Squalicum’s football team during last week’s bus ride home from Orting had more than two hours to revel in the victory.
But they had some reading material, too.
“I think he is a scheme genius,” senior linebacker Jordan Campbell said of defensive coordinator Doug Trainor in a phone interview. “We get scouting reports on Monday. I think we even got scouting reports on our way home from Orting to look at. I know the guys on the team, we carry those things around like they are a bible.”
Preparation. That’s the buzz word circulating around the Storm’s defensive success the second half of the season.
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Trainor has cunningly placed Squalicum’s athletes in position to succeed, and the Storm’s defense week after week has began transforming to match its offense’s prowess.
Squalicum is yielding an average of 10 points per game during the past six weeks. Three of those games, including last week’s blowout win over Orting, the Storm have allowed a touchdown or less.
But now the Storm (9-2) faces arguably its biggest defensive test of the year, in the team’s biggest game in program history, when Squalicum travels to face perennial Class 2A power and top-ranked Tumwater (11-0) in a Class 2A State Playoff quarterfinal matchup at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21, at Tumwater District Stadium.
Squalicum’s embracing the opportunity to put itself on the map, so to speak, against a historically-strong program. The Storm also know preventing the big play and forcing long nine-, 10-play drives will be key, but if there’s one thing for certain, it’s that Squalicum’s defense will be ready to play.
“Ever since our first day, its really been an evolution,” Storm coach Nick Lucey said of his defense in a phone interview, “and it’s all started with our defensive coordinator and him just installing a mindset that they are going to fight for every yard. I think we have gotten the confidence from preparation. Doug does an incredible job. Our scouting report is as detailed as it gets, on a college level.”
Besides preparation, Lucey said his group has increased its level of physicality and become much more aggressive.
The attitude has been spearheaded from the likes of middle linebacker Campbell, safety Ben Peterson and defensive lineman Caleb Starkovich, but by no means is it limited to those three.
Joining Starkovich along the defensive front has been Chris Paz and Andrew Napier. Linebackers Damek Mitchell, Jack Wendling and Jake Burns have joined Campbell to play tremendous against the run and the Storm’s secondary of Coleman Schwab, Jess Swanson, Quinn Carpenter is one of the best in the Northwest Conference.
“I think we have come a long ways,” Campbell said. “We have really grown together, and people have been really selfless and have been doing things for the greater good of the team. ... It’s been a long process, but I think we are just the best we’ve been since the season started.”
Both of Squalicum’s only losses came early in the season in consecutive weeks against Lynden and Sedro-Woolley. In fact, the Storm is riding a seven-game win streak, but Lucey believes facing those two prolific offenses showed his defense what type of level it needed to play at.
When asked what Squalicum’s turning point in the season was, Campbell pointed to the second half of the Storm’s 24-17 Week 6 road win against Ferndale.
“Their wing-T was pretty much smacking us in the mouth, and we didn’t figure it out until the second half of the game,” Campbell said. “Coach made some adjustments, and I think we took it on perfectly, and I think that kind of set the precedent for what we can be.”
That’s a resilient defense, and again the characteristic showed during Squalicum’s 44-16 district win over Archbishop Murphy. The Storm led 20-3 before giving up a long, grinding touchdown drive that pulled the Wildcats to within two scores.
Squalicum’s defense gathered together in the back of the end zone and together decided to hunker down and play harder.
“We said, ‘Let’s step it up, punch them in the mouth and figure this thing out,’” Campbell said. “I think (resiliency) has a lot to do with it. It got our guys pumped, got the juice going.”
The Storm will surely need the blue-collar, bring-your-hard-hat attitude Trainor has been instilling in his defense against Tumwater, and Squalicum has the chance to add another chapter Friday to what already has become a year of firsts for the Storm football program.