The Sequim Wolves locked up a West Central District 3 playoff berth on Nov. 1, beating the Bremerton Knights 36-21 to finish second in the Olympic League and earning a chance at the state tourney.
The Wolves (5-1 in Olympic League, 8-1 overall) will face the River Ridge Hawks from the Mountain Division of the South Puget Sound League at 7 p.m. on Nov. 8 at Bremerton High School, with the winner moving on to the 2A state playoffs.
Sequim’s win over Bremerton came off the strength of four Taig Wiker touchdown runs and a touchdown pass, thanks in large part to a dominant performance by the offensive line.
“Our whole line did great tonight,” junior lineman Brandon Barnett said.
“Our coaches have been on us since the (Oct. 18) Port Angeles game to block better, and he’s been with us the last two weeks to show us better ways to do what we do.”
Barnett noted that some recent changes to the offensive line setup, with him moving to left guard after Isaiah Cowan moved to a backfield role and Lane Mote stepping in at right guard, helped them figure things out.
“They’ve been moving us around to get best positions,” Barnett said. “But I think we have our best line set for the next few games.”
Barnett and fellow junior Caleb Pozernick were particularly efficient on the line last week
against the Knights, regularly creating big holes for Wiker and Walker Ward to take advantage of to the tune of a season-high 133 yards on 21 carries
for Wiker and 122 yards on 22 carries for Ward.
Sequim coach Erik Wiker was very happy with his team’s running game on the night, especially with it letting them settle down after an up-and-down start to the game.
“We can dress up our run game a few different ways,” Wiker said. “We started out a little slow in the passing, but the average (yards per play) was there in the run game to make it work. That helped slow it down and settle us down.”
That powerful run game let the Wolves control the clock, keeping Bremerton’s explosive offense off the field and grinding down a team that’s been dealing with injuries.
The Wolves’ run game also helped open up several explosive passing plays, with Garrett Hoesel getting four receptions for a season-high 149 yards and a touchdown. That haul included catches of 75 and 32 yards on a single drive, made possible by penalties and a long loss off a bad snap after Hoesel’s first long grab.
“We wanted to use the run game to control things, and when they started coming in more we knew we had chances to make big plays downfield,” Hoesel said.
“The work Walker and the line were doing gave us receivers chances downfield, and Taig made good throws I could get to.”
Hoesel added a 41-yard touchdown reception in the second half, and several big punt and kick returns throughout the game to help the Wolves start drives with good field position.
During the course of the game, several of their players had to limp off the field, though one injury was more severe: tight end Kaipo Retome got caught awkwardly by an accidental hit from a teammate during a punt return and suffered what Bremerton head coach Paul Theriault said was numbness all over his body.
While Retome was able to move his arms and legs, he was immobilized and taken to the hospital as a precaution, partly due to suffering a spinal injury two years ago where he did temporarily lose feeling in his extremities, according to Theriault. On Monday night, Theriault said that Retome is “doing good” and called the injury a “possible spinal stenosis.”
River Ridge’s Hawks (2-2 in SPSL Mountain, 5-5 overall) beat Sound division champions Highline 47-27 in the SPSL playoff on Nov. 1 to advance to the West Central District 3 playoff.
The Hawks run nearly twice as much as they throw, led by junior running back Darion Brown, who has carried the ball 117 times for 941 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Junior receiver Dontae Owens leads the team with 28 catches for 480 yards and four touchdowns, with junior quarterback Jevon Brown serving as the Hawks’ primary man under center. He’s thrown for 784 yards so far this season, with five touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Wiker admitted after the Bremerton game that he “doesn’t know much about (River Ridge),” but added that even if he did it wouldn’t matter much for his game plan.
“We are who we are, and we have who we have,” Wiker said. “We’re going to bring what we have and make it work.”