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Gig Harbor faces big test on the road at Olympia

Gig Harbor held then-No. 7 Eastlake to only six points in mid-September. The Tides will look to do the same against Narrows 4A power Olympia.
Gig Harbor held then-No. 7 Eastlake to only six points in mid-September. The Tides will look to do the same against Narrows 4A power Olympia. Special to the Gateway

Gig Harbor High hits the road Friday night to take on the No. 7 Olympia Bears in a game that will have a big impact on the Narrows 4A pecking order. I caught up with Lauren Smith, the preps reporter for The Olympian, to take a closer look at the big game.

Sounds like Olympia’s star junior running back Scott Gunther is out with a right shoulder injury. What do you know about it and how big of a blow is that to the Bears offense?

Gunther left during the second quarter at Stadium last week after separating his shoulder. He had a similar injury last year at South Kitsap where he snapped his collarbone in the end zone after scoring a touchdown, and that sidelined him for the season. Losing him is a pretty big hit to this offense, which is known for running the ball. Gunther had 1,081 yards on 126 carries and 16 rushing TDs prior to the Stadium game.

So, who’s expected to step up in his place? Is there someone specific in mind or will we see a by-committee approach?

Olympia still has options. Freshman RB Jaden Toussaint is quick, and has shown explosiveness in bursts, but losing Gunther is a hit to the backfield. I’d expect to see a lot more of David Woodward, both at WR and taking some snaps in the Wildcat formation. It will likely be a by-committee approach as the Bears try to piece together the yardage they’ll lose with Gunther out.

Gig Harbor didn’t see senior wide receiver David Woodward last year, who was out for his entire junior season with an injury. What kind of receiver is he and what will the Tides have to do to slow him down?

Woodward will be tough to isolate. As a WR, he’s got size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds), he’s mobile, and he doesn’t come down easily. When he goes up for a ball, he usually comes down with it. He’s also had success throwing the ball this season, and you may see more of that this week. Gig Harbor’s best chance to slow him down would be to try to wear him out on both sides of the ball — he’s also a safety — as he’ll likely carry a lot of the load in Gunther’s absence.

Who are some other impact players, and what are Olympia’s biggest areas of strength?

One of Olympia’s biggest strengths is its defense. In four of six games, it has allowed seven points or less — and never more than 25. That’ll be different for a Gig Harbor team that’s scored 40 or more in every game so far this season. The Bears get plenty of pressure up front, and can cause havoc in the backfield. Linebacker Clay Markoff is particularly good at getting to the QB. The defense being able to bottle up Gig Harbor QB Davis Alexander will be a primary focus to keep the score low.

Olympia’s quarterback, senior Jack Bell, is in his first season on the varsity squad. What does he do well and do you think Gig Harbor could exploit his lack of experience in big games?

Bell’s lack of experience hasn’t showed much this season. Yes, it’s his first year on varsity, but he came up through Olympia’s system. He throws the ball well when necessary, and has mostly been able to fly under the radar because of Olympia’s strong running game. Again, Woodward might share some of the QB responsibilities this week, so that will add a level of unpredictability to the Bears offense.

OK, what’s your score prediction?

There’s no ignoring how explosive Gig Harbor’s offense is. Though Olympia’s defense has been solid all season, Alexander and company will likely still find ways to put points on the board. On the flip side, with Gunther out as the main scoring threat, the Bears may have a more difficult time finding the end zone. The pick: Gig Harbor 35, Olympia 21.

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