Simon Burkett has accomplished plenty during his time playing football for Meridian the past four years, but Saturday marked a first – two of them, actually.
Not only did Burkett get the opportunity to lead his team into the Class 1A state title game in the Tacoma Dome for this first time since he’s been there, he got a chance to watch his cousin, Hockinson quarterback Canon Racanelli, lead his team to the Class 2A state title with a 35-22 win over Tumwater in the Gridiron Classic game before Meridian’s.
“It was first time I’ve seen him play a real game,” Burkett said. “A little seven-on-seven, but that’s about it. It was real cool to see them win.”
They only thing that would have made it cooler for Burkett is if he could have added a matching title. Unfortunately, the Trojans came up just short of knocking off top-ranked Royal, which claimed its third straight state title by outlasting scrappy Meridian 33-27.
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Though he didn’t win in his final game, Burkett put a solid exclamation point to his Trojans career before heading to Eastern Washington University next fall, passing for 305 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for a team-high 40 yards and two scores. And if that’s not enough, he added a 6-yard reception.
He finishes his career with 7,658 yards and 79 touchdowns passing and 1,564 yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground, including 3,868 yards and 45 TDs passing and a team-high 623 yards and 12 TDs rushing during his senior season.
Not bad. Not bad at all. ... Dare we say it?
“Very Slesk-esque,” said Meridian coach Bob Ames, comparing him to the royal family of Meridian quarterbacks that played for the Trojans the past few decades. “He’s right up there on top with those guys. Just as quiet and unassuming, but yet a fiery competitor.”
Being a competitor, just like the Slesks, that comparison probably means even more to Burkett.
“I’m pretty close with Slesks, actually – the baseball coach (Steve Slesk), his son helps out,” Burkett said. “I love them all. ... Pretty much growing up here, you want to be like those guys.”
So is this the beginning of another era in Meridian football, a new first family?
“My brother is a receiver, so he’s going to change the name up a little here,” Burkett said with a smile.
Burkett certainly has a soft place in his heart for receivers. All he did Saturday was complete passes to eight different Trojan route runners, including six passes for 95 yards and a TD to Bryce Vandenhaak and four passes for 114 yards, including a 55-yard TD, to Dawson Logan.
“They were bringing pressure,” said Burkett, who was sacked five times and intercepted twice Saturday. “I had to get the ball off quick and trust that my guys would make plays on the ball. They did a real good job of that.”
And Burkett did a good job guiding Meridian the past three months, getting them within a few seconds of possibly winning a state title. He was a perfect leader for the little team that lived on heart.