On the heels of the Cruiser football program’s best finish since 1992 with a runner-up finish at state in 2021, head coach Gavin Kralik announced on Monday that this upcoming season will be his last at the helm.
Kralik announced the news in an email sent out on Aug. 1, adding the coaching staff will not change for this year. His decision to step down involved family.
“After this next school year, I have two kids heading off to college, and I felt like it made sense to step away from the head coaching position after this season,” he said. “I look forward to getting my kids settled in their new locations and feel like it is important for the head coach to be consistently present throughout the summer, etc. Also, I wanted to have the flexibility to travel to see my kids during their college years/sports, etc.”
Kralik said he will stay in Eatonville and continue to serve as the athletic director and hopefully contribute to the football team in a lesser role.
Kralik said the decision to hire his replacement now for the 2023-24 season took into consideration the best interests of the football program.
“There has been a lot of uncertainty and instability over the last couple of years, and I know that has taken a toll on our student-athletes,” Kralik said. “Knowing that this was going to be my last season, I saw this as an opportunity to make the transition as smooth as possible for the whole program. I want our athletes to know what to expect in future seasons and feel like they are part of that transition. This type of thing is pretty common at the collegiate level, and it seemed like it made sense for this situation, too.”
The school district posted the job opening for the head coaching position on Aug. 1 and after conducting interviews, assistant coach Rex Norris was selected as the new head coach.
“Coach Norris has served as an assistant coach for the Cruisers over the past two seasons and has built positive relationships with players and staff,” Kralik said. “He is looking forward to supporting our team during this season and working with me to ensure a smooth and successful transition.”
Norris brings an extensive and diverse football background to the Cruiser football program. He served as the Kentwood High School football team coach from 2004-15. During that time, the Chargers went 86-30 and won five league championships. Norris was named South Puget Sound League Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2012.
He was the head of football at Atavus Rugby and Football from 2015-20. As part of Atavus, he provided tackling instruction and support for multiple universities, including the University of Washington, Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan State, Rutgers, Cincinnati, Southern Methodist University, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Baylor, as well as for different NFL teams.
In addition to this background in football, Norris has coached rugby for 30 years, winning 20 state championships and made six appearances in the national finals. He was also part of the coaching staff of the U.S. National Rugby team.
Norris said he was honored to be selected as the next Cruiser football coach.
“To tell you the truth, it was a sense of pride and relief at the same moment,” he said. “I know that the Eatonville community demands a very high standard when it comes to its coaches. There is a long history of high-level coaches at Eatonville across all sports, and I am proud to coach for and with some of those coaches. It was a feeling of relief because my wife and I have taken a leap of faith to come to this area to settle down, and this validates all the decisions we have made over the past year. I am honored to follow the example and standard that has been set by Coach Kralik and the current staff. They have had a lot of success, and I am motivated to help keep that going. I am obviously in a unique position to be a part of Coach Kralik’s last year as head coach, and I feel we will continue to get closer as a staff and improve our efforts to develop quality student-athletes for Eatonville High School.”
Norris and the rest of Kalik’s coaching staff are currently focused on getting the players ready.
“I don't take this decision by the Eatonville administration lightly,” Norris said. “ I am honored to be working as a teacher/coach at Eatonville High School. This was a family decision to come to this area. I am going to do all I can to help make Eatonville High School and the Eatonville football program the place to be. Our priority is to focus on our kids and our first opponent. Coach Kralik has a great plan for all of us moving forward, so our priority is to get ready for Thursday, Sept. 1 versus Olympic.”
The Cruisers’ full 2022-23 season schedule is as follow:
Thursday, Sept. 1 vs. Olympic
Friday, Sept. 9 at Orting
Thursday, Sept. 15 vs. Cascade Christian
Friday, Sept. 23 vs. Bellevue Christian (Hall of Fame)
Friday, Sept. 30 at Tenino*
Friday, Oct. 7 vs. Montesano* (Homecoming)
Friday, Oct. 14 at W.F. West High
Friday, Oct. 21 at Elma*
Thursday, Oct. 27 vs. Hoquiam* (Senior Night)
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