By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News
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It was Sequim’s second consecutive Olympic League football win.
And it was the third straight good showing for a running back who was struggling to find his way.
“He was a guy who would make too many moves,” Sequim head coach Erik Wiker said.
“He’s speedy, so he kind of relied on that more than just downhill running.
“I had a talk with him, said, ‘Are you ever going to do that? I’ve told you for a year and a half now, all you’ve got to do is run straight and then use your speed after that.’
“Maybe the heart-to-heart helped, I don’t know, but he’s started doing it. It’s all on him, we’ve been saying it for a while, and he decided to do it.”
Lopaka followed up last week’s 271-yard performance in a win over Klahowya with 174 yards on 18 carries Friday night.
He admits his new running style has made him a better runner.
“It’s helped me out,” Yasamura said.
“All I’m focused on is keep pumping my feet until I get tackled. That’s what I’ve been trying to focus on, always just trying to get as much yards as I can and fight for every inch.”
Port Angeles running back Nathan Angevine scored on a 20-yard run on a fourth-and-six play with five minutes left in the third quarter to cut the Wolves’ lead to 14-7.
That’s when Yasamura put the Wolf Pack on his back.
He scored on a 55-yard run two minutes later when he blasted through the line of scrimmage and found an easy path to the end zone.
“I go through the hole, and there was just grass,” Yasamura said.
“And when I saw grass, I was just like, ‘Okay, I’ve got to just sprint.’ And I just ran as fast as I could, and I tried to relax, stay on my toes, have good form, and I just sprinted all the way to the touchdown.”
Jack Wiker ran for the two-point conversion that extended the lead to 22-7.
Then in the fourth quarter, Yasamura scored on 9- and 16-yard runs to put the game away.
“They just broke away in the second half,” Port Angeles head coach Tom Wahl said after the game.
Erik Wiker said Yasamura’s newfound running style is particularly beneficial when it’s cold and wet like Friday’s game.
“In the later months, when it’s slippery, wet and nasty, we are running straight forward, not running sideways, then taking our whole weight and turning.
“With sweep [plays], you have to turn in all this junk.”
Yasamura said his straight-forward running was helped by space to run through.
“My offensive line blocked hard,” he said. “They just blocked as hard as they could and they opened holes for me.”
Led by Fred and Alex Serrano and Jared McMinn, the Wolves’ dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
They opened holes on offense and plugged them on defense.
“It’s a cliché almost, but if your offensive and defensive line win [their battles], you’re probably going to win the game,” Erik Wiker said. “Most of the time, that’s true.
“We blitzed way less than we normally have because of the fact that our d-line could control the line of scrimmage and get a pass rush on them, and our coverage was doing really well.”
Sequim’s defensive line gave Port Angeles fits throughout the game by constantly forcing its way into the backfield to tackle the Riders’ running backs behind the line of scrimmage and pressuring quarterback Larsson Chapman whenever he dropped back to pass.
The Riders’ defense had a fairly strong showing itself. Wahl said the difference in the game was the strength and experience of the two offenses.
Port Angeles has changed its offense to be more run-oriented this season, and the transition hasn’t always been smooth.
“Physically, they were superior to us,” Wahl said.
“And, they’re efficient. They have an effective offense, there’s no question about it. They’re efficient at what they do, and they’re consistent with what they do, so they run it well.
“You can only play so many series on defense. You’ve got to do something on offense. You’ve got to give the defense some help.
“We’ve made a change in offense this year. It’s more like starting over than I thought it was going to be.
“Even though there’s a lot of things that we’re doing that’s the same, I guess it’s a learning experience for me to put in a new offense and realize that it’s going to take us some time to build it up and get used to it, and execute it.”
It didn’t help that the Riders were without three of their top running backs. Joey Barnes, Wesley Gidding and Matt Robbins were all out with injuries.
“Those are three starters, but still, we had quality guys that we had to put in there,” Wahl said. “It’s just a matter of executing.”
Despite its depth in the backfield, Port Angeles had to get creative to fill in for the injured trio.
Alongside usual backs Angevine, Nick Lasorsa and Tate Priest, the Riders played Miki Andrus, who played quarterback earlier, at slotback.
They also used lineman Brian Cristion as their power runner on a few occasions.
In fact, Cristion led Port Angeles in rushing yards with 39 and had its biggest offensive play of the game, a 33-yard run in the second quarter.
Cristion was the Riders’ defensive star, too, stopping Sequim runners for short gains and forcing a fumble.
“He goes all out on every play. He played well,” Wahl said before looking over his shoulder and seeing Cristion limping toward the bus.
“Of course, he doesn’t look too well now.”
Port Angeles has dropped five straight to the Wolves, its last win in the rivalry series coming in 2007.
One of the biggest plays of the game came with under a minute remaining in the first half.
With Sequim leading 6-0, defensive back Christian Miles intercepted Chapman and returned the ball to the Port Angeles 20-yard line. Miles hurt his ribs on the play, and didn’t return.
The Wolves scored three plays later on a touchdown pass from Jack Wiker to Brett Wright, and Wiker ran in the two-point conversion.
Instead of trailing by less than a touchdown at half, Port Angeles was down 14-0.
Though Sequim has just two victories in a season that began with Olympic League title hopes, Erik Wiker said both wins are important.
“Two games that are really good to win are homecoming, and senior night and the Port Angeles games,” Wiker said.
“That makes up for some stuff.”
The Wolves and Riders both head out on the road for their final scheduled games.
Sequim (2-4, 2-6) plays at North Mason, and Port Angeles (0-6, 0-8) faces Kingston, which is tied for second place in the Olympic League after upsetting North Kitsap 31-27 in Poulsbo.
Sequim 34, Port Angeles 7
Sequim 0 14 8 12— 34
Port Angeles 0 0 7 0— 7
S—Jack Wiker 5 run (kick blocked)
S—Brett Wright 20 pass from Wiker (Wiker run)
PA—Nathan Angevine 20 run (Vincent Ioffrida kick)
S—Lopaka Yasamura 55 run (Wiker run)
S—Yasamura 9 run (pass fail)
S—Yasamura 16 run (kick fail)
Rushing— S: Yasamura 18-174, Wiker 16-93, Chris Whitaker 2-5. PA: Brian Cristion 4-39, Angevine 7-17, Miki Andrus 14-13, Larsson Chapman 2-7, Nick Lasorsa 3-4, Tate Priest 2-3.
Passing—S: Wiker 9-14, 80. PA: Chapman 4-8-1, 31.
Receiving—S: Wright 3-45, Austin Law 2-19, Christian Miles 2-8, Luke Mooney 1-5, Yasamura 1-3. PA: Jonathan Newlin 1-9, Hunter Hathaway 1-9, Andrus 2-13.