Four things about new football season

By Pat Jenkins
The Dispatch
Less than 12 months ago, Eatonville and Graham-Kapowsin were bowing out of the state high school football playoffs to end the 2016 season. Are you ready for some more football, south Pierce County fans?
The 2017 campaign kicks off this Friday when Eatonville hosts Elma, Graham-Kapowsin goes to the peninsula to duel South Kitsap, and Bethel treks to Yelm.

1.  New coach and era for Eatonville
The Cruisers are entering a new era Friday against Elma. Gavin Kralik is the Cruisers' new head coach, replacing George Fairhart, who was at the helm for 24 years before leaving in March to become coach at Gig Harbor High.
Fairhart’s Eatonville teams won 169 games and played in 13 state tournaments. In what turned out to be his last year with the Cruisers, they again reached the 2A state tourney and posted an 8-3 record.
Kralik isn’t a stranger to football in south Pierce County. He was the coach at Bethel from 2001 to 2013, the bulk of his 15 years as a head coach. He also spent a year with Bay Area Christian in League City, Texas and the last two seasons at South Kitsap, where his teams had back-to-back 2-8 records. Before that, he was at Bethel from 2001 to 2013 and Bay Area Christian in League City, Texas.
Kralik, who was chosen by a selection committee over 11 other applicants, considers it "a special privilege" to follow in the footsteps of Fairhart and Steve Gervais, another former Eatonville coach who led the Cruisers to three 1A state championships. Kralik vows to continue the “rich and proud tradition of Eatonville football.”

2. Eagles will be thrillin’ with Dylan
Calling Dylan Morris a high-profile high school football player is an understatement.
Morris, who doesn't graduate from Graham-Kapowsin for two more years, announced in July that he has accepted a scholarship offer to attend the University of Washington and play for the Huskies. His decision, which won’t be official until halfway through his senior year at G-K when he signs a national letter of intent that formally commits him to UW, made headlines locally and nationally in the sports media and among evaluators of college football recruiting.
Other major programs that have pursued him include Notre Dame, Oregon and California. The attraction for them and the Huskies? Morris passed for 40 touchdowns and more than 4,000 yards in his first two seasons with the Eagles in a high-scoring offense that helped produce a combined 20-3 record and two trips to the 4A state tournament, where they lost to Camas in the first round last year and to Lake Stevens in the quarterfinals in 2015. G-K and Morris have more of the same in mind for this year.

3.  Will perennial playoff contenders keep it going?
They’re separated by a few miles and enrollment classifications, but Eatonville and Graham-Kapowsin are like two peas in a pod when it comes to their post-season lineage.
Eatonville has been big in the smaller-school ranks. The Cruisers have been in the state tournament each of the last three years, including last season their return to the 2A classification. They were in the 1A show each of the previous two years, and one of those years – 2014 – they advanced to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Cascade Christian. If they make it four years in a row, they’ll be looking for a better final result than they had to settle for in 2016, when Ellensburg beat them 38-6 in the opening round.
Even though it’s been 25 years since the last one, Eatonville is no stranger to state championships. The Cruisers have three of them – 1992, 1990 and 1985, all in class 1A.
Graham-Kapowsin hasn’t won a state title, but the Eagles have been close.  They reached the semifinals in the 2014 4A tournament, losing to Chiawana. That was one of three state tourney appearances in the last four seasons for G-K.

4. No more Foster Sarell.
Not in person in these parts, anyway. For the first time since 2013, the offensive lineman isn’t anchoring Graham-Kapowsin’s line under the microscope of college recruiters and national media and scouting services. You'll have to catch his action on television as he plies the skills that made him a high school All-American at the next level: Major-college football. He’s with Stanford University. He and his Cardinal teammates opened their season by traveling to Australia and playing – and beating -- Rice University Aug. 26 in Sydney.
Sarell, roundly considered the most coveted offensive lineman and one of the top recruits regardless of position, chose Stanford over virtually every other big-time college program in the country. They all wanted him.
And what of G-K's line, A.S. (after Sorell)? The word around the 4A South Puget Sound League is that it will be just fine. And SPSL opponents are probably glad they don’t have to deal with him any more.


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