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.
All Area Football
MVP — Deion Singleton, sr., Chiawana
Coach of the Year
— Steve Graff, Chiawana
QB — Joey Zamora, sr., Chiawana
RB — Clifton Lozano, sr., Chiawana
RB — Umid Ramizov, sr., Kamiakin
RB — Kadin Diaz, sr., Southridge
WR — Deion Singleton, sr., Chiawana
WR — Payton Radliff, sr., Richland
TE — Grady Graff, sr., Chiawana
OL — Chandler Newell, sr., Chiawana
OL — Kayden Maughan, sr., Chiawana
OL — Dylan Keech, sr., Kamiakin
OL — Will Fisher, sr., Richland
OL — Jacob Meise, sr., Kennewick
PK — Nate Newbry, soph., Southridge
KR — Dre Dorton, sr., Chiawana
AP — Elias Martinez, sr., Touchet
DL — Mark DeRuyter, sr., Chiawana
DL — Dylan Keech, sr., Kamiakin
DL — Juan Noyola, sr., Chiawana
DL — Nate Sumerlin, sr., Walla Walla
LB — Alex Weber, sr., Chiawana
LB — Grady Graff, sr., Chiawana
LB — Tyler Herman, jr., Kamiakin
LB — Stuart Gillin, sr., Walla Walla
DB — Deion Singleton, sr., Chiawana
DB — Blake Bishop, sr., Chiawana
DB — Jesse Malone, sr., Richland
DB — Darnell Handcox, sr., Walla Walla
P — Logan Ellsworth, jr., Chiawana
QB | Kylle Robertson, sr., Kamiakin
RB | Chance LeRoue, jr., Waits.-Prescott
RB | Alonzo Mendoza, sr., River View
RB | Austin Urlacher, jr., Chiawana
WR | Dre Dorton, sr., Chiawana
WR | Darnell Handcox, sr., Walla Walla
WR | Brenden Kelly, sr., Southridge
OL | Riley Bacon, sr., Kamiakin
OL | Nick Fuller, sr., Walla Walla
OL | Damien Martinez, sr., Hermiston
OL | Cory Roemeling, sr., Southridge
OL | Bubba Ruiz, sr., Othello
OL | Nate Sumerlin, sr., Walla Walla
DL | Austin Arndt, sr., Chiawana
DL | Bubba Ruiz, sr., Othello
DL | Gage Taylor, sr., Connell
DL | Hayden Whitby, sr., Richland
LB | Will Bishop, sr., Hanford
LB | Logan Ellsworth, jr., Chiawana
LB | Bryce Overholt, sr., Southridge
LB | Gunner Vancerbilt, sr., Connell
DB | Hunter Chambers, sr., Richland
DB | Ethan Hibbs, sr., Prosser
DB | Ben Kelly, sr., Hanford
DB | Isaiah Richie, sr., Chiawana
All-Purpose | Terran Brown, sr., River View
All-Purpose | Ramon Conteras, sr., Hermiston
PK | Conner Shymanski, jr., Kamiakin
KR | Roger Ingram, jr., Pasco
QB | Ruvim Tyutyunnik, sr., River View
QB | Mason Schutt, sr., Prosser
RB | John Lesser, soph., Liberty Christian
RB | Trenton Anteau, sr., Hermiston
RB | Rama Rudolph, jr., Tri-Cities Prep
RB | Isaiah Sanders, jr., Prosser
WR | Blake Bishop, sr., Chiawana
WR | Cardell Jones, sr., Prosser
WR | Gibson McGeorge, sr., Richland
TE | Conor Weise, sr., Othello
OL | Nate Barlow, sr., Waits.-Pres.
OL | Robbie Calvert, sr., Kennewick
OL | Collin Christensen, sr., Royal
OL | Luke Davidson, jr., Southridge
OL| Greg Heinen, sr., Connell
DL | Emillio Bustos, sr., Royal
DL | Jonah Gallacci, sr., Wahluke
DL | Mason Jackson, jr., Richland
DL | Christian Penny, sr., Chiawana
LB | Evon Branton, sr., Liberty Christian
LB | Ruben Butler, sr., Touchet
LB | Brandon Kimball, sr., DeSales
LB | Forrest Swant, sr., Walla Walla
DB | Costa Rodriguez, sr., Hermiston
DB | Jacob Jenks, sr., Connell
DB | Justin McBride, sr., Col-Burbank
DB | Dylan Tennancour , sr., Kennewick
AP | Colton Goble, sr., Touchet
Punt | Anthony Arroyo, jr., Kennewick