SEQUIM — Erik Wiker refused to concede anything at beginning of this season.
Even after losing the most talented class of athletes in his first six years as the Sequim head football coach — seven starters on offense and six on defense — Wiker wasn’t about to lower expectations.
A league title, postseason appearance and state playoff win or two were all on the table.
Considering the football factory he has built since taking over the program in 2004, it wasn’t much of a surprise.
“On both sides of the ball there was not very many people coming back, so it was a concern of mine,” the 41-year-old coach admitted while watching his team prepare for Friday night’s de facto Olympic League title game at Port Angeles.
“But one thing I’ve always kind of done is . . . you gotta do with who you have. I’m not going to not coach as hard as I normally have because I don’t’ have big-name players.
“I’m going to coach these guys up. I’m going to expect a lot out of them, and I believe in them.”
Therein lies perhaps Wiker’s greatest gift.
A coach doesn’t quadruple a program’s state playoff appearances in just six years time without believing in his players and getting the most out of them.
And that’s something Wiker has made a habit of doing while compiling a 60-15 overall record, five league titles and four state playoff runs in six-plus seasons in Dungeness Valley.
“More so than probably anybody I’ve coached with, Erik truly sees and believes in the potential of the kids,” Sequim athletic director and football assistant Dave Ditlefsen said.
“He won’t look at a kid and look at his limitations. He’ll look at what he can get out of him, and then he pushes him to become the athlete he can.
“I’ve seen him turn kids that even themselves didn’t think they could be much of an athlete into very good football players.
“He’s done that every year he’s been here.”
Perhaps there is no better example than this year.
Sequim’s roster is filled with self-made players; ones who spent many a morning in the Wolves’ weight room working on strength and agility.
Take senior captain Preston McFarlen, the 6-foot, 180-pound leader of a smallish offensive line that has paved the way on offense that’s already scored more points than all but two of Wiker’s teams.
(The Wolves need just four touchdowns in two games to surpass the 2009 team’s high-water mark of 413.)
“[Before the ’09 season] in the weight room during the summer there was like five or six kids, the rest of them showed up and played,” said McFarlen, a starting right guard.
“They relied a lot on natural ability to come out and do their thing. We came in this summer and the least amount we had was 22 kids. At one point I was picking up truck loads at a time and bringing them in.
“That right there is heart and passion, and you play football with heart and passion and you’re going to win most of your games.”
As he has done every year, Wiker opened up the weight room each day during the summer.
He also built athletes up through the weight training class he teaches at the high school, while organizing the same spring and summer programs he’s put together in previous offseasons.
“I haven’t seen him take the foot off the pedal yet,” Ditlefsen said. “He doesn’t give himself much of a break.
“When the season is over he’ll take a week or two to recoup and then he’s at it again and he’s in the weight room and he’s encouraging kids and it begins . . . the offseason begins.
“It’s really a lifestyle for him. Football is a lifestyle.”
Indeed, the game has been in Wiker’s life in one form or another going all the way back to middle school.
Other than a three-year stint when he taught middle school from 1995-97, Wiker has either coached or played for a football team.
That included stints as a player at Fresno City College in California and University of Idaho in Moscow.
After serving as the Wolves’ defensive coordinator under Bill Anderson for four years, he took the head job in 2004.
He’s remained a student of the game since, studying all parts of the field to learn the nuances of each position.
When it became clear his traditional ground-and-pound offense had reached a ceiling following Sequim’s third straight playoff loss in ’08, Wiker broke out of his comfort zone as an offensive lineman.
He traveled to the Midwest to attend coaching camps during a 10-day period, coming back with a modified spread offense designed to move the ball no matter the situation.
“Our competitive advantage before was really relying on [Wiker’s] ability to coach an offensive line and be able to just pound the ball,” seventh-year assistant coach Matt Ashley said.
“We got to a point where we reached our limits with that. Losing three out of four years the way we did [at state], I think everybody was ready for, ‘We’ve got to be 0.4 seconds better [than the team’s last-second ’08 playoff loss to Centralia].'”
Getting better has been the eternal theme of the Wiker era at Sequim.
There’s a reason, after all, why his teams haven’t lost a single October game in seven years (31-0).
Wiker’s emphasis on reps, execution and preparation simply lend itself toward a team peaking at the end of a season.
Not only do his players run four offensive plays a minute during practice, they receive feedback after every one and are then sent home with film and homework to study and bring back to the coaches.
“I think his attention to details and coaching his scheme is what separates him from the pack,” Ditlefsen said.
“He can get a lot more out of lesser talent by putting them in the right spot to be successful.”
Of course, he’s also instilled the necessary attitude to do so as well.
“That was the first thing by far we had to change [when I arrived] was just to have a positive attitude,” Wiker said. “I think the next thing after that is expectations.
“I [said] at the beginning of the year that we didn’t have any different expectations with different kids out here. We expected to compete for league and go to the playoffs and try and get to state and do the same thing we did last year with our loaded team.
“If kids know we believe in them and you’re going to give everything you got and they give everything they got, it goes back to that belief thing that a lot of good things can happen [when you believe].”
Believe it or not, good things are happening once again for Sequim football.