Thanks to a strong offseason and the development of several key position groups, head coach Erik Wiker says Sequim High’s football squad is primed for another run at the postseason.
Several injuries on last year’s Sequim High’s offensive line forced a number of underclassmen to take key roles in 2017, but this fall Wiker and the Wolves look for the same kind of development at several key “skill” positions.
“We have lots of numbers in the right spots,” Wiker said.
“The biggest difference is we have eight guys who can play (on the line),” he said, anchored by senior Johnnie Young.
The Wolves also have a plethora of options at wide receiver, where Wiker sees six viable pass-catchers not to mention a couple of running backs who can give starting quarterback Riley Cowan some options.
SHS senior Kyler Rollness had 494 yards and four touchdowns as a junior pass-catcher in 2017. On defense, Rollness also had two of the team’s nine interceptions last fall. Michael Young added 10 catches for 171 yards last season.
Sequim looks to recoup from losing all-everything player Gavin Velarde, who graduated this June as the school’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns, plus 13 scores by return (kickoff, punt, interception).
Having Velarde as the go-to guy left the Wolves a bit one-dimensional at times, Wiker said, so having more options should help the Wolves in 2018.
Sequim will also look to revamp their running attack after graduating leading rusher Hayden Gresli (341 yards), and their third- and fourth-most prolific backs (Tyler Conn, Velarde); Cowan was second on the team with 217 yards and three scores.
“You lose guys, but other guys step up,” Wiker said. “People will step up and do fine.”
One thing the Wolves look to count on in the pocket is Cowan, a fourth-year starter who was selected first-team all-league quarterback for the third straight season after throwing for 1,452 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2017. The Olympic League’s Offensive MVP in 2016, Cowan now has the second-most passing yards in school history with 4,572, behind Drew Rickerson (4,857), and is second in career touchdowns with 49 (Rickerson, 52).
Wiker praised Cowan’s work in the offseason, noting the senior’s focus on footwork and reads.
“I tell the kids, ‘Don’t get a year older, get a year better,’” he said. “When you’re on top, generally you don’t get better. He (Cowan) got better during the offseason.”
Sequim also has Taig Wiker as a second option at quarterback when not carrying the ball out of the backfield,as well as sophomore Walker Ward.
Wiker said newcomers Joey Oliver and Hayden Eaton should bolster an already balanced offensive attack, one that will come out of Sequim’s traditional spread and two-back formation.
A mainstay on both sides of the ball is Young, who earned two all-league honors for Sequim in 2017; he was a first-team defense selection at linebacker and a second-team pick on the offensive line.
Defensive lineman Ben Cowan and linebacker Taig Wiker earned all-league second-team honors on defense.
The Wolves’ offseason included a team camp at King’s High School, a scrimmage-type camp with some individual position instruction, a 7-on-7 tournament at Lakewood High School and a Wednesday night passing league this summer against Olympic League and North Olympic Peninsula foes.
“There was a night and day difference in the dedication this group showed during our offseason activities, from spring ball through August, compared to last year,” Wiker said.
“Before (spring) camp, the question was the defense,” he said.
“We went to camp and found the defense looks pretty good, as a whole.”
Thanks to the teams focus, Wiker noted, the Wolves were able to run 20 different plays on just the second day of practice.
“Most of all because these are great kids, they are coachable and care for each other,” Wiker said after the team’s first day of practices.
Postseason berth in 2017
The Wolves are coming off back-to-back West Central District playoff appearances, going 4-2 in Olympic League play and finishing behind league champ North Kitsap and Bremerton.
After missing their first game because of Port Townsend’s forfeit and getting roughed up by 1A powerhouse Montesano in week two, Sequim reeled off five wins in seven games and placed third in the Olympic League.
The Wolves were eventually knocked out of West Central District playoffs by Fife (62-26).
Wiker said North Kitsap looks like the league favorite this fall. In 2017, the Vikings boasted the league MVP (Ryan Brooks), Offensive MVP (Dax Solis) and Defensive MVP (Connor Westby).
“They have a top program and they have a great program,” Wiker said.
But, similar to last season, the league should see quite a battle between the other six squads for the remaining three playoff berths.
With a 95-51 record in 15 seasons, Wiker is the longest-serving high school football coach on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Patriots, Spartans, Grizzlies on the schedule
The Wolves get an influx of non-league foes in 2018 they didn’t see last year — though Wiker’s squads are familiar with a couple of them. Sequim kicks off the season at Washington on Aug. 31 before a trio of home games.
The Wolves face cross-peninsula rival Forks, a 1A school, on Sept. 7, before matching up with league powerhouse North Kitsap in the Olympic League opener on Sept. 14. Sequim celebrates Homecoming festivities a week later against North Mason.
The Wolves then play four of their next five games on the road; the exception, the Rainshadow Rumble rivalry game against Port Angeles on Oct. 12.
Sequim’s final non-league game comes in week eight, at Hoquiam.