Cougars lost to Eatonville on Thursday in the program’s first playoff appearance
The Seton Catholic Cougars fell short on the scoreboard in a Class 1A district football playoff game Thursday night.
Only on the scoreboard, though.
Considering where the program has been, how much progress has been made in a short period of time, and the potential for a great future, well, the Cougars should feel like winners right now.
Eatonville, one of the best teams in the state, had no trouble beating Seton Catholic 44-6, ending the Cougars’ season.
The Cougars’ historic season, that is.
This was Seton Catholic’s first playoff appearance.
Just eight months ago, the Cougars weren’t even sure they would have a team, when only 12 players signed up for the COVID abbreviated season. Eventually, the Cougars got that number of to 18, and they played.
Then they started to build and build and build.
This fall, the Cougars suited as many as 43 players for a game. They picked up two league wins to finish third in the Trico League. They only lost by two points to the second-place team in a wild 42-40 game.
When they qualified for the playoffs for the first time, and when it was announced their game would be on a Thursday, our colleague Bryan Levesque said he had to be there in Spanaway, to report on Seton’s first postseason appearance. Levesque got these quotes from three players and coach Dennis Herling.
“I just knew I had to play my heart out, everyone had to play their heart out,” senior Lance Stuck said. “That’s a good football team over there. That’s what we want to be. … I think we laid the foundation so that can happen in the next couple of years.”
Stuck had four catches for 61 yards in his final game with the team.
He will forever be a Seton Catholic supporter, though.
“I’m excited to see where this goes,” he said. “This program is going to new heights.”
Sean Emberlin caught four passes for 21 yards and scored on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Joe Callerame. Emberlin and Callerame get to say, forever, that they scored the first playoff touchdown in school history.
“I just knew I had to play for my brothers, play my hardest, just give every ounce of effort that I had,” Emberlin said. “It’s been a blessing to play with this team.”
Callerame threw for 102 yards and that score. A freshman, he said there was a lot of pressure on him as the quarterback. But he said everything he did on Thursday was in honor of the seniors.
Especially one senior, older brother Jack Callerame.
“It was great. I got one chance to play with my brother,” Joe said. “This season, I felt like it went by so fast. In the summer, ‘I’m going to be playing with my brother.’ … It’s over now. He’s going to college. It was great. It was fun while it lasted.”
Herling took over the program prior to the 2020 season that never happened, then scrambled to get a team together for the abbreviated season. He called it a crazy two years, and he thanked this year’s seniors for their commitment.
“They are just so flexible and adapted,” Herling said. “Made it easy for me to feel I could lead this team. They’ve grown so much. So proud of these guys. As leaders, on and off the field. They’ve done everything I’ve asked them to do.”
The team will be young again next year, too. Not a lot of juniors. But there are a lot of freshmen.
“It’s big … to see a program like Eatonville,” Herling said of his younger players. “That’s a stepping stone for them to take it up another notch and build off of that.”
More than 20 freshmen on this team, plus there is a big group of talented eighth graders that could be on the way to Seton Catholic, as well.
“This could really turn into something special if they all stick together and keep putting in the work,” Herling said. “Take moments like this and learn from them.”