After the clock had reached 0.0, after the ceremonial handshake lines at midfield had reached their end, and after all the Squalicum coaches had an opportunity to say their piece, Storm football coach Nick Lucey released his seniors.
Quietly, each placed his helmet on the ground and lined up along the end line of the west end zone at Civic Stadium. One by one, each underclassman on the team and then each coach went down the line, hugging each senior and whispering heartfelt words.
It was a fitting tribute to this group of seniors that had done so much for the program. But it’s one that Squalicum had hoped could have waited another three weeks and been held inside the Tacoma Dome, when the tears they shared could have been shed in joy, rather than disappointment.
“They are a special group,” Lucey said. “Not the way we wanted to go out, but I don’t want that to overshadow (everything else). They’ve been able to accomplish so much through hard work. ... We’re going to miss the heck out of them, but more than that, there’s some amazing people, amazing leaders – one of those special groups that don’t come through every year.”
Unfortunately for the Storm, their run ended Friday in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs with a 24-7 loss to Bonney Lake.
The loss kept third-ranked Squalicum from reaching the state quarterfinals for the first time in three years.
After the program’s first two state playoff runs came in Class 2A, this year’s came in the larger classification. But it wasn’t one of the bigger schools that tripped up Squalicum on Friday.
When the Storm look back on this one, it will probably see it made too many mistakes to beat a quality opponent.
Squalicum was penalized eight times for 80 yards – many of them coming at crucial times. A holding penalty wiped out a 77-yard touchdown run by Garrett Sorenson. Two others occurred in the red zone and stalled drives.
The Panthers also won the turnover battle 2-0, including getting a crucial interception in the end zone right before halftime, when Squalicum elected to run one more play before kicking what could have been a game-tying field goal.
And don’t forget two fourth-down runs out of punt formation that combined to lose 9 yards and turn the ball over on downs twice inside the Squalicum 40.
“I thought we had a few execution errors and, obviously, the penalty errors hurt,” Lucey said. “Right before the half, we had an opportunity to come away with a field goal. We tried to run one more play and sqeueeze it off. The ball got left a little inside a little bit, and they intercepted.”
Bonney Lake’s running game took care of the rest, piling up 295 methodical yards at 5 and 6 yards a crack. The only times the Panthers broke off big runs were Adam Fahsel’s 37-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and his game-clinching 32-yard TD run in the fourth.
Fahsel finished with 188 yards on 26 carries, while Jason Day had 103 yards on 30 carries.
“They’re a physical team,” Lucey said. “They came out and wanted to run the ball. That makes it difficult. Our defense did a good enough job, but offensively, when a team is going to take up that much time, you’ve got to make sure you make the most of your possessions.”
With its miscues, the Storm, who lost leading rusher Triston Smith to an apparent ankle injury in the second quarter, definitely didn’t do that, as opportunity after opportunity fell by the wayside.
Squalicum’s only completed job came in the second quarter, when Sorenson dove in from a yard out to cut the Storm’s deficit to 10-7.
But regardless of how Friday’s game ended, Lucey said this year’s seniors built a base for the program to start from next year.
“They set the standard,” Lucey said. “You don’t try to replace players like them. You’re not going to replace Ben Peterson. You’re not going to replace Damek Mitchell. But there are some really good players coming back, and (the seniors) set the bar for how we work during the season, how we look after each other, how we’re a family. All those little things show on the field when you’ve got teams of equal talent.”
BL – Adam Fahsel 37 run (Tate Hamlett kick)
BL – Hamlett 34 FG
Sq – Garerett Sorenson 1 run (Ben Peterson kick)
BL – Hamlett 29 FG
BL – Hamlett 26 FG
BL – Fahsel 32 (Jason Day run)
RUSHING — Bonney Lake: Jason Day 30-103, Adam Fahsel 26-188, Braydon Tressler 2-11, Kaiden Hammand 4-(-7). Squalicum: Ben Peterson 10-43, Garrett Sorenson 10-27, Triston Smith 3-14, Braunz Burr 1-5.
PASSING — Bonney Lake: Kaiden Hammand 4-7-0-49. Squalicum: Garrett Sorenson 13-26-2-196.
RECEIVING — Bonney Lake:Adam Fahsel 1-13, Braydon Tressler 1-9, Jason Day 1-12, Cody Miller 1-15. Squalicum: Ben Peterson 1-22, Triston Smith 1-5, Damek Mitchell 11-169.