Deion Singleton already knew what it was like to win a state football title after helping Godby High School win the Florida State 6A state championship last season.
But the senior transfer never imagined it could be done the way the Chiawana Riverhawks accomplished the feat just 11 days ago in Tacoma.
“I think about it almost every day. How we stayed in the game. How the coaches kept talking to us. How we still had a chance,” Singleton said.
Singleton, a two-way starter at receiver and defensive back, was one of many who played a key role in the Riverhawks’ 27-26 comeback victory over Camas in the Class 4A title game.
But his contributions during the course of the season, which earned him Mid-Columbia Conference Most Valuable Player honors, also landed him another honor — Tri-City Herald player of the year.
The 6-foot-2, 170-pound playmaker not only caught 45 passes for 838 yards and nine touchdowns, he was also a big part of Chiawana’s stalwart defense, which allowed just 213 yards and 11.9 points a game during the regular season.
Singleton had four interceptions, but it was his mere presence at the safety position that made quarterbacks challenge cornerbacks Dre Dorton and Isaiah Richie, who combined for 10 interceptions.
He caught three touchdown passes in a 40-7 semifinal win over Federal Way; and he recovered an onside kick with under a minute left that allowed the Riverhawks to complete their state championship comeback against Camas.
Singleton, one of the most heavily recruited players in the state, still has some decisions to make as far as where he wants to go to continue his football career.
Miami, South Carolina, Arkansas and Ole Miss were among 15 schools to make offers before this season began.
Lately, several Pac-12 schools have entered the fray — including a late push from Washington State and coach Mike Leach.“He just told me I’m a good player right now and to make the right decision for myself,” Singleton said. “He wasn’t forcing anything.”
As far as coaches go, Singleton was impressed with Chiawana coach Steve Graff, who earned his fourth Class 4A state title in 17 years and was named the Washington State Football Coaches Association and Seattle Seahawks coach of the year.
Asked what he will remember about this season, Singleton said it was the assistance he and his family received from the entire Chiawana community after he transferred in last summer.
“It was all the help I had from coaches, teachers and players,” Singleton said. “Graff is a really good coach. He’s not one of those coaches that gets on you for no good reason.”
Graff, the Herald coach of the year, didn’t have much time to appreciate the championship drama while it was happening. After it was all over, however, he got a chance to relive the experience on the bus ride home.
“There were only a few of us on the bus, but coach (Kevin) Pedersen and I sat there and rehashed the whole thing,” Graff said. “I’ll remember the great group of kids we worked with, and the coaches did a great job preparing those kids. We got lucky when we needed to get lucky.”
Hard work and toughness — along with some mighty fine coaching — had a little more to do with the Riverhawks’ championship run than luck.
Graff gave credit to Singleton and linebacker Alex Weber — the MCC defensive player of the year who also filled in at running back when Austin Urlacher went down with a broken leg — for their big-play ability.
But he put his faith in the team as a whole.
“(Singleton) made plays that were huge, but it’s not that other kids wouldn’t have stepped up and made those plays,” Graff said. “The kids battled all the way to the end.
“It was one of the best state championship games I’ve ever seen.”
Singleton and Weber are two of 12 Riverhawks players filling 14 spots on the first team.
On offense, quarterback Joey Zamora, running back Clifton Lozano, receiver Singleton, tight end Grady Graff, and linemen Kayden Maughan and Chandler Newell got the nod.
On defense, the Riverhawks put linemen Mark DeRuyter and Juan Noyola on the team, along with linebackers Weber and Graff, and defensive backs Singleton and Blake Bishop.
Kick returner Dre Dorton and punter Logan Ellsworth also made the first team for Chiawana.
The Kamiakin Braves, who reached the 3A state quarterfinals, put three players — running back Umid Ramizov, linebacker Tyler Herman and two-way lineman Dylan Keech — on the first team.
The Richland Bombers — who reached the 4A state quarterfinals for the first time since 1999 — placed three players on the first team: Receiver Payton Radliff, offensive lineman Will Fisher and defensive back Jesse Malone.
Walla Walla also earned three first-team nods — all on defense — in defensive lineman Nate Sumerlin, linebacker Stuart Gillin and defensive back Darnell Handcox.
Southridge running back Kadin Diaz and kicker Nate Newbry both made their first appearance, while Kennewick’s Jacob Meise was only one of two players — along with Newell — to repeat on the first team.
Touchet quarterback Elias Martinez, who led the Indians to the Class 2B state title game, earned a spot on the first team as an all-purpose player.
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