Gateway: Sports

With new coach, Gig Harbor football starting with the basics

Gig Harbor’s Ryan Baerg is one of the three players competing for the starting quarterback job this spring and likely into the fall.
Gig Harbor’s Ryan Baerg is one of the three players competing for the starting quarterback job this spring and likely into the fall. Staff writer

It’s spring football time at Gig Harbor High School, and right now the players are starting from scratch.

Longtime Eatonville High coach George Fairhart is the new coach at Gig Harbor High, taking over for Aaron Chantler, who stepped down in February.

A new coach means a new system. New terminology. New schemes. New plays. New practice techniques. New everything.

What better time to learn than spring?

Fairhart, who said he still catches himself saying “Cruisers” instead of “Tides” from time to time, likes what he has seen so far.

“It’s been really good,” Fairhart said. “The kids and coaches are really positive. The effort is really good. I like what I see. Everything is so new. … There’s a lot of learning going on right now.”

Fairhart is a bit familiar with the team’s personnel already, having poured over game film before spring practices began last week.

One player Fairhart will likely lean on in the fall will be 6-foot-2 senior wide receiver Kellen Gregory, who was explosive at times last year for the Tides. Gregory spoke positively about the new coaching staff.

“I’ve heard amazing things (about Fairhart), and that’s all I’ve seen so far,” Gregory said. “He’s a great teacher, really positive. He works through stuff with us, person on person. It’s been really good.”

The process is still in its infancy. Right now, not much is set in stone, as the coaches are still evaluating what’s in front on them.

That goes for the quarterback situation, too, which was a bit of a mess last season.

Now-senior Ryan Baerg, senior Nick Yockey and junior Ben Hollenbeck all split time at the position last season, with Hollenbeck starting the final stretch of games during the second half of the season.

No player ran away with the position though, and with all three returning, Fairhart and his staff will have a tough decision on their hands come fall.

“They’re all really good,” Fairhart said. “All three of those guys are really good. They’ll play somewhere else if they don’t play quarterback, because we’ll need them.”

Fairhart said the QB situation hasn’t even reached the competition stage yet.

“We’re still learning so much,” Fairhart said. “There’s a lot of learning before we can compete.”

When it comes time to pick a starter, Fairhart said he has one attribute in mind over any others.

“Everyone wants to look at the big arm or maybe the quick feet, but the most important thing is decision making,” Fairhart said. “So we’re not to that point yet. We can’t evaluate that until we teach them the routes and reads.”

As for Gregory, he’s not sure who will be passing him the ball yet, either.

“I don’t have any idea (who the starter will be),” Gregory said. “I just know that we have guys that can sling it. Whoever we end up with will be all good. They’ve all got great arms, great football IQ’s and can run the ball pretty well. So I know whoever we end up with will do a great job.”

Gregory said he’s just trying to enjoy his final season.

“I’m hoping to get closer with my teammates, learn the concepts and just have a good time,” Gregory said. “It’s the last time going through, as a senior. It’s really fun to go through it one more time.”

Fairhart is patient, but there’s a sense of urgency pervading the camp as well.

“We’re behind,” Fairhart said. “We talked to the kids about closing the gap. We’re behind every team. There’s so much to install. So we’re just trying to close the gap every day.”

The rest, he believes, will take care of itself.

“We just kind of look at it every day, and try to add a little more the next day,” Fairhart said. “We’re just going to keep adding and building.”