Football is back. The Fish Bowl on Sept. 4 will kick off the seasons for both Gig Harbor and Peninsula high schools in 2015. As usual, both schools have high expectations heading into the season. Here are a few storylines to follow as the season begins.
Can Gig Harbor win a state title?
This is the biggest and most fascinating question heading into the season. The Tides are loaded with an experienced and talented senior class and are considered by many to be a strong contender for the Class 4A state title. Northwest Elite Index, an online publication, ranked the Tides No. 1 in the state preseason, just part of the immense offseason praise the Tides received during the spring and summer. Of course, all of the offseason praise in the world doesn’t mean anything if the team can’t back it up on the field. But if they key players stay healthy, there’s no reason to believe the Tides shouldn’t contend for a state title.
On offense, Gig Harbor returns important players from a record-setting unit. Dual-threat senior quarterback Davis Alexander is a nightmare for defensive coordinators to gameplan against. Senior wide receiver Noah Samsen, the league’s reigning offensive MVP, is joined by Peninsula transfer Kyle Olson-Urbon, giving Chantler another speedy wideout. Most of the starting offensive line returns last year as well, giving the Tides a steady, veteran presence up front, which will be crucial for senior tailback Adrian Valona.
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The Tides have been unable to move past the first round of the state playoffs the past two seasons, but if this unit stays healthy, it looks poised to find itself playing under the bright lights in the Tacoma Dome.
Can Peninsula win a fourth straight league title?
The Seahawks are riding a streak of three consecutive league titles in the Class 3A South Puget Sound League, which coach Ross Filkins said he believes is the most competitive league in the state, top to bottom. For what it’s worth, I agree. There was hardly ever an easy league game for Peninsula last year, and the SPSL 3A sent three teams to the 3A state playoffs.
With Peninsula losing a large number of senior leaders to graduation, it’s going to be a tough task to win a fourth straight league title. The popular pick to win league is Auburn Mountainview. Northwest Elite Index has the Lions ranked as the No. 4 team in the state in 3A. The Lions posted a 9-2 record last season and are led by senior quarterback Gresch Jensen, who has committed to the University of Montana.
It’s not impossible to think Peninsula can repeat, but it will be a tough task. Fortunately for the Seahawks, longtime coach Ross Filkins knows what he’s doing, and he sustained an impressive run of success over the last decade. Peninsula is confident in junior QB Ryder Johnson to take over the offense and for younger players to step up and fill the holes left by the 2015 class.
Who will emerge on offense for Peninsula?
The obvious candidate is junior quarterback Johnson, who looks the part of QB. Johnson has prototypical quarterback size at 6-foot-4 and has a strong arm. While he figures to be a pocket passer first and foremost, look for Johnson to be a bit more mobile than his predecessor, Robert Kvinsland. With a physical, skilled and athletic offensive line and run-first offensive approach, Johnson will be put in a position to succeed from the start.
One position that is still a bit unknown is the running back spot, where no one has clearly emerged as the feature back. Junior running back Cameron Lewis is an exciting playmaker and athlete who I suspect will see a lot of carries.
Can Gig Harbor sustain defensive success?
Gig Harbor’s defense was a nice surprise last year, taking the Tides to a new level. While the offense had been running at a high level for the past two seasons, it took the defense until last season to catch up. There were a lot of games when Gig Harbor’s defense completely took over the game. Free safety Kale Wong, defensive backs Keyell Davis and Cory Condon, linebacker Alex Bouterse and defensive lineman Connor Jost are just a few of Gig Harbor’s dynamic defensive playmakers.
Gig Harbor outscored its opponents 286-34 last season. A lot of the attention goes to the offense — and deservedly so — but holding opponents to 34 points over an entire season is ridiculous.