POULSBO — Special teams and defense lifted Sequim to its first win over league power North Kitsap since 2010 last season and springboarded the Wolves to the Olympic League football crown.
The Vikings want to reclaim the top spot this season and tonight’s league-opening clash in Poulsbo at 7 p.m. stands to give the winner a heads-up on what could be a crowded playoff chase for just three district berths.
Last season’s 16-14 win saw Sequim’s graduated quarterback/kicker Riley Cowan go 3 of 3 on field goals, boot three punts inside the North Kitsap five-yard line and pin the Vikings deep on two other kickoffs. One of those field goals hit a power wire strung over Sequim’s football field — by rule a re-kick — and which left the North Kitsap coaching staff perplexed.
“I don’t think there’s any animosity toward each other,” Sequim head coach Erik Wiker said of the two teams. “We’ve had [coaches] meetings together, played in the same passing league [during the summer] and attended their jamboree, all that stuff. You are going to have games that are questionable because they are close, but it was the call they were asking about, not about us.”
For Wiker, it’s a mutual-respect relationship.
“When we have some players, we can compete with them,” Wiker said. “They have a great program and are always a well-coached, well-prepared team. I think both programs respect each other quite a bit. One thing I enjoy is going up against good coaches … That’s enjoyable for a coach because our choices make a bigger difference in the outcome.”
Wiker knows his squad will have to clean up its game after a penalty-filled contest with Forks cost the Wolves a pair of touchdowns — and saddled junior playmaker Michael Young with a one-game suspension.
He believes his team still has a league champion mindset, but he’s been focused on a different motivational strategy.
“I’ve been telling them that we are not good enough to walk on a field and just play good against teams in this league and expect to win,” Wiker said.
“We have to go and play a great game against those better teams in the league. I don’t think we can just show up and expect to beat teams with only a good effort.
“What people say, those people in Seattle [Times prep rankings], I try to make sure our kids stay grounded and focused on our effort, because with most of the league it will take us playing a great game to win.”
Both teams are young and lacking a little experience offensively.
“Offensively, we are a new team,” Wiker said. “We have three kids returning and all of them are at different positions — we have Brandon [Barnett] at a different spot on the line and our running back is our quarterback [Taig Wiker].” Young also is a returning starter but is playing at a different wide receiver spot this eason.
North Kitsap coach Jeff Weible told The Kitsap Sun his concern remains with the Vikings offense heading into the Sequim game. Pretty much every skill player is a first-year starter.
“I’m never worried about our defense in terms of stopping teams,” Weible said. “Offensively, we need to be more consistent.”
And while the Vikings will focus on containing Wiker at QB, Sequim also will face a multi-threat quarterback in North Kitsap sophomore Colton Bower.
“When you have an athlete like that they are game changers but you don’t know when it is coming,” coach Wiker said. “He can make a play with his arm or his feet and you don’t know if a missed tackle or a block will spring them for a big play. Guys like that are scary because they are talented and one of the better athletes on the field.”
• The Pick: North Kitsap.
The intangibles are on the Vikings side — a home game on artificial turf and ample motivation from last season’s defeat. Sequim’s spread offense doesn’t play favorites, but Young’s absence will be hard for Sequim to overcome — he was all over the field against Forks last week on both sides of the ball and he is a fiery, motivational force for his teammates.
• Other picks: Kingston over Port Angeles; Forks over Port Townsend; Chimacum over La Conner; Crescent over South Bend and Quilcene over Neah Bay.
Last Week: 5-0.
Season to Date: 10-1.
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or at [email protected]