Despite a five-point deficit at halftime in a winner-moves-on/loser-out game, Sequim’s Wolves were not in panic mode.
“There was nothing to chalk up; we knew we had to play better,” Sequim head coach Erik Wiker said following his team’s 22-20 win over Franklin Pierce in Silverdale on Nov. 2, sending Sequim to its first state 2A playoff berth since 2011.
The No. 3-seeded Wolves rebounded from a first half that saw the seventh-seeded Cardinals score on pass plays of 90 and 61 yards to bottle up their foes and finally advance out of the district playoff game.
See more photos from the game here.
“We knew what they were: we knew they had great athletes (but were) kind of one-play wonders,” Wiker said. “We had to stay in front of them, not let them run wild.”
The Wolves (9-1), who got bounced from districts the last time they played Franklin Pierce (by one point, in 2004), hadn’t clinched the game until defensive back Jarrett Allen picked off a Claudell Quinland pass in the end zone with a little more than a minute to play.
“Closer than it should have been,” Sequim senior quarterback Riley Cowan said. “They got a lot of close, big plays.”
Cowan had two touchdown passes, one quarterback sneak for a score and a field goal to have a hand in all 22 points.
And Sequim would need all 22 of those points against the Cardinals, who took advantage of a pair of long pass plays and some key Sequim mistakes in the first half to build a 20-15 lead.
After Cowan put Sequim up 3-0 with a 21-yard field goal in the first quarter, starting Cardinal quarterback Tagatanuu Faafiti Jr. hit tight end Toney Brown for what looked to be a short gain that Brown broke for a 90-yard touchdown scamper and 6-3 Franklin Pierce lead.
Kyler Rollness looked to put Sequim back on top immediately with a kick off return for a touchdown, but the Wolves were flagged for a block in the back infraction during the return, and the ensuing drive stalled.
With the ball back and some early momentum, the Cardinals dialed up another Faafiti-to-Brown pass play that Sequim defenders misplayed into a 61-yard touchdown reception and a 13-3 lead just before the end of the first quarter.
Sequim responded with their first drive of the second quarter, a 10-play, 75-yard campaign highlighted by three Cowan-to-Rollness connections — the final an 11-yard touchdown that closed the gap to 13-9.
The Cardinals battled right back with a touchdown drive of their own, highlighted by a 50-yard pass from Faafiti to Rasheed Johnson. Delequan Wood capped the drive with a 22-yard touchdown run, putting Franklin Pierce ahead 20-9.
Sequim again had an answer, going 79 yards in just six plays. On a third-and-3 from the Cardinals’ 46, Sequim coaches got inventive: Cowan passed to Joey Oliver 15 yards downfield, and the Sequim receiver completed a hook-and-ladder by lateraling to Rollness, who took it the remaining 39 yards for a score.
Sequim nearly completed the comeback before halftime after driving to the Cardinal 35-yard-line before the game clock expired.
“At halftime we didn’t make any changes at all,” Cowan said. “(We just) became the hammer, not the nail.”
The Wolves took advantage of good field possession with their second drive of the third quarter, going 56 yards in six plays. In his most impressive run of the night, backup tailback Keyshawn Whitney sliced through the Cardinal defense for 33 yards.
Two plays later, Cowan dove in for the score and 22-20 Sequim lead, in what proved to be the game-winning score with 1:56 left in the third quarter.
Both teams had chances to move the scoreboard— Franklin Pierce had a key fumble on their next drive while Sequim missed a field goal with 6:35 remaining that would have extended their lead— before the Cardinals mounted a final drive.
Starting at their own 20, Franklin Pierce went to backup quarterback Claudell Quinland, who engineered a nine-play drive to the Wolves 37-yard-line.
“Maybe they were wanting a more mobile quarterback who could scramble,” Wiker said of the Cardinal QB switch.
Sequim senior Ben Cowan dropped Quinland for a sack and four-yard loss with about 90 seconds left, however, and on the next play, the Cardinal quarterback threw a deep pass down the left sideline that Allen tracked down for a touchback, clinching the game.
“We needed to do our jobs and stay over the guys and that’s what happened,” Allen said.
“A lot of kids did things that could have frustrated them and taken them out of the game, but they were very, very resilient,” Wiker said.
“The key word for the game would be resilience because a lot of kids made mistakes and a lot of those same kids made big plays.”
On to state
Sequim will take on Steilacoom at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, back at Silverdale Stadium.
The Sentinels (9-1) routed Orting 42-8 in their district match-up last week. Steilacoom opened the season with eight consecutive wins before dropping a 28-16 decision to powerhouse Fife.
Thanks to a new playoff seeding that sees a committee determining seeding of the 16 remaining teams in each state classification, Sequim is a No. 8 seed and Steilacoom a No. 9.
That means with a win this week, the Wolves would either play at Hockinson — the No. 1 seeded team in the 2A ranks — or host Washington, a team they beat 44-21 in the first game of the season.
In their most recent meeting back in 2009, Sequim beat Steilacoom, 26-10. Since their first meeting in 1984 the Wolves and Sentinels have split six games — though none of the match-ups have been in the postseason.
Franklin Pierce 20
F. Pierce 6 14 0 0 — 20
Sequim 3 12 7 0 — 22
S — Cowan 21 field goal, 3:55
FP — Brown 90 pass from Faafiti (kick failed), 2:51
FP — Brown 61 pass from Faafiti (Contreras kick), 0:21
S — Rollness 11 pass from Cowan (pass failed), 9:22
FP — Wood 22 run (Contreras kick), 6:52
S — Rollness 34 pass from Cowan (pass failed), 4:40
S — Cowan 1 run (Cowan kick), 1:56
Passing — Cowan 16-32, 207 yards, 2 TDs
Rushing — Wiker 24-98; Cowan 8-41,TD; Whitney 3-37; Allen 1-(-3)
Receiving — Rollness 8-150, 2 TDs; Langston 2-35; Oliver 2-15; Wiker 4-7
Third down: 10-17
Fourth down: 3-6
Franklin Pierce stats:
Passing — Faafiti 6-7, 239 yards, 2 TDs; Quinland 3-4, 44 yards, Int
Rushing — Wood 11-60; Coleman 8-23; Pratt 2-15; Hinson 3-8; Brown 2-5; Quinland 1-(-3); Faafiti 2-(-21)
Receiving — Brown 6-193, 2 TDs; Johnson 2-70; Quinland 1-20
Third down: 4-8
Fourth down: 0-0