Two-time, defending-state-champion Hockinson proving to be a tough out in the state playoffs

Hawks post a come-from-behind 29-28 victory over Lakewood with a late touchdown and a gutsy two-point conversion Saturday to advance to the Class 2A semifinals

BATTLE GROUND — The Hockinson Hawks did it again. 

They trailed at half for the fourth time in their past five state playoff games, but once again, they did not trail when it mattered.

The Hawks rallied from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit Saturday night and stunned Lakewood with a late 2-point conversion and a 29-28 victory at District Stadium.

Hockinson coach Rick Steele (left) and Troy Visnius (55) enjoy a moment after the Hawks’ come-from-behind 29-28 victory over Lakewood Saturday at District Stadium in Battle Ground. Photo by Mike Schultz
Hockinson coach Rick Steele (left) and Troy Visnius (55) enjoy a moment after the Hawks’ come-from-behind 29-28 victory over Lakewood Saturday at District Stadium in Battle Ground. Photo by Mike Schultz

Cody Wheeler scored on a 4-yard touchdown run with 2:50 to play. Levi Crum found Liam Mallory on the pass for the conversion.  And Andre Northrup intercepted a Lakewood pass to seal the victory. 

“We just play like a team,” Mallory said. “We’re not really a first-half team. I would rather be down 14 at half than be up 14 at half because our team is so good at battling back from adversity.”

The two-time defending Class 2A state champions will get to continue to defend that title, advancing to the final four to take on No. 1 Tumwater next week.

Reporter arrived just in time

Paul Valencia covered the Camas game earlier in the day, then made it to the end of the Hockinson game. As he arrived in Battle Ground, Hockinson’s Cody Wheeler had scored to bring Hockinson within seven at 28-21 midway through the fourth quarter. A couple minutes later, Wheeler, playing defense, recovered a Lakewood fumble. That set up the winning drive for Hockinson. Valencia got these post-game quotes to describe how it all went down from there for the Hawks: 

The Hawks had two fourth-down conversions on the winning drive, including a fourth-and-10 pass from Crum to Jeremiah Faulstick.

“At that point, it’s do-or-die. If we don’t make a play, we knew our season would be over. Players stepped up and we got it,” Crum said. 

Hockinson’s Jake Rogers (75) lifts teammate Makaio Juarez (24) in jubilation after the Hawks earned a trip to the Class 2A state semifinals with a 29-28 victory over Lakewood Saturday at District Stadium in Battle Ground. Photo by Mike Schultz
Hockinson’s Jake Rogers (75) lifts teammate Makaio Juarez (24) in jubilation after the Hawks earned a trip to the Class 2A state semifinals with a 29-28 victory over Lakewood Saturday at District Stadium in Battle Ground. Photo by Mike Schultz

Hockinson went into its heavy package, pretty much signaling to Lakewood that it would be running the ball. The Hawks got closer and closer. Then, from the 3-yard line, a direct snap to Wheeler.

“He’s a physical runner. We got him the football near the goal line,” said Crum, who acted like he received the snap and ran away from where Wheeler was headed, in hopes of drawing the defense to him. “The offensive line, they were moving people. They did a great job, and Wheeler scored.”

“It’s crazy,” Wheeler said. “It all starts with the line. They blocked great the whole game. It just feels amazing.”

That touchdown made it 28-27 with 2:42 to play.

Hockinson running back Cody Wheeler (44) attempts to dart around a Lakewood defender during the Hawks’ victory in the Class 2A state football playoffs Saturday at District Stadium in Battle Ground. Photo by Mike Schultz
Hockinson running back Cody Wheeler (44) attempts to dart around a Lakewood defender during the Hawks’ victory in the Class 2A state football playoffs Saturday at District Stadium in Battle Ground. Photo by Mike Schultz

The Hawks took about a nanosecond to decide to go for the 2-point conversion, to go for the lead.

“That was a great call by our coaches,” Crum said. “We weren’t here to go to overtime. We were here to win the football game. Players executed and got it done.”

Crum found Mallory.

“All I had to do was get the football there, and he caught it,” Crum said.

Mallory said the formation helped, too. It looked like another running play was coming against the Lakewood defense.

“We bored them to sleep with all the runs,” Mallory said. “We caught them off guard. Levi put the ball out there perfectly.”

Still, Lakewood had almost three minutes to try to respond.

Northrup ended that chance with his interception.

“It was in the moment. I couldn’t let anything get above me. I dropped back and baited the quarterback, and he threw it right to me,” Northrup said. “I do what I do.”

“That’s a prime example of a kid stepping up and making a huge play for our football team,” Crum said.

Hockinson tight end Jeremiah Faulstick (2) refuses to be denied by Lakewood defenders during Saturday’s state playoff quarterfinal game at District Stadium. Photo by Mike Schultz
Hockinson tight end Jeremiah Faulstick (2) refuses to be denied by Lakewood defenders during Saturday’s state playoff quarterfinal game at District Stadium. Photo by Mike Schultz

Daniel Thompson’s long run on a third-down play gave Hockinson a first down, allowing for the Hawks to set up in Victory Formation.

Time to prepare for Tumwater.

“Just amazing how this team can battle adversity and come through,” Northrup said. “Now we’re back and fighting for another state championship. We’re there.”

Class 2A quarterfinal

Lynden 29, Washougal 26

Washougal’s bid for the semifinals, as well as a chance to shock the rest of the state, ended in the final two minutes Saturday in Bellingham

The Panthers led 14-0 and 26-14 but Lynden rallied and took the lead with 1:15 to play.

Dalton Payne threw four touchdown passes for Washougal. 

The Panthers finished the season 7-5, but that included the first state playoff win since 1974.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com 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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