Aaron Chantler could start it all from scratch if he wanted.
I-formation? Wing-T? Why not? He graduated 27 players from last year’s Gig Harbor High School football team that didn’t lose its first game until the first round of the 4A state tournament, falling 17-15 at Skyline.
"Nah, we’ll still be a spread group," Chantler said.
But just about everything else has changed. No more Davis Alexander, The News Tribune’s 2015 All-Area player of the year. No more Kyle Olson-Urbon, Kale Wong, Noah Samsen or Adrian Valona.
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No more Class 4A – Gig Harbor is now a 3A school. No more Narrows League – it’s now in the South Sound Conference.
The Tides closed the book on last year. Symbolically, at least.
Chantler had his team read the book "The Energy Bus" this offseason. One meeting he showed up with it and slammed it shut.
"It was a lot of coach talk at the beginning," Gig Harbor senior defensive back Marc Fletcher said. "But it turned into player talk because we can’t talk about those guys from last year because they aren’t here anymore. We had to shut the book so we can be us and be our own team."
So – just what will this year’s team have?
The next Alexander? Olson-Urbon? Samsen?
No one is talking.
It’s a secret, one driven out of some gamesmanship. If no one is expecting Gig Harbor to have anything this year, why not keep it all a surprise?
Ryan Baerg and Nick Yockey both got reps at quarterback in Tuesday’s practice. But just figuring out their names was a chore. One teammate denied to release that top-secret information.
They were even more tight-lipped on who would be the season-opening starter when the Tides play a nonleague game against Squalicum at 7 p.m. Friday at Roy Anderson Field.
"We have guys who can make plays, but they aren’t known yet," said senior lineman Alex Emery, who played on each of the Tides’ back-to-back 4A Narrows title teams.
Some names? Who are these "guys who can make plays"?
"We’re kind of avoiding dropping names," Emery said. "We want to be one group. We are the Tides. We aren’t individual players who wear the same jersey."
Chantler said it’s a group that’s been champing at the bit to get their turn, waiting behind that talented group of seniors last year. Gig Harbor returns three starters on offense and four on defense.
"They’ve lived in the shadow of that team for a long time," Chantler said. "It’s their team now.
"I think they’re excited to show what they can do. I think it’s a mixture of excitement and anxiety for when they get their shot. It will be fun."
There’s a lot of yards to make up for, mostly without Alexander, who is now at Portland State after throwing for 2,825 yards and rushing for 1,091 last year,
"People are going to say, ‘Who is the next Davis?’" Chantler said. "But I tell them their DNA is unique to them. Be you, be the best version of you. We’re not in the business of trying to replace those guys – we don’t get to recruit, sign free agents or make trades. We have to develop from within. So we want the guys to be the best version of them they can be."
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