“We played to our potential.”
That was the five-word summation of the 2019 Sequim Wolves football season from head coach Erik Wiker, who said he was pleased with his team’s performance on the season.
With the Wolves running up a 9-1 record before getting knocked out of the first round of the 2A state playoffs by the Lakewood Cougars, Wiker and company have plenty to be proud of.
After the 2018 season, the Wolves were losing numerous senior starters and significant depth, the team’s numerous juniors needed to step up and take over the team — and hopefully the Olympic League.
And take over they did.
While the Wolves didn’t win the league title they placed second, their lone loss of the season coming by eight points early in the campaign in a grinding battle against eventual league champ North Kitsap.
Defense was a hallmark for the Wolves this year, holding Olympic League opponents to just 13.5 points per game, but they had plenty of firepower on the other side of the ball. Junior quarterback Taig Wiker was named Olympic League Offensive MVP after throwing for 1,155 yards and 13 touchdowns, and running for another 455 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Considering that this was Wiker’s first season working as a varsity quarterback after spending his sophomore season as a running back, the transition went very smoothly for the son of Sequim’s head coach.
“Taig has always been a quarterback, but he has other things that he offers on the field,” Erik Wiker said. “He was also a great safety for us this season, which was really felt when he couldn’t play at times because of his knee injury.
Injuries cost the Wolves at the end of the season, however, with Wiker and Michael Young, and Olympic League first-team wide receiver and cornerback, both missing the state playoff game against the Lakewood with knee injuries. Lakewood won, 38-12.
Coach Wiker isn’t letting that setback put a pall on the season as a whole, though, taking a positive attitude when looking back at the campaign.
“This team had to overcome a lot of adversity throughout the year,” he said. “They showed a lot of strength getting through all (the injuries).
“Every game we were in, everything we dealt with in those games, we played to our potential. Even (against Lakewood), going up against a big top-ten team without our quarterback and facing their stars, our first drive we went down and scored.”
For Wiker, several big moments stood out from the season, particularly how fast the team clicked in the first game against Washington — a 42-14 Sequim win — despite having few returning starters.
“That was a key moment for us, starting so strong,” Wiker said. “That helped give a lot of confidence going forward.”
Wiker was more impressed, though, with how well his team closed out the season, with crucial wins against Olympic (37-14) and Bremerton (36-21) as well as an impressive non-league win against a perennially tough Hoquiam team (14-12).
“Losing Michael (Young) in the Hoquiam game, and playing so tough throughout that game, was really impressive,” Wiker said.
“You can coach up a team as much as you want, but playing that hard and making those two goal line stands (on defense) to win that game is all on the kids and their effort. I was so impressed.”
Against Olympic, the Wolves shut down the Olympic League’s highest-scoring offense and put on arguably their most comprehensively dominant performances of the season, with Taig Wiker throwing for a season-high three touchdowns — two to Young and one tipped pass that turned into a 69-yard touchdown to Hayden Eaton.
Of course the development of players is always a highlight for coaches, and one of the team’s most improved players in Wiker’s eyes was Walker Ward. The junior running back came into the season with almost no varsity experience at the position, having mostly just played at outside linebacker last season. Ward rushed for 1,209 yards and nine touchdowns, with Wiker noting that Ward got better as the season went on.
“At the beginning of the year he was hitting holes and running hard,” Wiker said, “but by the end of the year he was slipping tackles and making better decisions.”
Linebacker Isaiah Cowan also got noted as having improved significantly, going from what Wiker called a “good” outside linebacker to “finding his home” at inside linebacker and becoming one of the best in the Olympic League.
“(Isaiah) was very disruptive and had a great year there,” Wiker said. “He was better than most outside, but he really excelled inside.”
Excitement for future
One of the stories coming into the season was that this season wouldn’t be the end of the story for this year’s Wolves team. With just three seniors — none of whom saw significant varsity playing time — and a whopping 17 juniors on the roster, this team’s best days always looked like it could be next season instead.
Players such as Wiker, Young, Garrett Hosel, Ward, linebackers Cowan and Lane Mote and linemen Caleb Pozernick, Brandon Barnett and Austin Newton formed a core for the team that led them to impressive results all season long, and next season will have another year of physical and technical development to hopefully lead to Wolves to an even better season than what they experienced in 2019.
While Erik Wiker is looking forward to seeing his core group develop and get better and add new skills, he’s also hoping to see more of the players around them step up.
Sequim had several freshmen play a role on their 2019 team, including cornerback Brett Mote, wide receiver Isaiah Moore and linebacker Samual Fitzgerald. Wiker said he’s hoping those three will be able to use that experience to force their way into even more playing time and allow him to utilize his team’s depth to give other players a little more rest.
Other older players who didn’t earn many starts but impressed in instances — like sophomore defensive lineman David Hales or junior offensive lineman Bodi Sanderson — are players Wiker hopes will step into other roles.
“David did really well when he got on the field,” Wiker said. “If we can use him for a whole half or more defense, that can give a Caleb or a (Barnett) some time off the field so they can be better on offense.
“Same thing with Bodi on offense, especially if he can take center. Giving Newton more energy to use on defense would be great.”
Wiker said he took great pride in the quality of his lines throughout the season, but the one thing he bemoaned was how much his linemen had to stay on the field because of the Wolves’ lack of depth.
Getting more of a rotation to help rest key players will be an important practice to keeping his team in top shape throughout the season, Wiker said.
Wiker also pointed at junior varsity running back Blake Peterson, a sophomore in 2019, as someone who could play into a bigger role in 2020. He could give the Wolves a second legitimate running threat out of the backfield, Wiker said, to help keep Ward fresher and playing at his best on both sides of the ball; Ward, Wiker said, is one of the better outside linebackers in the Olympic League in addition to his running back role.
In the end 2019 was a great season for the Sequim Wolves football team, but Wiker said things are be shaping up for 2020 to be even better.