The only thing heating up faster than the artificial turf at Silverdale Stadium on Saturday were the boys clad in gold and white.
Thanks to a lock-down defense and an opportunistic goal by senior David LaBeaume, Sequim's Wolves have punched their ticket to the class 2A state playoffs.
Saturday's 1-0 win against Washington was Sequim's seventh consecutive shutout and the epitome of the team's story this spring.
Despite missing several close opportunities, the Wolves (13-3-1) managed to get in front of the Patriots and hold on until the end, thanks to a stifling defense, deft ball handling and frontline aggressiveness.
At 33 minutes, freshman Evan Watkins lined up a corner kick that Washington keeper Enrique Espinoza leapt for and couldn't secure, unexpectedly deflecting the ball at the foot of LaBeaume, Sequim's leading scorer in 2009.
LaBeaume rocketed the ball in for his eighth score of the season.
"Getting that first goal was
important," Brasher said, recalling district games that saw Sequim's opponent get the first score and seeing his team unravel.
Brasher was concerned the heat might sap some of his players' energy by game's end.
"I was a little worried about the heat; I haven't dwelled too much on fitness this year," he said.
Instead, with a 1-0 lead going into the second half and temperatures rising well above 70 degrees - and about 10 degrees hotter on the field - Brasher utilized his energized bench early and often. The Patriots, only five deep on the bench and at least two of their players hobbling from physical play in the first half, withered on the plastic Silverdale turf. Despite getting no second half scores, Sequim dominated the final 40 minutes, shuttling passes to and fro, and making several relatively unimpeded forays into the Washington backfield.
With 14:30 on the clock, Sequim's Erik Huston looked like he had the game-clincher but his shot struck the far left post and clanged off.
Daniel Servin nearly had two goals a little later, both coming off headers - one requiring a fantastic diving save from the Washington keeper.
"We had some good chances," Brasher said. "Part of it is a little luck."
The Patriots' lone threat came with just 30 seconds left, a single final gasp from the Nisqually No. 3-seeded squad. But Sequim keeper Matt Bedinger leapt for his most crucial save of the day, one that helps the Wolves get back to state for the first time since 2004.
Bedinger wasn't challenged much on Saturday, thanks to his stalwart starting defense: Austin Sanford in the center, Jordy Shearer on the left, Bryan Little on the right and Jose Najera roaming just in front of Sanford.
That state appearance, incidentally, is Sequim's only playoff appearance. After having to win three consecutive district games just to get to the 3A state tourney (Sequim was in the larger classification then) the Wolves tied host Cheney 1-1 in regulation, then lost 6-5 in a shootout.
This year, the 2A Olympic League champion Wolves needed just one win to make it to state.
"I was telling the kids this (path to state) is about as nice as it's going to be," Brasher said.
Brasher and the Wolves were hoping for a better fate in 2009 when they hosted the Bellingham Red Raiders on Tuesday - results were unavailable at press time.
As the No. 1 seed from District 2/3, Sequim got to host the midweek contest. But state games need to be played on artificial turf, so Mount Tahoma in Tacoma was chosen.
Bellingham is the No. 3 seed from District 1 (northwest region). The Red Raiders advanced to the state tourney with as 2-1 win against Cedarcrest on Saturday.
Despite Sequim's defensive prowess, the Wolves haven't been able to put up comfortable wins in recent games, something Brasher said could and should happen for this team.
"I think our best is yet to come,' he said. "That (4-0) game is in us."
Reach Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.