Sequim's Wolves converted six fourth-down plays and got touchdowns from five different players in their final Olympic/Nisqually League game of the season, a 35-22 win against Fife Friday night.
With the win, Sequim heads into the first round of the class 2A state football playoffs with a 6-1 league record, 8-2 overall mark and No. 10 ranking in the most recent Associated Press poll.
The Wolves take on No. 8-ranked Centralia Nov. 14 at Tumwater Stadium in Tumwater; game time is
7 p.m. The Sequim-Centralia game is to be played at a neutral site on turf, and it's one familiar to the Wolves' faithful: Tumwater High School. Sequim lost a 22-20 heartbreaker to Tumwater in last year's state playoffs opening round.
"That kind of game last year is about want power," Sequim coach Erik Wiker said. "They know that (an upset) can happen."
Last week, in a game that mattered little to playoff seeding but plenty for momentum heading into the playoffs, Sequim got two touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown from quarterback Drew Rickerson and 98 of its 238 rushing yards from senior Travis Decker, helping the Wolves overcome a 15-8 deficit in the third quarter.
It was a festive yet restrained celebration for the Wolves, who lost starting fullback Brad Woolf before the first snap. Woolf severely injured his arm the day before - a torn right biceps muscle - and won't see any action this postseason.
Without their starting fullback and battling slick field conditions and fog, the Wolves got off to a slow start, scoring just once in the first half. Rickerson found Bryan Little from eight yards out to cap a nine-play drive, and Chris Pruden's dive for two points made it 8-0 Sequim.
Fife responded quickly. As the haze of fog began to lift, so did Fife quarterback Jeremy Nalder's completion percentage. He completed seven of nine on the ensuing drive, capped off by a 10-yard scoring throw to Dustin Yarrington. A two-point conversion made it 8-8 at halftime.
Fife used that momentum as fuel early in the second half. Following a trio of strong runs from Alex Rohrer, fullback Tyler Richards found the end zone on a fourth-and-four from Sequim's 12-yard-line.
From then on, Sequim had momentum and more.
Decker blasted through the line for 17- and 15-yard runs and John Textor had a 10-yard catch before Isaac Yamamoto, taking a fullback draw Woolf might have handled if not for the injury, scampered 31 yards up the middle for the game-tying score.
Preston McFarlen sacked Nalder to stop Fife's next drive, and Sequim responded with a 12-play drive that featured three fourth-down conversions. On fourth-and-four, Rickerson found Jeremie Oliver for a 24-yard pass play. A minute later, with Sequim facing fourth-and-goal, Ricker-son found Oliver again, this time for a touchdown pass. Sequim opened up a 21-15 lead with 34 seconds left in the third quarter.
"We have a huge variety of plays so we can get out of a lot of holes," Oliver said.
Fife fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Rickerson scrambled for 25 yards and a score on the very next play.
In 19 seconds, Sequim scored 14 points and opened a 29-15 lead.
Textor, who dropped a sure touchdown in the third quarter, picked off a Nalder pass on Fife's next drive, then caught a Chris Pruden 16-yard pass that deflected off two Fife defenders and into his hands for a touchdown.
"I was just pissed - I wanted to get the next one," Textor said. "Honestly I thought that (touchdown) was going to be picked off."
Any hopes Fife had of a comeback quickly were dispelled with 6:37 left in the game when Reed Omdal picked off another Nalder pass. Fife did find the end zone once more, a meaningless score with no time left on the clock.
"(This game) was kind of a gut check for us," Wiker said. "I think definitely they were playing for Brad."
Sequim was expected to play Hockinson, the Greater St. Helens League champ, in the state playoffs first round. But the Hawks lost a 42-14 decision to Black Hills in a seeding crossover game Friday night, meaning the Wolves take on Centralia. The Tigers, the Evergreen League champion, crushed R.A. Long Friday 34-21, in a contest not as close as the score indicates.
Centralia is a traditionally strong team, falling to Lynden in the state 2A championship game in 2006 and losing to Lynden again in the opening round last year. As a 3A school in 1980, Centralia won the state championship.
Earlier this season, Centralia lost just two games, both road defeats. They include a 28-18 decision to Mark Morris and a 27-18 game to Black Hills.
Zack Baldwin leads the Centralia attack, amassing a school-record 1,477 rushing yards, 171 in last week's win against R.A. Long.
The winner of next Friday's game plays the winner of the Archbishop Murphy (10-0)/Black Hills (7-3) game in the state playoff quarterfinals.
"I think we can do some good things," Textor said, even without Woolf, the team's leading tackler on defense and a key blocker on offense. "One player doesn't make a team but it would have been nice to have him out there. We have to fight through adversity."
Sequim vs. Centralia
The Wolves play Centralia (8-2) in the first round of the class 2A football playoffs at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 14, at Tumwater High School in Tumwater, just south of Olympia on Interstate 5. To get there, take U.S. Highway 101 to state Route 104 across the Hood Canal bridge to Highway 3. Travel south to Gorst and take Highway 16 through Gig Harbor to Tacoma. Take I-5 south past Olympia. Take exit 102 and take a left on Trosper Road. After 0.2 miles, take a right on Capitol Boulevard SW. After one mile, turn right on Israel Road. Stadium is at 700 Israel Road SW. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and students with ID.