Gateway: Sports

‘Adopted hog’ finds home behind hulking Gig Harbor High line

Gig Harbor's Adrian Valona runs for a touchdown in the first half of the 37th edition of the Fishbowl at Roy Anderson Field in Purdy on Friday. The Tides won, 40-14.
Gig Harbor's Adrian Valona runs for a touchdown in the first half of the 37th edition of the Fishbowl at Roy Anderson Field in Purdy on Friday. The Tides won, 40-14. Staff photographer

Before Gig Harbor High running back Adrian Valona would offer a postgame interview following the Tides’ rout of Peninsula on Friday night in the Fish Bowl, he had a request.

“I have to get one of my linemen,” he said. “Hold on.”

So Valona ran through the huge crowd of students and fans that had accumulated on the field, eventually returning with senior left tackle Sean Reemts. While Valona tallied three touchdowns, he wanted to make it clear that it wouldn’t be possible without the play of the big guys up front, blocking for him.

“We’re nothing without the linemen,” Valona said. “They were perfect, absolutely perfect. No mistakes, the communication was perfect. (Quarterback) Davis Alexander wasn’t sacked once. I was barely touched in the backfield. It was an absolutely perfect job.”

Gig Harbor coach Aaron Chantler said Valona has been embraced by the offensive line.

“Adrian is like an adopted hog,” Chantler said. “I think a running back has to be like an adopted hog because they’ve got to work together a lot.”

The line play allowed Valona to have a big day, and Alexander as well, who finished 17 for 26 for 251 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 81 yards and another touchdown. Alexander called it the key to the win.

“The line play (was great), for sure,” he said. “I was sitting back there with five seconds, not getting touched.”

The Gig Harbor football team received a lot of hype heading into the 2015 season, garnering a No. 2 Class 4A ranking from The News Tribune, among others. On Friday night in the Fish Bowl against rival Peninsula, the Tides showed exactly why they’re considered strong favorites to contend for the Class 4A state title.

Gig Harbor controlled the game from start to finish on both sides of the ball, beating the Seahawks, 40-14, in front of thousands of fans at Roy Anderson Field. For Alexander, it felt good to live up to the hype in the first game of the season.

“Of course, you always want to come out and prove your point,” Alexander said. “But we’re just getting started. It doesn’t mean anything yet.”

Alexander and Valona both had big days for the Tides, and both deflected credit to the offensive line.

Reemts said he was happy with the play of the line.

“We got into a little slow start in the beginning, but we started getting into the groove of it and really got it going,” Reemts said. “We were solid.”

Chantler now boasts a 3-1 record in the Fish Bowl. This year’s team is likely his best yet, with a dominant, physical, defense, and an offense with weapons everywhere. In addition to Alexander and Valona, the Tides feature four, speedy wide receivers who can make big plays at any time.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Chantler said. “As a coach, you feel like you’re always calling the right play.”

Noah Samsen, the 2014 Narrows 4A offensive MVP, didn’t even touch the ball until the third quarter. But senior wideout Cory Condon was happy to pick up the slack, racking up a huge game, with nine catches for 123 yards.

“Cory Condon is a good receiver, but gets overshadowed by (the other receivers),” Chantler said. “He blows up tonight and has a huge game. We’ve got a lot of weapons. It makes me look like I’m a pretty smart guy. It’s a good recipe for success.”

Gig Harbor will go as far as Alexander can take them, as the signal caller continues to shatter school records.

“The kid’s a stud,” Chantler said. “You can’t use any more positive adjectives to describe him. He’s the unquestioned leader of the offense. He’s so calm and cool in the pocket. The conversations we have on the sidelines are more advanced than I’ve had with any other quarterback. The kid is a football rat. He’s going to have a very good year. Somebody is going to be very lucky next year to sign him.”

Jon Manley: 253-358-4151