After nearly 100 years of football without a state playoff victory,
Sequim's Wolves built a big lead and then held off a furious comeback to top favored Burlington-Edison 34-32 in the first round of the class 2A state playoffs Saturday night in Poulsbo.
The win helps Sequim advance to the second round where they will play Lynden, the defending 2A state champions, this Saturday.
"I think (Burlington-Edison)
underestimated us, big time,"
Sequim running back Travis Decker said. "Reading what their paper said about us, everyone's been talking about how it's going to be a blowout. We had our ups and downs but luckily, we had more ups than downs."
After losing four of their last five state play-in or first-round games by a touchdown or less, the Wolves deftly built a 34-12 lead late in the fourth quarter against the Tigers, getting 146 yards and three touchdowns from Decker and two long Drew Rickerson-to-John Textor touchdown throws.
But the Tigers showed why they're ranked in the top 10 in most statewide polls, moving the ball quickly on three successive scoring drives.
The final one saw Burlington-Edison drive 65 yards in one minute, 47 seconds on the arm of Tiger quarterback Dylan Boe. The Tiger junior made three clutch, first-down throws until the Wolves stopped his Tigers at the Sequim 13-yard-line with seven seconds left. Being chased by three Sequim defenders, Boe found receiver Achilles Wynn near the left front pylon for the touchdown as the clock expired, closing the gap to 34-32.
That's when Sequim got its biggest stop of the season.
"I had a feeling it was going to come right down the middle," said Thomas Gallagher, Sequim's 300-pound offensive lineman.
The Tigers called for an inside hand-off to Damon Acoba, but Gallagher and company stuffed the play.
"I was worried in a way, (but) I knew we were going to win," Gallagher said.
The Wolves celebrated briefly in the chilly Poulsbo air - dousing sixth-year coach Erik Wiker with the remains of a water cooler - before attempting to refocus on their next game.
"We just can't give up. We worked too hard this season, too many weeks," said defensive back/wide receiver/kick returner Alex Gillis. "We're hitting the film room, we're hitting the practice field hard. I promise."
Lynden topped Black Hills 14-7 on Nov. 14 to advance to the state tourney's quarter-final round.
Any doubt Sequim could compete with the ranked Tigers likely was erased on the opening kickoff, when Wolves' kicker Frank Catelli recovered Cody Larson's return at the Burlington-Edison 29-yard-line.
Four plays later, Sequim opened the scoring when Decker scampered in from 5 yards.
The Tigers responded quickly, gouging the Wolves' defense for 5- and 6-yard runs. A 15-yard chop block penalty kept the Tigers out of the end zone and they had to settle for a Andrew Furney 35-yard field goal.
The Tigers stopped
Sequim for a three-downs-and-out, then got another field goal from Furney to close to within 7-6.
The Wolves got on the scoreboard in the second quarter, putting together a 16-play, 80-yard drive capped by Decker sprinting around the left end for a 31-yard touchdown run. The Wolves led 14-6.
Like a seasoned prizefighter, Burlington-Edison responded with a 12-play, 68-yard drive as Mike Sanchez ran it in from the Sequim 9-yard-line. The Tigers' two-point conversion try failed, a failed play that would loom large later.
Up 14-12, Sequim saw their next drive stall at their own 39-yard-line. Facing a third-and-15, Rickerson found Textor on a post route down the middle and the senior receiver took it all 61 yards for a 21-12 Sequim lead.
The Wolves had one more chance for points in the first half but Tiger Tyler Tarabochia picked off a Rickerson throw with 25 seconds left. Furney, the Tiger kicker, lined up for a 33-yard field goal but Alex Gillis and Clancy Catelli broke through Burlington-Edison's line to block the try.
A tale of two quarters
Sequim looked to pull away in this contest with dominating play for the first 12 minutes of the second half. After the teams traded possessions to start the half, Rickerson went to Textor again on a third-and-14, finding the streaking receiver on essentially the same post pattern for a 44-yard TD throw. Sequim's lead grew to 28-12.
The Wolves' defense found a way to slow the Tiger running game and, with their next possession, Sequim's gridders patiently moved the ball downfield. A 13-play, 73-yard drive ended when Decker crested the goal line from 1 yard out and 10 minutes, 45 seconds on the game clock. But Frank Catelli's point-after try sailed wide right, giving the Tigers a crack in the proverbial door, down 34-12.
Boe, the Burlington-Edison quarterback, was just 2-of-11 for 2 yards coming into the fourth quarter. In the final 10:45, Boe nearly provided a miracle comeback. The Tigers scored on their next possessions, going 65 yards in just two minutes, 37 seconds, the key play a fourth down-and-17 conversion, to close the gap to 34-19.
After forcing Sequim to punt, Burlington-Edison then got another quick score, driving 57 yards in 1:08, capped by an Acoba 13-yard touchdown run. Sequim's lead was cut to 34-26.
Sequim couldn't run the clock down much on their next drive and was forced to punt, but the Wolves got a big break when Sanchez fumbled the ball away. The Wolves ran the clock down but a third-and-9 incompletion forced Sequim to punt.
Starting at their own 39-yard-line with 1:47 remaining, Burlington-Edison smartly advanced the ball in 12-, 13- and 14-yard chunks, with Boe going to Wynn across the middle for big gains. On the Sequim 13-yard-line with 20.7 seconds left, Boe misfired on three consecutive throws. On fourth down and seven seconds left, the Tiger quarterback rolled left and looked to be in the grasps of Sequim defenders when he finally tossed the ball to Wynn, who tiptoed inside the left front pylon for the score. Sequim's lead was cut to two.
But the quick inside handoff, a play that had worked with resounding success against the Wolves all game long, simply didn't work in the end, as Sequim's line collapsed on Acoba.
"This feels better than anything I've ever experienced," Gallagher said. "(Now) everybody knows who Sequim is. We just beat one of the best teams in the state."
Wiker said he'd warned his players never to let up in these state playoff games, even if they managed to post a big lead.
"I expected that we could be up big on them because we have a dynamic offense," Wiker said. "Here (at state) teams, if they're down by 21, are going to have ways, to have plays and have a desire to win. We eased up a bit. Hopefully, our kids learn from it."
The Wolves even managed to celebrate the special school win with a post-game shower for coach Wiker, courtesy of the water cooler.
"I thought I could outrun them," Wiker said. "Clancy's fast but he's holding a 50-pound bucket."
The win snaps Sequim's tough luck in the playoffs, after losing four of their past five state play-in or first-round games by one score or less.
"It is one of those monkeys on your back," Wiker said. "I didn't believe in (a curse) but if it would have happened this year, after being ahead by so much, I would have thought (there was)."
Wiker noted that Herb Lehman, the Tigers' coach, headed up a cross-town, rival high school team in Alaska when Wiker was playing. Lehman's East High School won three consecutive state titles in that time period .... Burlington-Edison outgained Sequim in total yardage, 414-361. The Tigers rushed for 240 yards, led by Acoba's 112 ... Sequim converted eight of 14 third downs, better than B-E's four-of-11 on third.
Reach Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Class 2A state playoffs
- second round
Who: Sequim vs. Lynden (8-0 in league, Northwest Conference champions, 10-1 overall)