Highlights: Racanelli has record-breaking game as Hockinson tops Lynden for 2A title
After setting three Class 2A Gridiron Classic records with five second-half rushing touchdowns, Hockinson junior wide receiver Sawyer Racanelli had no doubt Lynden was their toughest opponent.
That’s right, a junior wide receiver, and a Pacific-12 Conference prospect who posted 101 catches!
“Definitely, it’s Lynden, hands down,” said Racanelli, whose switch to the wildcat formation rallied the unbeaten and defending champion Hawks to a 42-37 win over the previously unbeaten Lions on Saturday in a 2A championship thriller in the Tacoma Dome.
“No doubt about it.”
“I sure didn’t expect to be running for five touchdowns,” said the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Racanelli, also a linebacker. “I think I came in with nine touchdowns running and 34 overall.”
He confirmed he has been approached “as an athlete by all but Arizona” among Pac-12 teams and it took an athlete of that caliber to beat the Lions (12-1). Lynden did itself no favors with three second-half turnovers that gave the Hawks (13-0) short fields for three of Racanelli’s scores.
There was also no doubt that James Marsh meant it when the senior quarterback/receiver/safety said, “I wouldn’t have wanted to be here with any other group of guys.” Marsh rivaled Racanelli with 120 yards rushing, 107 passing and five touchdowns produced — two on runs, two on passes and one on a catch.
Hockinson’s state-leading 27th consecutive victory was the closest of the six Gridiron Classic title games.
Yet, had it not been for an absolutely vital 19-yard fourth-down sideline pass from junior quarterback Levi Crum to freshman Liam Mallory with the Hawks trailing 24-7 with four minutes left in the third quarter, the Lions would have taken over on the 23 and might well have won. The play set up a 4-yard touchdown on Racanelli’s first wildcat scoring snap, pulling the Hawks within 24-14 before the three Lynden turnovers.
“I told the guys one loss doesn’t define our journey,” Lynden coach Blake VanDalen said. “We played the game selflessly all season, like a family, and I wouldn’t trade our team for anyone.
“What they did I’ll never forget. These guys gave me the belief I could do it (coach at a high level),” said VanDalen, formerly a longtime assistant in his second season as head coach after the passing of the legendary Curt Kramme.
Racanelli — who else on this day? — pulled off a trick touchdown pass of 11 yards to Crum in the second quarter to lift the Hawks within 14-7.
Marsh began Lynden’s scoring with a 12-yard pass to Kobe Elsner, his 10th touchdown of the season, after Brock Heppner’s 31-yard interception return on Hockinson’s lone turnover.
Later, Heppner fired a 40-yarder to Grant VanderYacht to help set up Heppner’s 27-yard scoring pass to Marsh. Heppner, alternating with Marsh, went 3 for 5 for 109 yards and also caught six of Marsh’s passes for 95 yards and Lynden’s last score. For the season, the duo combined for more than 3,200 yards rushing and passing.
Marko Samoukovic’s ninth field goal, a 20-yarder, put the Lions up 17-7 at the half. Lynden opened the third quarter with a Marsh-to-Heppner-to-VanderYacht 42-yard bomb and Marsh’s 2-yard run capped a 77-yard, eight-play drive for the 24-7 bulge.
Hockinson responded with a 75-yard, 11-play scoring drive — a push that would have stalled had it not been for the 19-yard fourth down pass from Crum to Mallory. The Lions fumbled soon after, at the 18, setting up Racanelli’s 3-yard score to pull within 24-21.
On Lynden’s ensuing series, Marsh netted 35 yards on three keepers but Aidan Mallory’s 29-yard interception return on the second turnover set up Racanelli’s 7-yard score, giving the Hawks their first lead at 28-24 early in the final quarter.
“But our guys never gave up,” said both Marsh and VanDalen.
VanderYacht’s 81-yard kickoff return set up Marsh’s 13-yard touchdown sprint. Samoukovic — who finished 51 for 52 on conversion kicks — gave Lynden a 31-28 edge with 10 minutes left.
The Hawks, though, were not to be denied, with Racanelli running for his fourth score to cap a 61-yard drive. Lynden muffed the ensuing high, short kickoff at the 28 and Racanelli soon had his fifth score and a 42-31 lead. It was a 12-yarder and helped give the remarkable junior 85 yards on 15 carries to go with five catches for 55 yards along with his trick scoring pass to Crum. Racanelli had 2A title game records for points (30) and touchdowns, both total and rushing (5).
Lynden still had a chance when Marsh found Heppner for a 23-yard score with 2:42 left, but the two-point conversion pass failed and Racanelli ran out the clock with five consecutive rushes.
“That guy is just a great athlete,” VanDalen said.
Bodie Human led Lynden with seven unassisted tackles and three assists and Preston King was in on 11 tackles, with five unassisted.
The Hawks received 160 yards passing and 70 rushing from Crum, who is also a junior, like so many of Hockinson’s standouts.
Standout Lynden lineman Cooper Brown, who plans to join the Marines after graduation, summed up what and many others loved best about a memorable season.
“The brotherhood,” he said. “These guys were like brothers.”
The other title game scores
3A -- Eastside Catholic 31, O’Dea 13
1B -- Kalama 34, Napavine 25
4A -- Union 52, Lake Stevens 20
1A --Colville 48, Newport 7
2B -- Odessa 63, Almira-Coulee-Hartline 12