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Young, untested Gig Harbor team looks to forge its own path forward

Gig Harbor High players Shawn Kimble, Marc Fletcher, Alex Emery, Mack Ditter and Zack Davis, from left, have big shoes to fill after last year’s historically successful season.
Gig Harbor High players Shawn Kimble, Marc Fletcher, Alex Emery, Mack Ditter and Zack Davis, from left, have big shoes to fill after last year’s historically successful season. jbessex@gateline.com

The Gig Harbor High School football team has a lot to replace this season.

Where to even begin? With the 10-1 record? The historically-great offense? The veteran-heavy, hard-hitting defense? The undefeated Narrows 4A run? The most statistically successful quarterback in the school’s history in Davis Alexander?

Replacing all that production isn’t even on the mind of coach Aaron Chantler.

“You don’t (replace them),” Chantler said. “I think the key is getting the kids to understand that we’re not replacing Davis (or other players), we’re just trying to find the best version of the next kid. That’s something we set as a tone really early in spring camp. You get too caught up in being Davis, or Kyle (Olson-Urbon), and then you’re not being the best version of yourself. Your DNA is not the same as their DNA. That’s fine. It’s fine to be yourself and be unique.”

Perhaps it’s appropriate that as Gig Harbor has re-sets, it enters a new league and a new classification. Gig Harbor, which played last season in Class 4A, is moving down to 3A and joining the newly-formed South Sound Conference. Its members include Capital, Central Kitsap, Peninsula, North Thurston, Shelton, Timberline and Yelm.

I really don’t have any expectations about the new league. We’ve played three of the teams in the new league. I don’t really know. I feel like every single game can be a tight game.

Alex Emrey, senior center

“I really don’t have any expectations about the new league,” said senior center Alex Emery. “We’ve played three of the teams in the new league. I don’t really know. I feel like every single game can be a tight game.”

While Emery doesn’t know the personnel of every team in the league, he isn’t shy about the team’s ambitions.

“I feel like if we work hard enough, we can go far,” he said. “A lot of people have been saying .500 (record), maybe. But I think people don’t really know who we are yet. They’re just going to have to wait and see us play to see the guys we have. I think we’re going to win the league this year.”

The Tides will also have to replace a historically good group of receivers, led by Olson-Urbon, who is currently playing football at Eastern Washington University. Senior Roman Havens, who worked often last season with Olson-Urbon and tries to model his game after his, hopes to step up in his place.

“Just watching (Olson-Urbon’s) film, working with him after practice — he taught me how to run routes precisely, how to be surgical and effective on the field,” Havens said.

Havens said he doesn’t feel any pressure trying to fill Olson-Urbon’s, or any other player’s shoes.

“We keep doing what we’re doing,” he said, “They carved a path, but we’re trying to carve our own path right now, trying to do what we’re doing.”

Chantler thinks of this season as a “re-calibrating” season rather than a rebuilding season.

We lost a lot of players but the foundation of the program, the schematics are the same. … Guys have to step up and grow, and for a lot of these guys, (our first game) will be their first rodeo.

Aaron Chantler, Gig Harbor coach

“Rebuild, in my mind, means you’re tearing it down, starting over and changing,” Chantler said. “We lost a lot of players but the foundation of the program, the schematics are the same. … Guys have to step up and grow, and for a lot of these guys, (our first game) will be their first rodeo. It will be eye opening, and you just hope we grow up quickly. We’re pretty young. We’ll see how that works out. How fast can they play varsity football? That’ll be the question.”

Chantler pointed to the secondary and wide receiving groups as position groups of strength and depth. He named wide receiver Kellen Gregory, running back Martin Brazier and sophomore left tackle Khalif Spry is players to watch.

Chantler is keeping his cards close to his vest in regards to the quarterback situation, declining to say who will start at QB for the Tides this season before the season-opener.

“We’ve got a couple (juniors) that are competing hard,” Chantler said. “You might see both of them. We’re not opposed to rotating quarterbacks.”

Gig Harbor opens its season at 7 p.m. Friday (Sept. 2) against Squalicum at Roy Anderson Field.

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