THE GAME: Long-awaited Port Angeles-Sequim showdown for league crown finally is here

PORT ANGELES — The wait is finally over.

After weeks of anticipation over what may very well be the biggest football game in the rivalry’s history, Port Angeles and Sequim meet tonight at 7 in Port Angeles’ Civic Field.

A crowd of more than 3,000 is expected to show up in Green-and-White and Purple-and-Gold to cheer on a pair of playoff teams battling for an outright Olympic League title.

Port Angeles, a year removed from its first-ever 0-10 season, hopes to complete its dramatic turnaround with a worst-to-first run under first-year head coach Tom Wahl.

Sequim is looking to clinch its sixth league title in seven years under head coach Erik Wiker.

Each is ranked in the Class 2A top 10 by The Associated Press, with the Roughriders (6-0 in league, 8-0 overall) at No. 7 and Wolves (6-0, 7-1) at No. 10.

And, of course, each can make its season by pulling off a win tonight against its archrival.

Simply put, it doesn’t get much bigger than this.

“Everything has led up to this point and it can’t be more of a Cinderella story,” Port Angeles senior captain Cody Sullivan said.

“From going 0-10 to 8-0 so far and a place in the playoffs, there’s nothing we could want more.

“And there would be nothing more that would make our senior class happy than winning a league championship and going to the playoffs.”

That will be no easy task for the Riders.

Sequim has gotten the better of Port Angeles each of the past two seasons in early nonleague meetings, winning by a combined score of 80-14.

The Wolves are 4-2 against Port Angeles since the rivalry was renewed in 2004.

Making the game even more entertaining is the fact that each team’s strong suit will go head-to-head with the other’s.

While Sequim’s defense has been tough this season, it’s been the spread offense and three-year starting quarterback Drew Rickerson that has turned the most heads.

And while Port Angeles’ offense has shown flashes of brilliance with Keenen Walker under center, the Roughrider defense has been the most responsible for this year’s turnaround.

That unit has surrendered just 8.75 points per game this year while forcing 26 turnovers.

“Everything that we’ve set up for defensively during the year has come out to prepare for [Sequim],” said Sullivan, who has four interceptions and one fumble recovery this year at linebacker.

“It’s great preparation. We’ve played two spread teams the past two weeks [in wins over North Kitsap and Klahowya], and Sequim is spread.

“Of course, they have a lot more in their bag than the teams we’ve played in the past.”

A heck of a lot more.

Rickerson has been absolutely dazzling in his third year at quarterback for the Wolves.

The senior has completed 63.1 percent of his passes (120-of-190) for 1,554 yards, 18 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.

In each of his last five games, he’s thrown for 198 yards or more, including an NFL-esque passing line of 24-of-32 for 342 yards and three TDs against Bremerton on Sept. 24.

The Wolves also have a top flight running back in Isaac Yamamoto (845 yards and 12 TDs on 106 carries) and a bevy of pass catchers led by Joey Hall (34 receptions, 672 yards, nine TDs).

They will be tested by more than the Rider defense, however, with a standing-room crowd likely to make a whole lot of noise all game long.

To prepare, Sequim has worked on calling plays using signals from the sideline. But that’s about the only thing that has changed, senior right guard Preston McFarlen said.

“You don’t really prepare any differently,” McFarlen said. “You over-think the game and that’s where you start getting in trouble.

“If you just keep it as a game, you do your assignment, I’ll do my assignment, it will come out.”

Sequim’s defense isn’t too shabby either, having kept each of the Olympic League’s top two rushers (Kingston’s Lou Hecker and Bremerton’s Kyle Kennedy) below 100 yards this fall.

The Wolves will face a Port Angeles attack that has improved steadily throughout the season.

That includes a passing game under Walker — the team’s leading rusher and passer — that had three of its best four games in the last half of its eight-game schedule.

If the Riders can somehow expose Sequim’s secondary, they might be able to score some points.

Whatever the case, the atmosphere is sure to be electric at kickoff with the two teams meeting for a league title for the first time since Port Angeles High School opened in 1953.

“It’s been a blast, and it will be a blast,” McFarlen said. “I’m looking forward to it a lot.”

Him and everyone else.

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