OLYMPIA — Thanks to Sterling Brown, the Gig Harbor High School football team clinched a playoff berth and at least a top-two finish in the 4A Narrows League with a chance to win the league title when they face No. 8-ranked Bellarmine in two weeks.
Brown, a junior, rushed for a career-high 310 yards, including 232 in the first half, in the Tides’ 27-21 victory over the Olympia Bears on Friday night at Ingersoll Stadium.
“We wanted to make sure we had a chance to win a league championship,” Gig Harbor coach Aaron Chantler said, “and now it’s set up that way.”
Winners of six in a row, the Tides (6-1 overall, 4-0 4A Narrows) next host Yelm, which lost 53-14 to Bellarmine Prep on Friday. After that is the big regular-season finale at home against Bellarmine.
It’s quite the turnaround for a program that won one league game a year ago and finished 3-7. Chantler called the road win over an Olympia team that came in averaging nearly 30 points a game “huge.”
“To have the turnaround we’ve had in a year is phenomenal,” Chantler said.
The playoff picture is a different story for the Bears, who lost their second straight after winning four in a row despite quarterback Derrick Becker’s career night of 311 passing yards and two TDs. At 2-2 with games against league-leader Bellarmine and Yelm over the next two weeks, Olympia is in fourth place behind Central Kitsap (3-2). And the Cougars have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Olympia after last week’s 28-21 come-from-behind win, meaning Olympia needs to win its final two games, and get some help in order to be one of the league’s three postseason-bound teams.
“We’re in trouble now,” Bears coach Bill Beattie said.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Brown had 24 of his game-high 46 carries in the first half, as the Tides rushed out to a 14-point first-quarter lead. It was 14-7 at halftime.
And just when it looked as if Olympia would take momentum after tying it at 14-all on Mitch Fettig’s 32-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone, Gig Harbor responded.
On the Tides’ ensuing possession, they needed just five plays to regain the lead on backup quarterback Davis Alexander’s 5-yard keeper, a drive set up by Brown’s kickoff return to the Olympia 34.
Brown’s 1-yard touchdown run with 6 minutes, 13 seconds left in the game pushed Gig Harbor’s lead to 27-14.
“As soon as we had that momentum,” Beattie said, “they took it right back.”