Football: Big plays leads Fife over Sequim

Everything about Sequim’s West Central District match-up with Fife on Friday was big, from what was on the line (a state 2A tourney berth) to Sequim’s foe (the Trojans were ranked No. 9 by the Associated Press coming into the game) to the Trojans themselves (Division I prospect M.J. Ale is listed at 6-foot-6, 330 pounds). Add to it, King5 TV featured the contest as “The Big Game” for the week.

Fitting, then, that big plays — predominantly from the host Fife squad — were the major storyline.

The Trojans broke open a 10-point game in the second half with a number of big plays from running back Lavelle Alexander and all-purpose player Gannon Ginnis as they routed Sequim, 62-26.

The loss ends Sequim’s bid for their first state tournament appearance since 2011.

Fife (9-1) racked up 459 yards — 440 on the ground — as they wore down a smaller Sequim squad by game’s end.

“We wanted to make a game of it and we definitely did,” Sequim coach Erik Wiker said. “A couple of big plays really turned the game.”

Sequim, unranked and sporting the No. 3 seed from the Olympic League, looked up for the challenge early on against Fife. Hayden Gresli found the end zone on three carries to open the game as the Wolves took a 7-0 lead a little more than a minute into the game.

Fife responded with a 14-play, 66-yard drive that featured a fake punt and a fumble recovery by Ale in the end zone, leaving the game knotted at 7-7.

Sequim (6-4) scored on its next drive, as SHS quarterback Riley Cowan capped a 70-yard drive by finding senior Gavin Velarde for a nine-yard touchdown strike. A failed point-after left Sequim’s lead at 13-7.

Fife’s Alexander made that lead short-lived, racing 48 yards for a touchdown two plays later as Fife snagged a 14-13 lead. It was one they’d never relinquish.

After forcing a Sequim punt, Fife’s Gannis broke away for a 40-yard run and set up the second of Alexander’s three touchdowns, giving Fife a 21-13 lead.

Alexander would finish with 163 yards on just 15 carries.

With 3:40 remaining in the first half, Gannis got in on the scoring with a 66-yard touchdown run.

Two minutes later, Fife quarterback Falani Jennings completed his only pass of the night but he made it count, connecting with Gannis for a 10-yard score. Fife led 36-13.

Sequim got closer at the end of the first half, however, as the Wolves marched 74 yards in just 84 seconds. Cowan found Kyler Rollness for a 12-yard toss, closing the gap to 36-19.

Austin Newton came up with a big sack of Jennings as time expired in the first half, keeping Fife’s lead at 17 points.

The Wolves grabbed momentum early in the second half. After forcing a turnover on downs, Sequim went 76 yards in 13 plays. Cowan lofted a pass for Velarde that the Sequim receiver out-muscled his defender for in the end zone. A point-after closed the gap to 36-26.

But that’s when Fife poured it on. The Trojans scored on their next four possessions, taking advantage of several Sequim penalties and a pair of interceptions.

“That’s a tough team; lots of respect (for Fife),” Sequim lineman Cody Bell said.

Cowan finished 17-of-32 for 158 yards and three scores. Rollness led the team with 67 yards receiving. Velarde had five catches for 43 yards and the two touchdowns.

Wiker said he was pleased with how the Wolves’ 2017 campaign played out, particularly after some struggles before the season started.

“It was one of the worst off-seasons we’ve ever had,” the Sequim coach said. “At the beginning of the year, there were rumors no one was going to show up.”

Instead, Sequim won six games and a district berth, which Wiker attributed to hard work and some good fortune.

“We had guys coming out, some who had never played or hadn’t played since middle school,” he said. “We had junior varsity and varsity practice together, partly because we had to.

“I told the kids that was a lot, (that a) hodge-podge of a team that went to the playoffs,” Wiker said.

Bell said that as a senior his high school football days are done, he expects Sequim to be strong in the coming years.

“The team is up and coming,” he said. “They are going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

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