normally do. I don’t know why,” he said. “When I turned, my foot was still planted, and I felt my knee twist. It was subtle. It wasn’t a blown-out knee. I didn’t hear anything pop.”

He jogged along the sideline. He had it checked out by an athletic trainer. He put ice on the knee.

“I thought I’d give it a month (and) I’d feel fine,” Racanelli said.

In the coming weeks, there were good days and bad days.

“I’d feel like I could jog and be fine, and other times, I’m limping,” he recalled.

Racanelli and his family decided to get more tests. X-rays showed his bones were fine, but then the medical team suggested an MRI for a “possible ACL” tear.

“My heart kind of sunk,” Racanelli said, noting it was the first time that he even allowed himself to think it could be that bad.

“I was praying. Anything other than ACL or MCL,” he said. “I can miss a couple weeks of football, but I cannot miss the whole season. I was almost in shock.”

He got the MRI on Tuesday then returned to church camp in eastern Oregon. The family expected results by Wednesday.

At first, Racanelli told his mom not to call with the news this week. Then, he added, he got anxious on Wednesday and changed his mind. He wanted to know. His mother broke it to him.

It was devastating football news, of course, but Racanelli said he quickly regained his focus. 

“Enjoy the rest of camp,” he said.

On Thursday, he said he talked to University of Washington head coach Chris Petersen. Even before the knee injury, the Huskies had assured Racanelli that the scholarship offer was “100 percent guaranteed” even if he got injured prior to joining the program, prior to signing day. 

Racanelli said Petersen reiterated that message.

In fact, the coach told Racanelli that a majority of players who have rehabilitated this injury come back stronger. 

“That felt good hearing that,” Racanelli said.

High school football players can sign their letters of intent in an early period in December or wait until the traditional signing day next February. 

Racanelli said he has a doctor’s appointment scheduled for next week, which will determine the course of action in repairing the damage and the plan for rehabilitation.

“I’ll be ready to roll by the time I get up there next summer,” Racanelli said of his future with the Huskies.

As far as this coming academic year, Racanelli said he will do his best to coach up his teammates. 

“I want to help as much as possible,” he said as the Hawks go for their third consecutive Class 2A state championship. 

As a wide receiver, Racanelli caught 101 passes in Hockinson’s 13-0 season in 2018. With rushing and special teams, he scored more than 30 touchdowns. He also was dominant on defense. He was voted the Class 2A state Player of the Year.

As a sophomore, he was the leading receiver for the 14-0 Hawks and a key contributor in the program’s first state championship.

Now he is preparing for a season on the sideline.

“It’s still going to be my senior year. I won’t be able to be out there, but I’m going to contribute as much as possible, spiritually and from a leadership perspective. I want to be involved in as much as possible.”


About The Author

Paul Valencia joins after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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