Two years ago, the Gig Harbor Tides went 3-7. Last year, the team had a breakthrough season, finishing with an 8-3 record and a berth in the Class 4A state playoffs, where they were bounced by Wenatchee in the first round. Spring practices are underway, and head coach Aaron Chantler’s message to his team is simple: return to the playoffs.
“There’s some holes, there’s a good senior class that’s gone now, but we want to get back,” Chantler said. “We want to go a step further. That’s always been our goal. We want to progress. We want to take another step each year.”
The Tides say goodbye to a talented senior class, led by quarterback Conor Scanlan, tailback Sterling Brown, wide receiver Reese Carlson and left tackle Owen Taylor. Taylor will suit up for Eastern Washington University in the fall, and Carlson is heading to the University of Montana.
Juniors Davis Alexander and Jake Taylor are competing for the vacated starting quarterback job. Alexander appeared in nearly every game last season, and is considered the favorite at this point, but Chantler likely won’t name a starting QB until fall camp is underway.
“They’re both are doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” Chantler said.
Alexander said he doesn’t worry about whether or not he’s the frontrunner.
“I still have to outwork myself,” Alexander said. “My goal is to be the best player I can be, and help our team out. My goal is to win the state championship. Any way I can do that, that’s what practice is for.”
Alexander said he is confident he can win the starting spot.
“That’s no disrespect,” he said. “It’s just, if I believe my ability is there, then yeah.”
Chantler said Alexander has earned the frontrunner status with his game experience a season ago. Alexander appeared in big games and had some big moments.
“That was awesome,” Alexander said of last season. “Like Fish Bowl last year, playing in front of all those people, scoring a touchdown. That’s just stuff I’ll never forget.”
Alexander is a more natural pocket passer than Scanlan was, and if he wins the job, the Tides could see a renewed emphasis on the passing game. Gig Harbor has a talented group of receivers returning, including seniors Bobby Blaser and Santana Johnson and juniors Kale Wong and slot receiver Noah Samsen. Samsen said the receiving corps will be a group to watch.
“There’s just lots of playmakers,” Samsen said. “I think we’ll have a really good team this year.”
The loss to Wenatchee in the opening round at state is something that Chantler talks about often to motivate the squad.
“It should (fuel us),” Chantler said. “If it doesn’t, they’re playing the wrong game.”
Samsen recalled the bus ride home, which serves as his motivation.
“That bus ride was way too long to be sitting on a bus after a loss like that,” he said. “That’s definitely fueling us.”
The team will wrap up spring practice soon, before heading to The Evergreen State College in Olympia for the Steve Gervais four-day team camp.
“That camp is going to be loaded,” Chantler said. “In the spring, we’re really pushing competition. You’re not going to have a full depth chart, you have a long break, but we’re really trying to get the foundation laid now so that when we come back in August, it doesn’t take as long to get going.”
The team will have some organized training activities in July, but the burden will be on the players to stay active.
“The nice part has been that we don’t have to tell them, they just do it,” Chantler said.
Samsen said the players take it upon themselves to get better every day.
“We usually do some running workouts, a lot of lifting,” Samsen said. “Just staying active. Staying together. Even if we’re just lifting, we go out and run routes on the field afterwards. We just do as much as we can get done.”
Jon Manley: 253-358-4151 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @gateway_jon