BATTLE GROUND — Hockinson built an offense that took Washington high school 2A football by storm over the past two seasons, in large part due to its pass attack and high-level athletes out wide.
This year, the two-time defending 2A state champions have been forced to do things a little differently.
Hockinson executed a run-heavy ground-and-pound strategy and erased a two-touchdown deficit to beat Lakewood 29-28 in the 2A state quarterfinals on Saturday night at Battle Ground’s District Stadium.
Here are five takeaways:
INJURIES FORCED ITS HAND, SO HAWKS RETURNED TO RUNNING ROOTS
Rick Steele was Hockinson’s first coach when the school opened in 2003.
He’ll tell you about the mud-splattered games on Hockinson’s grass field with his Wing-T formation, where every inch gained on offense was earned.
Hockinson updated its offense to tailor to the talents of its personnel over the past few years and took the state by storm with an air attack that broke the state’s single season passing TD record (74) in 2017.
But after injuries to its two top receiving weapons this year, the Hawks have been forced to adopt the run.
Three-star Washington commit Sawyer Racanelli suffered a torn ACL before the season started, and Brammer tore multiple ligaments in his knee in Week 8.
Hockinson adjusted. Its offense has been more run-based and balanced ever since Week 8, and that was on display Saturday.
“We’ve had adversity every week whether that’s losing players or injuries,” senior quarterback Levi Crum said. “Whatever we need to do to win football games, if I’ve got to throw it 45 times, I’ll throw it. If I’ve got to run it, I’ll run it. Coaches put us in position and we make the plays.”
HOCKINSON’S COMEBACK WAS BOLSTERED BY TURNOVERS.
Two fumbles. A crucial interception.
Hockinson needed all three of those forced turnovers to end up in their hands as it trudged back from
Those turnovers forced the offense to respond in kind.
On the Hawks’ final scoring drive, which ended with a short Cody Wheeler run and Crum pass for the two-point conversion, Hockinson converted two fourth downs.
The first, a 4th and 10 from the Lakewood 35, Crum hit tight end Jeremiah Faulstick for 20 yards. The second? Wheeler, a sophomore, took a direct snap six yards on fourth and two inside the Lakewood five yard line.
IT’S THIS TRANSFER RUNNING BACK’S TIME TO SHINE
Running back Daniel Thompson transferred to pass-heavy Hockinson knowing it didn’t have much of an emphasis on the run over the last two seasons.
Circumstance hit, and now Thompson, now a two-time all-league selection who came from Battle Ground High School, is an important dimension of the re-tooled Hockinson offense.
The quick, jittery junior had 691 yards and five touchdowns entering the quarterfinals, and has been a the lightning to sophomore Cody Wheeler’s thunder in a re-tooled Hockinson offense.
And he had the game-sealing run in the game’s final minute.
Video of Thompson's game-sealing run posted to Twitter by Micah Rice of The Columbian.
CRUM ISN’T JUST HOCKINSON’S QUARTERBACK. HE’S AN EMOTIONAL LEADER.
Crum celebrated big plays late in the game by letting out honest, raw emotion.
Fist pumps. Excited jumps. Guttural yells only barely drowned out by the raucous crowd.
Perhaps he’s yelling a little bit louder than he was entering the season. Crum believed his senior year would be spent throwing the ball all over the field to Division I-level wide receivers Racanelli and Brammer, who also happen to be some of his best friends (Racenelli is his first cousin).
When Hockinson found itself in a two-touchdown hole int he second half on Saturday, “we had no other option but flip the switch,” Crum said.
At any moment, Crum could have looked to the sidelines and seen Racanelli jumping around in street clothes, more than halfway through ACL recovery, and Brammer with his foot elevated just weeks removed from knee surgery.
And in the game’s decision moments, Crum played like the season rested on his shoulders.
LAKEWOOD’S RUN ENDED BEFORE IT WANTED. BUT IT ACCOMPLISHED ITS GOAL IN THE PROCESS.
Lakewood quarterback Jared Taylor has had one of the better seasons of any dual-threat QB across the state.
That’s been apart of the plan, as has the Cougars’ success, since pee-wee football, Taylor said.
“Our goal was to put Lakewood back on,” Taylor said. “We think we did it, we think we could have done it more. … it’s over, it’s hard, but it was amazing while it was here.”
Taylor entire the game with 1,071 passing yards, 1,245 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns. Lakewood had not made the state semifinals since 1983, according to The Everett Herald.
“Game just ended but in my head time’s been going slow,” Taylor said. “I’ve been thinking over everything that’s happened this season, over the years it’s something I’m definitely going to miss.”