Most coaches presumed the moppy-haired 15-year-old lining up behind center for Gig Harbor High School this summer had to be the junior-varsity quarterback.
And Aaron Chantler just laughed.
Because soon after they would see Davis Alexander throw.
“We were doing our rounds of camps and passing academies and he just looks so little,” said Chantler, the third-year Tides coach. “He just kind of walks around and I sit behind him and kind of chuckle because I can see the other coaches’ reactions and I know what they’re thinking — ‘That’s your starting quarterback?’ ”
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But that arm. Chantler said the 5-foot-11 Alexander has the best deep ball and is the most complete quarterback of any he’s ever coached. After easing Alexander in the first two games of the season — his first two as a varsity starter — the junior has since been given the reins to the offense.
And what has he done? Alexander set single-game school records for passing yards (389), total offense (455) and completions (25) in Gig Harbor’s 41-0 win against Timberline on Oct. 9.
He has completed 113 of 180 passes (62.8 percent) for 1,720 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions, and he has rushed for 630 yards and eight touchdowns. He can help the Tides earn their first No. 1 seed since winning the Narrows Bridge title in 2005 with a win at Bellarmine Prep on Friday.
“I just try to make plays happen,” Alexander said. “I think I’ve been fortunate to have some pretty good games this year, but I just try to do what’s best for the team.”
He turned 16 on Oct. 20, meaning he’ll have to wait more than four months after he graduates next year before turning 18. But he’s just happy he’s finally old enough for his driver’s license.
“It’s been killer,” said Alexander, showing off his Denver Broncos lanyard with keys attached. “Now I can stop asking my friends for rides.”
Junior wide receiver Noah Samsen was tasked with most of those rides. And being around Alexander as often as he has, Samsen said he’s heard enough little-kid jokes that he could write a handbook someday.
“I was actually part of that group that would make fun of him for a while,” Samsen said. “I would say things like, ‘What are you? 6?’ He gets that one a lot. He just turned 16 and they’re still coming. I’m sure he’ll just always be that guy.
“I would have thought that after he led us on a few game-winning drives and we beat a pretty senior-heavy Peninsula team they might stop. But they didn’t, of course.”
Just don’t mistake youth for lack of maturity or athleticism.
The Tides named Alexander a captain before the season, despite Alexander playing predominately reliever last season to first-team 4A Narrows quarterback Conor Scanlan. Alexander led a touchdown drive in the Fish Bowl against Peninsula last year and played the final two drives against Olympia, entering with the game tied 14-14. He ran for a touchdown and led a second scoring drive to lift the Tides to a 27-21 win.
“He’s a really composed kid. It lets him do things most other high school kids can’t do,” Chantler said. “He reads things really well. We are able to have conversations that I’ve probably never been able to have with other quarterbacks.”
His dad, Matt, said Davis didn’t get that from him.
But maybe the athleticism. Matt Alexander was born in South Africa and became a professional rugby player after spending two years in the South African army. He signed his first contract outside the country to play in Manchester, England, for the Sale Sharks and even played for the U.S. national team after moving to Denver, where Davis was born.
Matt Alexander played fly-half, which is basically the quarterback of rugby.
“Davis is so Americanized,” said Matt, who said he had tried to earn a spot as a kicker for the Denver Broncos and the Dallas Cowboys in the early ‘90s. “He just loves football. And I’ve always been a huge fan of football, so I love how he just fell in love with the sport.
“He and Dillon (Davis’ older brother) came down to watch some of the rugby games, but I think they just thought we were crazy,”
Alexander said he learned to play quarterback when he lived in Orinda, California, playing with kids who were 8 when he was 6. He lived in Scottsdale, Arizona, before that and his family moved to Gig Harbor just before he entered fourth grade.
“Quarterback just came naturally for me, honestly,” Davis said. “It might have had to do with my brother always running routes. I always had someone to throw to. But I never had lessons on how to play. I just watched TV, learned from Peyton Manning and Johnny Manziel — though I know people hate that.”
He hopes to bring Gig Harbor its first state championship in school history and be recruited to play NCAA Division I football after he graduates.
“I’ve just been so grateful to be given this opportunity,” Davis said. “It’s been pretty surreal — starting quarterback and a captain when I’m 15 years old. I still don’t know if it has hit me.”