Gig Harbor High hadn’t trailed in a half this season, much less been shut out.
But there the Tides were on Friday night at Ingersoll Stadium, trailing the sixth-ranked Olympia Bears, 6-0 at half. And then it got worse. Early in the fourth quarter, Olympia took a 20-7 lead. The Tides desperately needed a momentum shift, and they got it, in the form of a 99-yard kick return by senior Kyle Olson-Urbon. Just like that, the Tides were back in it.
The Gig Harbor defense found new life, and the Tides started putting points on the board, ultimately winning a wild one in Olympia, 27-26.
“We’ve been in that situation before, looking back to (Graham-Kapowsin last season),” said senior quarterback Davis Alexander. “It’s been a while. I think this game shows a lot about this team. We’ve been beating teams by 50 the whole year. To come into a game in this environment, their homecoming, we’re down two possessions in the fourth quarter, it shows a lot about our team, to come back.”
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The 99-yard kickoff return proved to be the critical turning point of the game.
“It’s indescribable, just the way this team worked,” Olson-Urbon said. “It’s more than just me. I told the guys, ‘We’re springing this and (taking it all the way) and we’re right back in this game.’ They did it. Props to them — I just have to run the ball.”
Olson-Urbon seemed to come to life after the kickoff return, too. He added two more scores in the fourth quarter on passes from Alexander, for 51 and another 10 yards. Olson-Urbon finished with five catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns in addition to his special teams touchdown.
“It was good to get (Olson-Urbon) into the game,” Alexander said. “Me and him both, we weren’t dialed in to start. It was good to get him in. It shows how deadly we are when me and him can get it going.”
Alexander struggled in the first half with an aggressive Olympia defense which refused to allow him to scramble, sacking him five times in the first half.
“We came out flat,” Alexander said. “Give credit to them. They’re a heck of a ball team. I think their coaches did a good job of scheming up on us. They blitzed very well. I think they did a good job spying on me. Hats off to them.”
For Gig Harbor (7-0 overall, 4-0 Narrows 4A), it was a tale of two halves.
“I don’t want to say it was nerves,” Gig Harbor coach Aaron Chantler said. “I said to them at halftime, ‘You’re either nervous, cocky or flat. Which one? None of these are good.’ I said, ‘You guys are a better football team than this and I don’t understand what’s going on.’ We knew our gameplan was where it needed to be, we just needed to execute.”
It took some time. Olympia (6-1, 3-1) senior David Woodward gashed the Tides out of the Wildcat formation, rushing for 173 yards and three touchdowns, and also passing for 74 yards. For three quarters, Gig Harbor had no answer for Woodward, and for a Bears O-line that was dominating the game.
“He’s a good football player,” Chantler said. “I don’t know how much of it was him and how much of it was his O-line. I don’t want to take anything away from him. But essentially, they were just telling him to run forward and find a hole. We weren’t playing it correctly. We had to talk about that at halftime. We were banged up. No excuses — but we couldn’t get in the right alignment because we had personnel issues. I told the guys they’d have to dig a little deeper and go both ways. … We were able to make adjustments and pull it out.”
Down 27-26 with 17 seconds left in the game, Olympia opted to go for a two-point conversion. Gig Harbor stuffed it.
“You have nothing to lose,” Chantler said. “I would’ve done the exact same thing.”
It looked like the Tides were on their way to a win, but Olympia went on to recover an onside kick. The Bears took four shots into the end zone but couldn’t connect and the Tides came out on top.
“The atmosphere, the big-time game, it got to us,” Olson-Urbon said. “I’m not going to lie. We said in the locker room, it’s all about our family and how we’re going to finish. We finished strong. That’s all we can do.”
Gig Harbor hosts Yelm this Friday night at Roy Anderson Field, while Olympia travels to Tacoma to face Bellarmine Prep. If both Gig Harbor and Olympia win, Gig Harbor will claim the Narrows 4A title.
Where: Roy Anderson Field
When: 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 23
Outlook: Yelm is coming off a surprising 42-35 overtime win over Bellarmine Prep. Still, the Tornados are only 2-2 in the Narrows 4A, with wins over South Kitsap and Bellarmine, and losses to Stadium and Timberline. Gig Harbor should roll in this one.