Just from looking at the records of Peninsula and Gig Harbor high school, you might assume this year’s Fish Bowl will be an easy win for the Seahawks.
Peninsula, after all, enters Friday’s game with a 4-1 league record in the Class 3A South Sound Conference. Gig Harbor, meanwhile, comes into the game with a 2-3 league record.
But records can be deceiving. Gig Harbor’s losses to Timberline and Yelm in back-to-back weeks came by a combined 10 points. They were games Gig Harbor had opportunities to win.
Gig Harbor lost to Yelm, 16-13. Peninsula lost to Yelm last week, 42-21.
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In this year’s SSC, six of the eight teams can beat any other team on any given Friday night. So when it comes to this week’s Fish Bowl?
Go ahead and throw the records out.
“They’re a very talented team, they’re well coached,” said Peninsula coach Ross Filkins. “There are six legitimate playoff teams in this league and Gig Harbor is one of them. You can’t look at individual games because you’re going to have some outlier performances. A league like this can be humbling for everybody.”
On film, Filkins said the Tides are as good as anyone else in the league.
“There’s not another league like ours in the state,” Filkins said. “We have some real, quality, playoff caliber teams and only four will get out. It puts a lot of pressure on these last two weeks.”
While Peninsula has built more of a cushion, the pressure falls more so on Gig Harbor, which is in win-at-all-costs mode. For the Tides, the final two games of the season against Peninsula and Central Kitsap are must-win games for the team to have any shot at making the playoffs. Even then, Gig Harbor will need some help.
“That’s definitely where we’re at — these are must-win games for us,” said Gig Harbor coach George Fairhart. “We have to go hard. Everyone is a little more focused and dialed in to what we need to do.”
Despite the record, Fairhart, who will be coaching his second Fish Bowl game, still feels Gig Harbor has a strong team.
“We kind of felt like we’ve been on the wrong end of a lot of those close games this year,” Fairhart said. “It is what it is. I think we’re still a pretty good team.”
Gig Harbor will be tasked with slowing down Peninsula senior quarterback Burke Griffin, who is one of the area’s best dual-threat quarterbacks and has been an explosive athlete for the Seahawks.
“We just want to try to slow him down,” Fairhart said. “He’s going to get some plays. He’s talented. We’ll try to contain him, slow him down. They play great team defense, they have some explosive players on offense. Their special teams are solid. They have well coached, talented kids. They’re a really good team.”
Peninsula, meanwhile, will have its hands full with Gig Harbor’s strong line play, and explosive players at the skill positions, such as receivers Jurrian Hering and Ryan King.
“They’re a very fast team and they’re big up front, as well,” Filkins said. “Making sure that you have everybody in position, making plays is critical. You give those guys an angle and they’ll be gone.”
Despite Peninsula’s loss to Yelm last week, the Seahawks still have a shot at winning the league title. Peninsula, Timberline and Yelm are all tied for first at 4-1. Peninsula beat Timberline already, so the Seahawks will need Yelm to drop one of its final two games of the season. While a loss to Shelton next week will be all but impossible, Yelm faces Timberline in the final game of the regular season on Oct. 26.
But that’s out of Peninsula’s hands. What they can control? The Fish Bowl, this week.
“The Fish Bowl is a unique creature in its own right,” Filkins said. “For us, it’s just not about who we’re playing, it’s how we’re playing. We have to get back to playing our style of football. That’s going to be really important to us. This is a very important game for both teams.”