Squalicum's football team took the first step this season toward establishing itself as a Class 2A contender.
The Storm's nine wins was the most in school history. They reached the state playoffs for the first time and won their first state game, too.
But Tumwater, a perennial power, proved the Storm still have work to do.
Squalicum hung with the top-ranked Thunderbirds for a half, but eventually Tumwater wore the Storm down, ending Squalicum's thrilling postseason.
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The Storm couldn't solve the T-Birds' wing-T attack or overcome three consecutive third-quarter scores, as Squalicum lost 59-33 in a Class 2A State Playoff quarterfinal matchup Friday, Nov. 21, at Tumwater District Stadium.
"I can't say enough about this team," first-year Storm coach Nick Lucey said. "They wanted to make a name for themselves and establish Squalicum football, and boy they came out and worked their tails off."
For two quarters, Squalicum (9-3) looked like a team ready to move onto the semifinals.
The Storm put together a pair of extended drives, returned a fumble 70 yards for a touchdown and quarterback Christian Jorgensen found Damek Mitchell for a 46-yard touchdown on a third-and-25 that tied the score at 21 with 0:51 to go until halftime.
But once Tumwater came back for the third quarter, there was no stopping the T-Birds.
Tumwater used a combination of running back Ian Saner and Easton Trakel, who each ran for more than 100 yards, and blew the game open with 21 points in a span of 11:54.
Squalicum, suddenly trailing 45-21, relied nearly exclusively on the pass, and Tumwater's defensive front got after Jorgensen, sacking him at least five times.
"They are a good team, and a trademark of a good team is they'll come out in the first half and in the second half make some adjustments," Lucey said. "We made some mistakes that weren't typical of us, but they are a good team."
Jorgensen scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak with 7:06 to go in the fourth quarter to cut Tumwater's lead to 45-27, but the T-Birds added two more scores to put the game away.
All week Lucey preached to his defense, which was allowing only 10 points per game during the past six weeks, to avoid giving up the big play, but the Thunderbirds made their share of them in the second half.
Arguably none was more crippling, though, than an 85-yard touchdown pass that gave Tumwater a 38-21 advantage with 3:59 to go in the third quarter.
The Thunderbirds scored on their first play of the game, a 33-yard run, but Squalicum began playing Tumwater's offense pretty stingy the rest of the first half.
Jorgensen finished with more than 250 passing yards, and Josiah Westbrook became the featured receiver in the Storm's passing game. The Storm junior went for over 100 yards, and senior Coleman Schwab caught a late 64-yard touchdown pass.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.