Squalicum coach Nick Lucey, since the Storm began practicing mid-August and all offseason, has urged his players to adopt a physical brand of football.
No. 7-ranked Squalicum showcased its new hard-nosed style against No. 6 Lynden, coming away with an impressive 27-0 Northwest Conference-opening win over the Lions Friday, Sept. 18, at Rollie DeKoster Field.
“We made it a point to be a more physical team, a team that runs the ball, stops the run,” Lucey said. “We came in here saying our No. 1 priority is to stop the run.”
The Storm (3-0, 1-0 NWC) stopped it, and just about everything else Lynden threw at them.
Junior quarterback Garrett Sorenson, starting his first league game, commanded Squalicum’s offense brilliantly. He finished 10 of 22 for 143 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 86 yards and a score on 16 carries.
“Coach’s philosophy on offense has always been come run the ball down their throats and prove that we are more physical, so that is what we wanted to come out here and do tonight, prove we were the most physical team out here.”
According to statewidestats.com, Squalicum’s win over Lynden was the Storm’s first since a 38-28 victory in 1999.
And for the Lions, dating back to last season, they’ve now dropped three of their past four games.
This one had to be particularly hard to digest.
The Lions couldn’t get much of a run game going, and star quarterback Sterling Somers left the game midway through the second quarter with an injury and never returned.
Jordan Wittenberg and Jacob Hommes split time following Somers’ exit, but Squalicum’s defense, led by Jake Burns, Jack Wendling, Creighton Kaui, Damek Mitchell, Caleb Starkovich, Ben Peterson, Josiah Westbrook, Darious Powell and Noah Westerhoff denied the Lions’ offense time and time again.
“It means everything,” Peterson said of the win. “We have been practicing hard all week, preparing for everything they had. I think we were just better prepared and it feels so good.”
And it was Peterson who made arguably the play of the game late in the first quarter. Somers found Noah King wide open down the sideline. King appeared poised to score, but Peterson chased him down and punched the ball from his hands and out of the endzone, giving Squalicum a touchback.
Two possessions later on a fourth-and-7 from Lynden’s 26, Sorenson connected with Westbrook for a 26-yard TD to put Squalicum in front 7-0 with 5:50 left in the half.
Squalicum took a 14-0 lead into the break following a beautifully executed two-minute drill that covered 73 yards in 1:51. The drive was capped with a 2-yard TD pass from Sorenson to Peterson.
Will Nickelson added 7-yard rushing score with 6:19 to go in the third quarter, and Sorenson put the Storm in front 27-0 on a 1-yard plunge with 10:22 to go in the game.
Lynden quarterbacks were 4 of 15 following Somers’ exit.
Nickelson finished with 52 rush yards on nine carries, and Mitchell had 50 yards on nine attempts.
Sq — Josiah Westbrook 26 pass from Garrett Sorenson (Ben Peterson kick)
Sq — Peterson 2 pass from Sorenson (Peterson kick)
Sq — Will Nickelson 7 run (Peterson kick)
Sq — Sorenson 1 run (kick fail)
RUSHING — Squalicum: Damek Mitchell 9-50, Garrett Sorenson 16-86, Will Nickelson 9-54, Triston Smith 4-25, Bunji McLeod 2-(-5), Jase Barrett 1-7, Ben Peterson 2-12. Lynden: Dalton Ohligschlager 2-45, Sterling Somers 7-18, Jacob Hommes 9-53, Jordan Wittenberg 3-13, Nui Labat-Alconcel 2-4, Ben Colwell 1-8.
PASSING — Squalicum: Garrett Sorenson 10-22-0-143. Lynden: Sterling Somers 7-13-0-121, Jacob Hommes 2-12-2-24, Jordan Wittenberg 2-3-0-11.
RECEIVING — Squalicum: Ben Peterson 3-20, Josiah Westbrook 4-71, Noah Westerhoff 2-38, Riley Zehnder 1-14. Lynden: Jordan Wittenberg 4-59, Noah King 4-64, Ben Colwell 2-15, Rylan Severson 1-18.