by MICHAEL DASHIELL
With eyes on a seventh league title in eight years, Sequim’s Wolves saw their undefeated season ripped away Friday night by a quick-strike North Kitsap squad that now holds the edge for the Olympic League crown heading into the final week of the 2011 regular season.
Junior quarterback A.J. Milyard led the host Vikings with 206 yards passing and a pair of scores while senior tailback Conner McCorkle ran roughshod through the Wolves’ defense for 249 all-pur-pose yards in a 33-13 North Kitsap victory.
“I think they (North Kitsap) just executed,” Sequim coach Erik Wiker said following the loss, only Sequim’s second league defeat since 2008 and Wiker’s first-ever October defeat.
“We just didn’t execute really well,” Wiker said. “It’s really hard to stay on top.”
Sequim quarterback Frank Catelli threw for 153 yards and ran for a score, but was intercepted twice and missed more than half of his 31 first-half passes before sitting out the second frame with a hip flexor injury.
He missed more than a quarter of the previous game with a groin injury and his status for Friday night’s game against Port Angeles is in question.
What wasn’t in question was North Kitsap’s execution of a modified wing-T offense that is based on misdirecting defenses — and it did Friday. The Vikings racked up more than 300 yards and a 30-7 lead by halftime, thanks to the slashing running of McCorkle and Milyard’s crisp passing.
That, coupled with NK’s opportunistic defense that forced a pair of key Catelli interceptions, made for a long night for the Sequim faithful.
“They are a big-play offense,” Wiker said. “I’m not going to make excuses — these guys (North Kitsap) played great.”
Forgettable first half
The Vikings got on the board first with a 36-yard field goal from Kyler Gracey, the big-footed lefty kicker who pinned Sequim deep all night with booming kickoffs.
After forcing a three-and-out, North saw McCorkle uncork a 73-yard scamper from scrimmage for a touchdown and 10-0 NK lead.
North tried to make it 13-0 a few minutes later, but a Gracey 46-yard field goal try fell short.
Sequim responded with a 10-play, 80-yard drive capped by Catelli’s 2-yard dive on fourth down. That trimmed the NK lead to 10-7.
But the Vikings’ McCorkle once again exploited the Sequim defense, taking a toss from Milyard 74 yards on North’s next play from scrimmage, putting his team up 17-7.
Tyler Lee snagged a Catelli pass on Sequim’s next play and the Vikings drove down to the Wolves’ 3-yard-line. Milyard fumbled on third and goal, however, and Sequim’s Josh McElrath picked up the ball with six minutes left in the half.
With a chance to close the gap before halftime, Sequim couldn’t piece together a drive and the Vikings made them pay — Milyard found Dan Mitchell from 15 yards out for a touchdown and 24-7 NK lead.
Jordan Hadden provided the capper, intercepting a Catelli pass across the middle and racing 42 yards for a touchdown and 30-7 NK lead.
Sequim had just seven rushing attempts for 18 yards in the first half; North Kitsap blitzed through Sequim’s defense for 218 yards on 19 carries.
“They took away screens and runs,” Erik Wiker said. “They were doing well and our o-line was doing medium. We can pass well … (and) we probably went away from the run too soon.”
Sequim closed the gap in the third quarter when Jack Wiker scored from 2 yards out. But without Catelli on either side of the ball, Sequim couldn’t mount a strong second half comeback.
Catelli finished 15 of 31 for 153 yards. Jack Wiker led Sequim with 74 yards while Nick Ramirez had a breakout game with 10 receptions for 131 yards.
P.A., playoffs on the horizon
It was supposed to be another clash of titans. Now it’s likely a fight for a better seat at the playoff table.
In other Olympic League action Friday night, Klahowya knocked off an injury-riddled Port Angeles squad, 26-7.
Instead of a repeat of 2010, when Sequim and Port Angeles boasted undefeated league records and battled for an Olympic League title, the two squads likely will be playing for a No. 2 seed going into the Nov. 5 crossover playoffs.
Sequim conceivably could play into another league title with a win and a North Kitsap loss to Kingston on Oct. 28.
While the game may have lost a bit of luster from one season to another, Sequim’s head coach said his players will be more than up for their rivals Friday night.
“It’s got to be the Super Bowl for both teams,” he said.
Keenan Walker leads the Roughriders with 1,025 yards passing for 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions, and is second on the team with 571 rushing yards and eight scores. But the senior reportedly has a broken forearm and may not play Friday.
Dylan Brewer leads the squad with 589 yards rushing.
In 2010, both teams were ranked in the Associated Press Top 10 poll. But the Wolves manhandled their rivals easily in front of a packed Civic Field crowd, 41-0.
Dave Ditlefsen, Sequim High School athletic director, said that despite rumors to the contrary, the game will be held in Sequim — and not a Sequim “home game” back at Civic Field, as happened back in 2005.
The Olympic League champion plays at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, at North Kitsap High School in Poulsbo, while the league’s No. 2 team plays at 4:30 p.m. that night at the same venue.
The league’s No. 3 and No. 4 teams play crossover games on the road.
Sequim has clinched at least a No. 3 seed.