Sequim Wolves players celebrate with fans after their 37-21 district playoff win over the River Ridge Hawks on Nov. 8 to qualify for the Class 2A State Football Tournament for the second year in a row. (Conor Dowley/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sequim Wolves players celebrate with fans after their 37-21 district playoff win over the River Ridge Hawks on Nov. 8 to qualify for the Class 2A State Football Tournament for the second year in a row. (Conor Dowley/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

THINGS WE LEARNED: Wolves use their Newton

SEQUIM — Sequim used its Newton and chased down its second straight Class 2A State Football Tournament berth in a 37-21 win over River Ridge last Friday.

“Chased” is an appropriate description of the Wolves’ climb back into the contest after spotting River Ridge a 14-0 first-quarter lead.

And junior lineman Austin Newton was doing much of the chasing, providing the spark Sequim needed to get back in the game and seize momentum after the slow start.

“He’s player of the game for sure, he kept us in it, I think,” Wolves head coach Erik Wiker said of Newton. “He was making all those tackles — first quarter he was in on every tackle. And the turnover in the second quarter. Without him it could have gotten real ugly, real quick.”

Newton was around the ball all game long defensively, but his second quarter forced fumble deep in Hawks’ territory turned the game in Sequim’s favor.

The Wolves pounded the ball in on a 1-yard Taig Wiker touchdown run and went ahead 21-14 with 1:01 left until halftime.

“Austin Newton all game was just getting in there,” Sequim running back Walker Ward said. “Our whole D-line got pressure all night and tackles for losses in the run game.”

And Newton, listed at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, is one of those “always” kids that football coaches and teammates love to have and play alongside.

“Oh, yeah. He’s always up, always excited,” Ward said. “With Austin, it’s always, ‘Let’s go get it, let’s go get this.’ Monday, Tuesday [at practice] whenever. He’s always trying to go out there and hit somebody.”

Big kicks

Sequim has had its struggles in the kicking game — an earlier Thing We Learned this season was devoted to the Wolves’ affinity for going for the 2-point conversion.

There was a reason why Sequim has attempted the 2-point try after nearly every score — they weren’t consistent enough in the kicking game to get the results they were seeking.

The Wolves haven’t mastered the art of the placekick, but Sequim showed improvement against River Ridge.

The Wolves had seized momentum of the game with a 21-point second quarter, but ceded it right back when River Ridge ran back the second half’s opening kickoff 83 yards to tie it back up.

Midway through the third quarter, Sequim faced a fourth-and-goal from the Hawks’ 12-yard line and needed some points.

Enter Garrett Hoesel, backup kicker, on in place of the injured Michael Young.

Hoesel swung his leg through, the kick was good from 29-yards out, and the Wolves went up 24-21 — and never trailed again.

Hoesel ended up 2 of 3 on his point-after-touchdown attempts — and caught a two-point conversion pass attempt earlier in the game.

“That was huge, that was good,” Wiker said of Hoesel’s kicks. “We have been stressing how [important] that it is because we can’t hardly make one, you guys know that, we aren’t lying.

“That was our best bet. They might have thought it was a trick play and not rushed. If I was them I would have rushed the [poop] out of it. But they didn’t, so it’s snap, pull, kick. He was practicing [kicking] all week.”

Know the foe

A potent opponent awaits the Wolves on Friday in the first round of the state tournament.

Sequim (9-1) will face a Lakewood (8-1) team that has an impressive resume — including a win over No. 8 seed Archbishop Murphy and a 14-10 district playoff win over a Liberty team that was No. 10 in the Associated Press poll (Lakeview was sixth).

The Wolves are seeking the school’s second ever state playoff game win, having beaten Burlington-Edison in 2009.

Sequim is making its eighth state trip since Wiker became head coach in 2004, and ninth overall in the program’s history.

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