Sports

A tougher climb to top?

Standing next to the big, beefy Erik Wiker, it's little surprise that he's a former lineman.

So when the Sequim High football varsity head coach saw four of his five starting offensive line crew graduate, he knew the question would come.

Something like, "How exactly do the Wolves expect to be league champions?"

It's a question he's heard more than once in his six-year stint at the Wolves' helm. But even after five league championships and three consecutive state playoff appearances, Wiker said getting back to the league's top spot will be a challenge this season, even if the offensive line isn't the biggest issue.

"This system favors a line that's athletic," Wiker said. "It fits a line that doesn't have to dominate every down."

The Wolves will try to climb to the top of the new-look league with about 20 players fewer than they normally do, a fact that seems to perplex their coach.

"We didn't get any extra seniors out but (the drop in turnout) is across the board," Wiker said.

Still, those who did show up for summer camps performed well. Sequim took on some of the biggest spread-offense schools in Oregon at a camp in Springfield, Ore., winning 11 of 12 scrimmages.



Wolves stay with spread offense

After years of a running-dominated offense, Sequim adopted a spread system in 2009 that saw quarterback Drew Rickerson and company rack up more than 4,000 yards of offense and gave halfback Travis Decker big running lanes for more than 1,200 yards, 22 scores and a league offensive MVP award.

While Decker and top receiver John Textor are gone, Rickerson is back with a bevy of athletic receivers to throw to, including Tyler Forshaw, Nick Ramirez, Chase Bigger and Kahn Mills.

Taking the running back responsibilities is Isaac Yamamoto, the Wolves' 2009 fullback who managed 111 yards (about 4.6 yards per carry) in a reserve role while playing more downs on the defensive side of the ball.

Wiker said he expects Yamamoto to run the ball every bit as well as Decker.

Add to that mix Frank Catelli, who gives Sequim a wildcard on offense. The younger brother of 2009 senior standout Clancy Catelli, Frank gives the Wolves a big athletic body who can act as tight end, running back or run the option from the quarterback position.

Oh, and he can throw the ball 50-plus yards as well.

So even though 80 percent of that senior-heavy offensive line - three of them with three state playoff appearances, including Division I prospect Thomas Gallagher - is gone, Sequim's "skill" positions are covered.

Plus, Wiker said, the line does see a strong crew of young bodies who should fare well, including players like Brendon Carpenter and Jack Clark.

The line is led by senior Preston McFarlen, Sequim's lone line returner who shifts from center to a pulling right guard.



Solid group on defense

The hallmark of Sequim's league championship teams, the Wolves squad held teams to about nine points per game in 2009.

The defense corps is led this year by McFarlen and Yamamoto from middle linebacker positions.

Yamamoto had 103 tackles and seven sacks in the regular season while McFarlen added 49 stops. Bigger joins the crew at the outside linebacker spot.

Catelli anchors the defensive line along with Clay Charley and Chris Dahl.

Losing Textor and Alex Gillis, all-league defensive backs with five interceptions each, hurts the secondary. But returning to lead this group are Forshaw, Rickerson and Joey Hall.



League changes

The biggest challenge for the Wolves, perhaps, is the unknown, after changes to classification sees three formerly 3A Olympic League schools - North Kitsap, Olympic and rival Port Angeles - drop down into Sequim's 2A class, making the league an all-2A league except for 3A school Bremerton.

"It's a bigger challenge to step up to," Wiker said.

Sequim coaches got a good look at where they stand versus some top teams in summer camps. Wiker said he saw more players dedicated to offseason lifting and conditioning than ever before.

That kind of offseason work has the Sequim coach liking his Wolves' chances.

"It comes down to belief and effort," Wiker said.



Upcoming SHS fall sports previews:

_ Sept. 8 - volleyball, boys tennis, girls soccer

_ Sept. 15 - girls swim/dive, cross country



Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.

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