Something as simple and enjoyable as a Friday night watching high school football certainly can make one wax nostalgic.
For many years during the 1990s, I was a sports reporter on the sidelines, laden with 35mm camera and bag, clutching pen and notebook, often engaged in a losing battle against cold, rain and wind while the local team – be it high schools such as Puyallup, Enumclaw or Franklin Pierce, or small-college programs Central Washington University and Pacific Lutheran – battled it out the with opposition.
This past Friday night happened to be the first high school football game I’d attended in a long time and the first involving Sequim since 1984. I saw a disciplined, well-coached and speedy Wolves team demolish the Washington Patriots 42-14 with commendable effort and execution for a season opener.
The high school football has, like the game’s higher tiers, evolved remarkably over 45 years – much more passing, no huddle, the spread offense – but some things haven’t altered a bit here: the flocks of girls moving in a constant stream along the foot of the stands, seemingly oblivious to the score; the band playing our much-beloved Sequim High School fight song; the smell of the grass, the scent becoming ever stronger as cleats tear at the turf; that wonderful transition early in the season from natural sunlight to full-blown stadium lighting, with Burnt Hill overlooking it all.
I was a newly minted seventh-grader at Sequim Junior High School in 1974, and my dad would take the family to Sequim football games. The field was situated about where the baseball diamonds are, just west-southwest of the gym, with the home stands facing toward the Olympics.
To say the Wolves struggled in the mid-1970s would be the most compassionate description I can offer. Following a strong 6-3 effort in 1972, over the next four seasons Sequim was triumphant in just nine games. Five of those victories came in 1975 under first-year head coach Doug Adkins, that season’s Olympic League coach of the year recipient. I’d wager during that four-year stretch, every opponent circled Sequim on its schedule, confident of a win.
You may recall streaking was all the rage in mid-1970s, and even in little ol’ Sequim the dashing coureurs sans vetements were seen. Not only were streakers often the fastest guys on the field during their fleeting 15 seconds of notoriety, but of a given Friday night they may even have garnered more total rushing yards than the Wolves put into the stat book. Yep, things sometimes appeared that bleak.
The football gods however once again smiled on the Wolves in 1977. Adkins coached his squad to a 7-2 mark, then departed, and Barry Wheeler stepped in as head coach of the ascendant Wolves. With Tony Shea leading a bruising rushing game, garnering 1,007 yards, Sequim pounded opponents for 2,057 total yards on the ground, averaging just over 257 rushing yards per game while going 9-0 in 1978. Wheeler’s Wolves captured the school’s first-ever state football playoff berth, only to fall to 21-0 to Hoquiam in the opening round.
Despite the sour taste of defeat, that 1978 campaign was heady stuff for our community: the first-ever undefeated regular-season record, the first-ever playoff appearance, a rushing offense that still shows up in the regional record books, a year that set the benchmark for future Wolves squads.
If you happen to see a tall middle-aged guy in the stands this season appearing a bit reflective at times, that’ll probably be me, reminiscing with a warm inner glow about what once was all those years ago – the joys and the frustrations – while enjoying what is now, namely this: no one looks forward to seeing the Sequim Wolves on their schedule.
Paul Schmidt first moved to Sequim in 1974 and is a graduate of Sequim High School. He and his wife returned to Sequim in 2018. His first career was in journalism. He currently works in the railroad industry.