THE LINE STARTED building two hours before game time.
And once kickoff rolled around at 7 p.m., Civic Field was rocking.
A group of Sequim fans tailgated outside the stadium, while two others sat on lawn chairs atop a motor home and makeshift platform so they could see above the south end zone fence.
A gigantic “re-elect Deb Kelly” sign — trucked in earlier that day — sat in plain view of the west grandstand.
And KING-TV even had one of its helicopters hovering overhead.
“Everybody wants a piece of this thing,” Port Angeles athletic director Dwayne Johnson said.
He couldn’t have been more right.
Big time football had come to the North Olympic Peninsula for one night when No. 7 Port Angeles hosted No. 10 Sequim in Civic Field on Friday.
And an estimated record crowd of 4,200 came to see the spectacle.
It may have been even more if Port Angeles administrators weren’t forced to close the gates.
The grandstand was jam packed with Port Angeles fans, while the east sideline had their Sequim counterparts standing from fence line to fence line.
“This is amazing,” one Port Angeles parent said to no one in particular as a tear streamed down her cheek during the national anthem.
Indeed, the scene would have seemed almost unfathomable a year ago.
At that time, Port Angeles was finishing up an 0-10 season under one-year coach Dick Abrams, and administrators had no problem fitting fans into Civic.
Twelve months after hitting rock bottom, these Riders got their community to actually care about football again.
This was, perhaps, the finest achievement of the 2010 Roughrider football team.
Considering all the losing seasons and coaching changes that preceded them, that was no small feat.
“It was the most exhilarating feeling I’ve ever felt in my life,” red-eyed Port Angeles senior Cody Sullivan said after the loss.
“This is a night I’m never going to forget. Our community came out and supported us, and I can’t thank them enough for it.
“I want to give my community a league championship, and I thought this was the year to do it.
“And unfortunately all we can do is go into the playoffs and try and get them a state championship instead.”
Catelli causes havoc
Coming into the game, it was the Port Angeles defense that had garnered the most attention this season.
Yet it was the Sequim defense — most notably defensive end Frank Catelli — that ended up stealing the show.
The Wolves had Port Angeles quarterback Keenen Walker on the run from the beginning.
Catelli sacked the junior signal caller on the Riders’ first possession, then spent the rest of the night pressuring Walker whenever he dropped back to pass.
“He’s good, he’s really good,” Sequim coach Erik Wiker said. “You can’t coach that too much. You just pretend you do.”
Port Angeles didn’t complete a pass until the fourth quarter, due in large part to the pressure Catelli was able to provide as well as the support of linebackers Isaac Yamamoto and Preston McFarlen.
And with the Rider ground game stalled, that was enough to turn the game into a lop-sided affair.
“Catelli was a great player. We couldn’t stop him with one guy,” Wahl said. “That’s a good eye opener, though. So far in league we haven’t faced a guy like him, so now our guys got a great taste.
“We’re going to see people like that from now on if we expect to keep going into the playoffs.”
Here’s a quick glance at next week’s winner-to-state football playoff matchups:
• Chimacum vs. Nooksack Valley (1A) — The Cowboys dodged a bullet when Life Christian and Cedar Park Christian both lost Friday night.
Instead of facing No. 2 Meridian (9-0) — their likely opponent had they gotten the Nisqually League’s fourth seed — the Cowboys will take on a good but not great Nooksack Valley team.
Nooksack Valley (6-3) is no patsy but has lost twice to Meridian, 56-14 at home in early October and 35-7 at Meridian last week.
• Port Angeles vs. Sumner — The Spartans finished in a three-way logjam atop the South Puget Sound League.
For reasons too complicated to get into now, they ended up with the SPSL’s third seed in the preliminary playoffs.
Sumner (7-2) knocked off one of the two other top teams, Eatonville, 25-14, and has won three straight games since losing to Franklin Pierce (4-5).
• Sequim vs. Washington — Wolves fans should be familiar with the Patriots (4-5).
Sequim has beaten their old Nisqually/Olympic League foes three straight years by a combined score of 136-56.
They are hardly world beaters this year, either, having already lost to fourth-place Olympic League foe North Mason 28-20 earlier this season.
They got into the playoffs by virtue of a 24-19 win over Franklin Pierce on Friday night.
Matt Schubert is the outdoors and sports columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column regularly appears on Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at email@example.com.