Austin Filkins needed to give his father space.
Peninsula High coach Ross Filkins had witnessed his Seahawks suffer a 17-14 loss against Mount Si in the Class 3A preliminary playoff round last year, ending their season and sending them home one game shy of the state bracket.
But this was more than a one-time disappointment for Filkins and the Seahawks; it was the sixth time in a row their season was cut short at the same juncture.
“The last three years, he would lock himself in his room for a full day,” said Austin Filkins, the team’s starting quarterback. “Then on Sunday, he would watch the film and I could hear him yelling from across the house.
“I would just try to stay away.”
As frustrated as the coach was last year following that defeat, his attitude couldn’t be better now as No. 8 Peninsula prepares to face No. 1 Bellevue in the state quarterfinals at 7:30 tonight on the Wolverines’ home field – the first time the Seahawks have made it this far since 1992.
“We wanted to break through that mythical barrier so bad,” Ross Filkins said. “It was such a great relief to accomplish that this year.”
The success of the past three weeks had been a long time coming for the Peninsula coach. Not only did the Seahawks capture the 3A South Puget Sound League title with a win over Lakes – ending the Lancers’ five-year reign – they followed it by knocking off Oak Harbor to earn their first state playoff berth since 2002. Last week, the Seahawks shut out Nathan Hale, 45-0, for Ross Filkins’ first state playoff victory in 18 years of coaching.
He said last year’s season-ending loss to Mount Si was the toughest of his career. But despite the heartbreak Peninsula had suffered six years in a row, it somehow helped shift the mindset for the program setting the stage for this season.
Successful seasons weren’t going to be defined simply by making a postseason appearance. The feeling was the team could not only make the playoffs, but extend their fortunes.
“For a long time in our program we were like, ‘Oh, we had a good year,’ ” said Ross Filkins, who once manned the offensive and defensive lines for Washington State University. “But last year kind of felt like the first time that it hurt really bad. It was a good sign for our program because everyone wanted more. We had come so far and expected better. But it hadn’t been that way previously.”
This season, the Seahawks have been led by their senior class, including Ross Filkins’ son, Austin, whose strong play at quarterback garnered him the 3A SPSL offensive player of the year honors.
For the coach, Peninsula’s success has meant more to him than just getting over the hump – sharing the experience with his son has added poignancy.
“Me and him hugged for a good couple minutes after that game,” Austin Filkins said of last week’s celebration following the victory over Nathan Hale. “We didn’t even talk, we just hugged. It was a special moment.”
He said he has embraced his father plenty of times, but not many like that.
“Maybe that has happened on a couple of birthdays,” Austin Filkins said. “But never in sports.”
“It’s been so special because when he was just a little kid, he was like my shadow,” Ross Filkins said. “He was at every practice and every game that I had ever been at. It’s amazing to see the success he has had, as well as what the rest of this senior class has helped put together this year.”
Now, Ross Filkins has shifted his focus to a new milestone: his 100th career coaching victory. To earn it, Peninsula will have to knock off Bellevue, which is ranked No. 2 in the country by ESPN.com and Sports Illustrated. The Wolverines are four-time defending 3A state champions.
Though the task is daunting, Ross Filkins would rather be preparing for Bellevue than, say, locking himself in his bedroom addressing the what-might-have-beens. Considering where Peninsula was in 2004 – a one-win team – and how it has transformed into a perennial playoff team in the hunt for its first state title in 34 years, he’s eager for more.
“We have done some things this year that have been a lot of fun, but no one is content,” he said. “We are going to keep fighting for our survival because we are having a blast.
“Bellevue is an incredible team, and it will be a great challenge. But we are excited for the opportunity because, I’ll tell you what, sitting at home is no fun. I’ve been there before.”
The Seahawks have reached the postseason seven years in a row, but this is the first time in that stretch they haven’t bowed out after the first game.
Year Opponent score
2012 Nathan Hale* W 45-0
Oak Harbor W 36-12
2011 Mount Si L 17-14
2010 O’Dea L 21-7
2009 Glacier Peak L 49-48
2008 Mount Si L 33-9
2007 Ferndale L 41-9
2006 Issaquah L 42-14
*Class 3A state playoff game blogs.thenewstribune.com/preps