This wasn't a playoff game, not even a critical league match-up.
Try telling that to the Sequim Wolves.
Quarterback Drew Rickerson ran for two touchdowns, Erik Huston kicked a game-winning field goal and Sequim's defense made one dramatic goal line stand to preserve a 17-14 win over 1A powerhouse Cascade Christian Friday night.
"I told (our players) this is a test; this isn't going to be easy," Sequim coach Erik Wiker said. "This is basically a playoff game. We're going to see what we're made of and what we can do here in this game."
The visiting Cougars, who returned nearly every starter from its state playoff team from a year ago, moved the ball behind a strong running game powered by John Brus, who carried 22 times for 158 yards.
But the Cougars fumbled four times, the last one setting up Sequim's final fourth-quarter drive.
With the score tied at 14-14, the Wolves drove deep into Cougar territory. When their drive stalled at Cascade's 5-yard-line, they lined up for a field goal. Referees couldn't hear Sequim coaches yelling for a timeout, but Huston's kick was true, giving the Wolves a 17-14 lead with 7:20 on the clock.
"I figure if they didn't hear (the timeout call), it was meant to be," Wiker said.
Cascade Christian used nearly every tick of the clock on their final drive, riding Brus and quarterback Ben Johnson's arm inside the Wolves' 10-yard-line.
On fourth down, Johnson's final throw to Tyler Savage fell incomplete, sending Sequim players into a frenzy.
After a 38-point outburst against Port Angeles a week before, Sequim got just enough offense behind Rickerson, the sophomore quarterback not primarily known for his scrambling ability.
While the Cougars were stuffing the Wolves' running attack - holding starting halfback Isaac Yamamoto to 18 yards - Rickerson nimbly spread the field throwing to receivers Clancy Catelli, Alex Gillis and others.
On Sequim's opening drive, a 12-play, 56-yard effort, Rickerson exposed an over-pursuing Cougar defense by rolling right, then bootlegging back to the left for a six-yard touchdown. Cascade blocked the extra point, leaving Sequim up 6-0.
Rickerson had a bit of good karma on that play - he misread the play call from the sidelines but still managed to score.
"He called the wrong play but he can make it with his legs," Wiker said. "And we're teaching him that, because at first he was just pass, pass, pass."
The Cougars responded soon after with a 98-yard drive in 14 plays, capped by a Johnson-to-Austin Mulcahey 15-yard strike, aided by a fourth-down Sequim pass interference call.
The Cougars led 7-6 at halftime and increased their lead to 14-6 when Johnson plunged in for a one-yard score.
But Rickerson and company weren't finished. Following a long Jason Harvey kickoff return, the Wolves got a huge third down-and-21 from Brad Woolf, who took a fullback draw 30 yards to the Cougar 31. Two plays later, Rickerson once again found the Cougars in overpursuit, as he reversed field and scored from 21 yards out.
"Either way - I love to pass, I love to run, whatever is more open," Rickerson said. "Their whole defense was flowing one way. I saw it and just cut back the other way."
Needing two points to tie, the Wolves' Chris Pruden took an option play right and found Catelli, who burst into the end zone for two, knotting the game at 14 apiece.
Five plays later, Cascade Christian's Spencer Ramos fumbled, setting up Huston's game-winning kick.
"We told the kids all week they were going to come into a battle here - they came out fired up and they took it to us," Cascade Christian head coach Randy Davis said. "Turnovers are always key. They didn't turn the ball over and we did. But I don't want to take anything away from (Sequim); they played well and played hard and they deserved to win."
The Cougars outgained the Wolves in total yardage (316 to 221) and first downs (15 to nine) while getting penalized less (25 yards to Sequim's 60) but still suffered their first loss of the season; they topped Eatonville 48-28 and Fife 46-7 - two teams on Sequim's upcoming league schedule.
The Wolves open 2A Nisqually/Olympic League play Sept. 26 at home against Steilacoom. The Sentinels come in with a 3-0 nonleague mark, with wins against Hoquiam (35-20), Elma (61-27) and Seattle Prep (27-10).
Game time is 7 p.m.
Play of the game
The play that nearly wasn't: After having a point-after blocked earlier in the game, Sequim coaches wanted something other than a field goal from the 5-yard-line. But referees couldn't hear those coaches calling for timeout above the din of screaming players, and Erik Huston's field goal proved to be the game-winning score with a little more than seven minutes on the clock, giving Sequim a 17-14 victory.