Every high school football team has some optimism when they start a new season. But if your first opponent is considered the best in the county — riding a 38-game regular season winning streak — that optimism might be tempered.
Unless you’re the Sunlake Seahawks.
The Seahawks never trailed in a 17-6 home victory over the Pasco Pirates on Aug. 30. And even though the gridiron crew from Sunlake High School is considered a strong team in their own right, they know it was a special accomplishment to beat someone who hasn’t seen the losing column in the regular season since 2009.
“I hate to rank victories, but it was obviously a huge victory just from the fact that Pasco has dominated everybody in the regular season for so long,” said Coach Bill Browning, who has been with Sunlake’s football program since its inception seven years ago. That tenure includes a few previous losses to the Pirates, but Browning feels that other milestone wins in the school’s history contributed to a sense that they could finally turn the corner against the county’s regular-season juggernaut.
The Seahawks had a small lead when the marching bands took the field halfway through. While Browning was feeling good about his team’s chances, it wasn’t until the opening plays of the second half that he felt like it was going to be Sunlake’s night.
“It was a close game going in at halftime,” Browning said. “We went out (to start the third quarter), received the football and took the first play for a long touchdown. That was huge. I think that gave us the momentum in the second half and they (Pasco) could never re-establish that momentum.”
That play was a 64-yard touchdown run by the team’s starting fullback, junior Logan Wolfe. It was Wolfe’s second touchdown of the night and made him the team’s star in one of the school’s biggest wins. But he’s not interested in taking much credit for himself.
“The huge run would never have happened if it wasn’t for this team’s offensive line. They produced that huge hole for me to run through, so that 64-yard run was all them,” Logan said.
In fact, he credits his teammates on the other side of the ball — the Seahawks’ defense, which frustrated Pasco throughout the evening — with the key to the victory. He believes they have one of the best defenses in the state.
Whoever gets to share credit for the big win, Browning is making sure they don’t get too overconfident from it: The Seahawks’ reward for toppling the Pirates was a tough week of practice to prepare for their next game this past weekend.
Yet Sunlake persevered, beating River Ridge 25-0, and improving to 2-0 on the season.
The team’s goals are the same as before — win the district title and reach the state playoffs. But Browning acknowledges that the win gave the Seahawks a boost and a little swagger, and shows the athletes what they’re capable of accomplishing.
But Browning isn’t adopting any new swagger himself: With around 35 years of coaching experience and more than 20 years in the head coach’s role at schools like Hernando High School and Springstead High School in addition to Sunlake, he doesn’t allow himself to become too elated and dejected following a single game.
In fact, it wasn’t long after the Friday night win that Browning turned his attention to their next opponent.
“To be truthful, Saturday morning I was focused on River Ridge,” Browning said with a laugh. “I’m one who never gets too high, and I don’t get too low. I try to stay at a happy medium. Coaches who don’t do that get on roller coaster rides, and they’re the ones who have a tendency to burn out and don’t last very long in the game.”