SEQUIM — Entering Friday’s season-opening tilt at Forks, Sequim is attempting to replace a senior class that saw much of the varsity playing time for the last three seasons, going 21-6 overall and making two state football playoff appearances in that stretch.
But really with the pandemic raging around them, the Wolves are trying to keep a handle on the present and an eye on the future of the team and its players.
Head coach Erik Wiker and his staff have been working for the better part of a year on boosting players’ grades which took a hit across the board during the pandemic for nearly all students attending classes virtually or on a hybrid basis.
Entering his 18th season, Wiker, the winningest and longest-tenured head coach on the North Olympic Peninsula (116-57), has been working on the Xs and Os as much as seeing grades rise from Ds and Fs to Cs and Bs.
“All winter and spring I worked with the kids on their academics,” Wiker said. “We had study halls twice a week last year, and we starting it up again [last] week and working on past semesters. We had good success getting a lot of kids’ grades up last year and we have continued it.”
Even if players can’t attain eligibility, Wiker hopes the study hall sessions and coaches checking in on their academics will put players back on the path toward graduation and a brighter future.
“We are really happy with the kids who have come out,” Wiker said. “They are working hard and bringing effort and energy every day.”
Wiker also played recruiter this spring and summer, getting in touch with potential freshman football players.
“We have a lot of freshmen out, they are probably our biggest class,” Wiker said. “I don’t think they played [middle school football] last year, so we got into communication with the coaches, got the team list from a couple years ago and texted and called all the parents.”
And Wiker said the composition of the 40-player roster looks a bit different than last winter/spring, when Sequim went 3-2.
“We are spread out decently among the classes, all things considered,” Wiker said. “We have more linemen than we did last year and less skill-position guys and it’s good to get a good group of freshman linemen in. We will have a lot of freshman backups.”
The Wolves do have a bit of a rarity at quarterback in senior Kobe Applegate. With no state playoffs in 2020 or winter/spring 2021, Applegate is one of a handful of returning quarterbacks who has started a state tournament football game, after getting the start at Lakewood in November 2019. Applegate also started four of five games for Sequim during the condensed season earlier this year.
“Kobe provides energy and leadership,” Wiker said. “He’s excited to play his senior year, and he’s a charismatic kid who is experienced. Kids respect grade level and experience, and he started three or four games last season and three or four the year before, so he has a lot of starting experience.”
Wiker said Sam Haggen and Ricky Jennings are running back and linebacker candidates as well as junior newcomer Aiden Gockerell, a Sequim native who moved back from North Carolina.
“He’s very explosive and is going to be one of the best athletes on the team,” Wiker said.
Applegate will be protected by left tackle Beau Halvorson.
“He’s a third-year starter on the varsity and will play left tackle on offense. He was a defensive end last year, but will most likely be a defensive tackle.”
Pryce Glasser, a senior who stepped up defensively during the spring season, will play at defensive end and fill the other offensive tackle slot.
Aiden Holland is another returning starter along the line, and Lars Wiker is expected to see starting time on the line offensively and at linebacker on defense.
Isaiah Moore will be Applegate’s largest target at wide receiver at 6-foot-4, and Moore also will start in the defensive secondary along with returning starter at cornerback, Mason King.
Wiker said that a couple of Sequim soccer standouts in Brandon Wagner and Christian Gonzalez are also expected to play in the secondary.
“Brandon is a returner for us and Gonzo is a really athletic kid,” Wiker said.
As for the overall outlook for the Olympic League and his squad, Wiker said the uncertainty of present times impacts everything.
“It’s a matter of picturing any offense if you are missing two of your starters,” Wiker said.
“Every team in the league had kids on COVID protocol before the first week of practice, so it’s all more abstract. North Kitsap probably has the best team, but will they all be there every week? We will try to enjoy this season while staying well enough to play games and compete in the games we can compete in.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected]