A good offense may win cheers and jeers but a good defense can cover all mistakes.
So it is with the Sequim Wolves, who overcame another error-riddled performance with stingy play from the defense to top Eatonville 25-14 in a crucial Olympic League match-up Friday night.
The win gives Sequim (4-1 in league, 6-2 overall) an inside track to the league's No. 2 state playoff seed with two games remaining.
"Our defense played great again,' Sequim coach Erik Wiker said, seeing his Wolves hold Eatonville to just 72 yards in the first half and 96 total rushing yards all game.
Though Sequim's offense was potent - amassing 424 total yards, 341 of those on the ground - a dozen penalties kept Sequim from holding a lead greater than 25-7 at the start of the fourth quarter, giving Eatonville just enough breathing room to mount a comeback.
Sequim junior Travis Decker rushed 31 times for 169 yards and three touchdowns, the last coming with 5:52 remaining in the third quarter.
From then on, the Cruisers seemed to snap out of a game-long funk. Eatonville quarterback Nick Fairhart connected on nine of 12 passes in the half, finding Isaac Schactler for a 1-yard score early in the fourth quarter. Three plays later, Schactler picked off a throw from Sequim quarterback Drew Rickerson and momentum was fully behind Eatonville.
But Sequim's defense slowed two late drives the Cruisers took into Wolves' territory. The first drive, one that the Cruisers turned over on downs, gave Sequim the ball on their own 36-yard-line with four minutes left.
Sequim tried to run the clock down, but coaches elected to go for a first down on fourth-and-1. Rickerson's quarterback sneak appeared to give the Wolves a game-clinching first down, but referees respotted the mark
2 inches short of the marker, giving Eatonville new life.
Two Fairhart-to-Schactler passes gave Eatonville a first-and-goal with three minutes to go until Sequim's defense came through once again. Facing a fourth down from the 10-yard-line, Fairhart sought Schactler once again on an inside slant. Schactler made the catch, but
Sequim defensive back Reed Omdal tripped the Cruiser a yard short of the goal line.
Five Sequim rushing plays later, the game was over.
Wiker and Sequim players breathed a sigh of relief, considering the number of miscues - 12 penalties, two blocked points-after-touchdown and an Eatonville kickoff return for a score - that threatened this important league outcome.
"It's extremely frustrating that we just shoot ourselves in the foot," Wiker said. "We're not going to do that again."
The Wolves may not need to worry - not until the state playoffs, anyway - if the defense continues its strong play. The Wolves gave up just five first-half first downs and just two of nine Eatonville third-down conversion tries. The Wolves got big hits and a fumble recovery from Alex Gillis, who shifted from safety to outside linebacker for the game.
Brad Woolf, who had a 96-yard touchdown run on a fullback draw in the second quarter, also had several big hits on defense, including a crucial third-down sack on Eatonville's final drive.
Up next for the Wolves is a road trip to Washington High School in Tacoma on Oct. 31. The Patriots (1-4, 1-7) have struggled this year, their only win coming in overtime against Kingston Oct. 3. Last week, Washington fell to North Mason, 27-13.
"I know they have big, strong lineman and athletic skill guys," Wiker said. "I don't know if they are disciplined enough to sustain long drives."
Sequim may not have the services of lineman Colin Kahler for that or any game in the near future; Kahler left the field in the third quarter of Friday night's game with what paramedics said may be a concussion. Kahler, who broke his hand in a game against Port Angeles Sept. 12 and sat out three weeks, was playing in his second game back when he was pulled from the game and spent most of the second half on the bench. Team officials said he was woozy and at times incoherent while on the bench; Wiker said he didn't see the play where the lineman might have been hit hard.
Sequim finishes the regular season with a game against the Fife Trojans Nov. 7 at home; game time is 7 p.m.
Sequim is the last team in the Olympic League to give up 100 points. The Wolves are allowing just 13.9 points per game, best in the league ... Friday night's defeat was the first home loss for Eatonville (4-1) ... Steilacoom remains undefeated and ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press' week 7 poll. Two of Sequim's 2008 opponents remain in the top 10 in the 1A ranks: Cascade Christian (No. 5) and Forks (No. 9).
Play of the game
Sequim had plenty of highlights Friday night, from John Textor's 59-yard catch on the game's third play to Brad Woolf's 96-yard touchdown run and Travis Decker's three scores, but it all might have been for naught if not for Reed Omdal's goal-line tackle. With Eatonville on Sequim's five-yard-line, the Wolves' defense stuffed the Cruisers three plays. On fourth down from the 10, Cruiser QB Nick Fairhart found Isaac Schactler over the middle, and Omdal dragged the Eatonville senior down at the 1-yard-line, preserving an 11-point lead and all the momentum in the game.