Community Sports

Gig Harbor’s defense dominates in win over Bonney Lake

Posted on September 9th, 2023 By:

The Gig Harbor Tides football team (1-1) pulled away from the Bonney Lake Lions (1-1) in the second half of a 34-12 victory at Roy Anderson Field on Friday, Sept. 8.

The Tides got an inspired effort from their defense, a few explosive offensive plays and a clutch performance from sophomore back-up quarterback Koi Calhoun.

Gig Harbor was coming off a tough, season-opening defeat to Spanaway Lake. The Tides lost on the last play of the game in week 1, 26-21, and couldn’t afford another early-season defeat.

Bonney Lake’s early lead

Bonney Lake, which beat Class 4A Tahoma to open the season, scored a touchdown in the first two minutes of this game. The Gig Harbor defense stopped a two-point conversion attempt, but the Lions had an early 6-0 lead.

After Gig Harbor went three-and-out on the next possession, Bonney Lake rode its read-option offense to drive to the Tides’ 14-yard line. But Gig Harbor ended the possession with a crushing hit and a fumble recovery.

Defensive back Liam Green and his teammates celebrate after recovering a fumble in Gig Harbor’s 34-12 win over Bonney Lake. Photo Bryce Carithers

Gig Harbor’s offense was forced to punt on the next possession as well. But the Tides’ defense, handed a short field, came up big again.

Defensive end Ryland Heckman grabbed a Lion runner on third down and threw him to the ground, yelling “NO!” loud enough for both benches to hear. The play ignited the Tides, who gained confidence with each defensive stand.

That’s when the offense started to get into gear.

Offense hits its stride

Starting quarterback Tyler Stowers led the Tides down the field, hitting Drake Matties for a 37-yard gain to the Lions’ 32. Then Stowers found Ben Stevens for a fourth-down conversion, but an outside blitz and subsequent sack stalled the drive and forced the quarterback to the sidelines holding his shoulder.

All-conference kicker Boone Leverett drilled a 35-yard field goal from the right hash mark to close the deficit to 6-3.

Ryland Geldermann, a middle linebacker who led the Tides defense with five tackles and five assists, threw his body into a ball carrier to force a punt on the next drive. Each Bonney Lake drive became shorter and shorter.

Calhoun took over for the injured Stowers when Gig Harbor got the ball back late in the first half. At 5-foot-9 inches and 152 pounds, Calhoun is more Drew Brees than Drew Bledsoe. But he provided an instant spark with his darting speed and energetic style. The Tides were moving but ran out of time before retreating to the locker room for halftime, down 6-3.

Gig Harbor tied the game at 6 on a 32-yard field goal with 3:27 to go in the third quarter. Then junior Ty Rushforth made a diving interception to give the ball back to Calhoun and the offense.

Tides take the lead

Calhoun and Stevens connected for a 42-yard gain, with Stevens doing his best Randy Moss impression to catch the ball over a defender’s head. Then Jayden Mayes powered into the end zone on fourth and one, and soon the Tides were up 13-6.

Bonney Lake pulled within 13-12, with a 65-yard run to the Gig Harbor seven yard line accounting for most of the damage on the drive. The Tides answered with a long kickoff return by Liam Green, followed by a 49-yard, twisting touchdown run by Geldermann.

Gig Harbor closed out the scoring with a Calhoun-to-Stevens scoring strike of 49 yards and a fumble return for a touchdown by Geldermann.

Stevens ended up with eight catches for 141 yards and a touchdown.

“Ben was outstanding,” Gig Harbor coach Darrin Reeves said. “Everybody will talk about what he did as a receiver, but he also kicked and had five touchbacks out of six kicks. He also made two tackles on special teams and forced a fumble.”

Geldermann, a sophomore, managed touchdowns on both sides of the ball.

“He’s one of the hardest workers on the team,” Reeves said. “He is also the strongest kid in the program as well. He makes those plays every day in practice, so it isn’t a surprise to the staff when he does amazing things.”

Linebacker/running back Ryland Geldermann led his team in tackles and scored two touchdowns for Gig Harbor. Photo by Bryce Carithers

Fish Bowl next

Calhoun had an impressive debut, as he went 8-for-13 for 143 yards and a touchdown in a little over a half of football. Stowers completed 7-of-16 for 80 yards before his injury. Reeves said time will tell who starts next Friday, Sept. 15, against Peninsula, which slipped to 0-2 after losing to Class 4A Kentwood, 21-18.

“Koi came in and played well,” Reeves said. “We will see how healthy we get as the week progresses.”

Gig Harbor committed only three penalties for 15 yards and didn’t lose a turnover, while taking it away from the Lions three times. That is a recipe for success on the football field.

“Our defense has done a great job of playing assignment football. Depth has been key as we’ve been able to keep guys fresh,” Reeves said.

The Fish Bowl is next for the Tides and Peninsula. The game, the South Sound Conference opener for both schools, kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15 at Roy Anderson Field.