This loss will sting for a while, and Tumwater High School coach Bill Beattie knows that.
He addressed his players near midfield on Saturday afternoon at the Tacoma Dome, moments after the second-ranked T-Birds came up just short of the Class 2A state title, and said as much.
For the fourth time in six years, and ninth time in program history, Tumwater advanced to the state championship game.
But for the fourth consecutive time the T-Birds were defeated at the final stage, this time in a crushing 35-22 loss to third-ranked Hockinson, in the first-ever meeting of two Southwest District teams in the 2A championship game.
“They were ready to play,” Tumwater lineman Cy Hicks said. “They were prepared. We came out ready to play, then we stagnated, and we couldn’t afford that. They just executed better.”
For the first several minutes it appeared the T-Birds could be well on their way to the sixth title in program history, but Hockinson steadily climbed back.
Tumwater methodically moved the ball on the opening drive — with four consecutive carries for 54 yards by fullback Dylan Paine — eventually reaching Hockinson’s 10.
Zane Murphy then bounced to the outside and scampered in for a 10-yard score, and the Hawks fumbled the ensuing kickoff, again setting the T-Birds up inside the red zone.
Four plays later, Nathan Seaman connected on a season-long 45-yard field goal to give Tumwater a 10-0 edge less than five minutes into the game.
“We were off doing the things we wanted to do, but give Hockinson credit,” Beattie said. “They came right back and didn’t get down.”
Hockinson rallied to score twice in the second quarter on touchdown passes from Canon Racanelli to Sawyer Racanelli (3 yards) and Bailey Jones (17), and took a 14-10 lead it never lost into the break.
“We had a couple of miscues at the beginning,” Canon Racanelli said. “We came back, battled through it, and we really started putting points on the board in the second half.”
Tumwater’s defense stalled Hockinson’s first two drives in the second half inside the 35-yard line, and batted down several passes in the end zone.
But the Hawks completed a 75-yard touchdown drive on their next attempt, with Sawyer Racanelli catching the 11-yard score with 10:48 remaining to push the lead to two scores.
Jakob Holbrook answered on the T-Birds’ next possession, capping an 80-yard, 16-play drive with a 3-yard run to the edge.
The drive took nearly six minutes off the clock, and had Tumwater trailing 21-16 with 4:50 to go.
Then, disaster struck. Little more than a minute later, Sawyer Racanelli took a reverse 48 yards to the end zone for his third touchdown of the game.
“It was set up perfectly,” he said. “We just talked about it being there the entire game, and eventually we ran it.”
“Just the way they were flowing so hard, we kind of knew that play coming back was going to be big,” Hockinson coach Rick Steele said.
Tumwater tried to hurry its offense on the following drive, but Aidan Mallory picked off Elias Polito on fourth down, and ran in for the 45-yard score to give the Hawks a 35-16 cushion.
Holbrook scored his second touchdown with 1:27 remaining on a 6-yard scamper to the outside, but it was too late.
Tumwater finished with 304 yards of total offense (268 on the ground), but had trouble moving the ball on several drives, and were shut out in the second and third quarters.
“They were tough,” Paine said. “They didn’t gas out like most teams we’ve played this year. They stayed energetic, and didn’t let down to us.”
Paine finished with a game-high 105 rushing yards on 22 carries, and finished his sophomore season with 312 carries for 1,803 yards and 24 touchdowns.
But it was the Racanelli brothers that stole the show for Hockinson, leading the Hawks to the first state title in program history — and first team title the school has won since it opened in 2003.
“It’s been a life-long dream of ours to win a state championship together, and it came true,” Sawyer Racanelli said.
Both brothers also moved up in several categories in the state’s all-time record books for 11-man high school football.
Sawyer Racanelli, a sophomore, finished with 12 catches for 135 yards and the three total touchdowns on Saturday.
He is now fourth all-time for receiving yards in a season (1,766) and receiving touchdowns in a season (27).
Canon Racanelli was 27 of 45 passing for 316 yards and three scores against Tumwater. Both his passing attempts and completions were Gridiron Classic records for the 2A title game.
“He’s a rock,” Steele said. “He told a lot of people back in August we were going to play 14 games, and we were going to win a state championship. When that kid tells you that, you believe it.”
The senior quarterback finishes seventh on the career passing list (9,970 yards), leapfrogging former Lake Stevens star Jacob Eason, who is now at Georgia.
He also jumped former Lincoln quarterback Jordan Kitna, now at TCU, finishing with 56 touchdown passes this season.
Canon Racanelli is also seventh all-time in career passing touchdowns (124) and 11th in career completions (593).
“Not many kids talk about him, but that kid is one of the best quarterbacks, if not the best quarterback in the state of Washington,” Steele said.
Hockinson (14-0) is the first team currently playing in the 2A Greater Saint Helens League to win a state championship since Ridgefield won the 1A title in 1995.
Tumwater (11-3) last won a state title in 2010. That win and it’s previous four — 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993 — all came under coaching legend Sid Otton, who retired last season.
NO. 3 HOCKINSON
NO. 2 TUMWATER
T – Zane Murphy 10 run (Nathan Seaman kick)
T – Nathan Seaman 44 field goal
H – Sawyer Racanelli 3 pass from Canon Racanelli (Nick Charles kick)
H – Bailey Jones 17 pass from Canon Racanelli (Charles kick)
H – Sawyer Racanelli 11 pass from Canon Racanelli (Charles kick)
T – Jakob Holbrook 3 run (pass failed)
H – Sawyer Racanelli 48 run (Charles kick)
H – Aidan Mallory 45 interception return (Charles kick)
T – Holbrook 6 run (run failed)