Winners of a league title and state tourney playoff berth, Sequim saw their postseason dreams come to an end at the hands — and legs — of a powerful Steilacoom squad.
Sophomore receiver Emeka Egbuka had 226 yards and three touchdowns in the first half to give Steilacoom (10-1) a big lead and the Sentinels shut down a prolific Sequim offense in the second frame for a 49-12 victory on Nov. 9 at Silverdale Stadium, the first round of the state 2A playoff tournament.
“They have D-I (collegiate Division I) offers for their quarterback, receiver and running back … you could see that,” Sequim coach Erik Wiker said.
“They are a very talented team, across the board.”
Sequim, on the strength of a pair of takeaways and a couple of big plays, put up two touchdowns in the first half but struggled to find an answer for Egbuka and Steilacoom quarterback J.J. Lemming, who wound up throwing for 328 yards and the three scores.
“(No.) 2 (Egbuka) is a heck of a player; he caught everything,” Wiker said.
After Sequim (9-2) safety Taig Wiker picked off Lemming on Steilacoom’s first possession, the Sentinel quarterback found Egbuka on a deep fade route for 40 yards and the game’s opening score at the 7:33 mark of the first quarter.
Sequim answered three plays later when quarterback Riley Cowan found seldom-used tight end Hayden Eaton wide open for a 79-yard pass; Taig Wiker ran it in from a yard out moments later, closing the gap to 7-6.
But Steilacoom reeled off 21 unanswered points on their next three possessions. Lemming found Egbuka for 53 yards to set up Division I prospect Jaymason Willingham’s eight-yard touchdown run, followed by Lemming-to-Egbuka 44-yard touchdown pass, and capped by another Lemmings-to-Egbuka connection that saw the Sentinel streak 80 yards through the Wolves’ defense.
Sequim got a score before halftime with a four-play, 55-yard drive aided by two big Sentinel penalties; Cowan found Michael Young for a 29-yard pass to set up Taig Wiker’s second short touchdown scamper with 2:04 until halftime, with Steilacoom leading 28-12.
Following the intermission, however, it was all Steilacoom. The Sentinels simply shut down the Wolves on offense, then went to a short passing game and rode Willingham’s legs for three more scores.
Willingham made up for an early third quarter fumble with a six-yard score to put his team up 35-12. With 9:27 left in the fourth, Lemming connected with Nehimiah Shird from seven yards out for a 42-12 advantage.
Marcus Hoch capped the scoring with a 25-yard interception return for a score with 2:51 on the clock.
“They were super well-balanced; just as strong in the running game as the passing game,” Sequim senior lineman Johnnie Young said. “That was the most balanced team we played all year.”
Cowan finished 9-for-29 for 168 yards for Sequim, while Taig Wiker, Sequim’s sophomore running back, added 33 yards on 11 rushes and two scores. Michael Young and Kyler Rollness had two receptions apiece.
Egbuka finished with seven receptions for 232 yards and three TDs; Willingham had 178 yards on 23 carries to lead Steilacoom, with two scores and two fumbles. Lemming was 18-of-25 passing.
Steilacoom held Sequim to just 36 yards rushing and 204 yards overall, but were hamstrung by a bevy of penalties: referees flagged the Sentinels 11 times for 120 yards while the Wolves had just two penalties for 20 yards.
Steilacoom moves on to the class 2A state quarterfinals where they will face top-seeded Hockinson, who blasted White River 47-14 on Nov. 9.
A team laden with seniors and sophomores, Sequim went 6-0 in Olympic League play and qualified for their first state tourney appearance since 2011.
But that wasn’t the picture forming in coach Erik Wiker’s mind as he prepped for the 2018 campaign. After recruiting players to come out for the team, the longtime Wolves coach said he was so uneasy about the team’s prospects he was considering skipping an offseason camp.
Instead, he said, the team pulled together. The team wound up starting seven sophomores on defense, plus a number of sophomores and first-year seniors in key positions on offense.
“So, so happy (about the team),” Wiker said. “We just told them, ‘Be scrappy. Just keep playing.’”
Young, the senior lineman, said a key was getting the 10th- and 12th-graders on the same page.
“A big goal for Riley (Cowan) and I was changing to the culture to what it used to be,” Young said.
“The younger guys proved they wanted to be there as much as we did,” he said, and instead of a seniors-versus-sophomores feel, “It was eleven guys, just playing.”