SEDRO-WOOLLEY - With rain beating down on the helmetless heads of Sehome's football players, the Mariners serenaded their fans with a fight song along the home sideline. They circled coach Bob Norvell, jumping and chanting, and they couldn't stop grinning when the second-year Sehome coach yelled the word "postseason."
What seemed like an impossible playoff dream nearly three months had just become sweet reality.
"This is everything," said Norvell, who couldn't wipe the smile off his face. "This is what you dream about when you're a little kid. This is what you want for your program. You want to keep playing football, and you don't want to be the guy in line waiting to turn in gear."
The Mariners won't be, at least for another week, after beating Anacortes 13-10 during a thrilling Kansas City Tiebreaker, played by college football overtime rules, Saturday, Nov. 2, at Sedro-Woolley High School.
The win nets Sehome (4-5, 3-4 NWC 2A/3A) the Northwest Conference's No. 3 seed. It will travel to play Lakewood next week in the Class 2A District Playoffs.
Not since 2000, when Sehome Athletic Director Colin Cushman was in his first year, have the Mariners reached the playoffs.
Quarterback Daniel Ziegler rushed for two touchdowns, and Sehome's defense came up with a critical stop that forced Anacortes into a field goal during its second possession.
"It feels so good to sort of be the cornerstone of the turnaround of Sehome football," Ziegler said. "The coaching staff came in last year and sort of set a standard for how we want to be. This was our goal from the beginning of the year."
Sehome had a chance to end the tiebreaker early after Ziegler's first touchdown - a 5-yard scramble - put the Mariners in front 7-0 with Sam Diehl's crucial extra point.
Anacortes found itself in a third-and-20 following a low-block penalty, but quarterback Jared Douglas completed a 21-yard pass over the middle to Sehome's 3 to set up a first-and-goal. Nick Monroe tied the game up two plays later.
Sehome's defense made up for it during the Seahawks' next possession. The Mariners stuffed a P.J. Monroe run on first-and-10 on the 12 for a 1-yard loss. Then they broke up a pass over the middle before Diehl batted a ball away in the corner of the end zone to force a 30-yard field goal.
Then it was Ziegler and the offense's turn.
Following a 3-yard gain by Ziegler and 2-yard run by Taylor Rapp, Ziegler rolled out and completed a short pass to Rapp for a 17-yard gain down to Anacortes' 3 on a critical third-and-5. Ziegler took the ball left and sprinted to the corner of the end zone on the next play, crossed the goal line, and the Mariners sideline went crazy.
"I knew we were going to have to ride his coat tails," said Norvell of Ziegler. "He's worked harder than anybody, and he deserved it."
The victory was particularly special for a senior group who've endured some lean years.
"A lot of them, they came into Sehome kind of expecting like, 'Oh, here's Sehome. We're not going to make it in the playoffs and everything,'" Ziegler said. "And then finally this year everyone started believing."
Sehome earned the right to play the winner of Burlington-Edison and Anacortes thanks to a coin flip earlier in the week. The Seahawks beat the Tigers in the first tiebreaker thanks to a missed Burlington-Edison extra point. Sehome beat Burlington-Edison 28-17 during its regular-season matchup but lost 27-23 to Anacortes.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.