Gig Harbor 21, Peninsula 20

(Gig Harbor, WA) There is nothing more special in high school sports than a good rivalry game. But there are still rivalries that take it to another level. The annual Fish Bowl between Gig Harbor and Peninsula is one of those rivalries. Two schools in the same town took the field with an absolutely massive crowd gathered for the early season rivalry showdown. Peninsula came into Friday, winning the last seven Fish Bowls which put a lot of pressure on the Gig Harbor Tides. While the Tides were very low in the opening half, they would rally behind their third different quarterback in the last two weeks. In something that felt like it was right out of Hollywood, the second half saw the script flip as the Tides stormed back to snap their long losing streak to their rivals as Gig Harbor scored in the final minutes to defeat Peninsula 21-20.

Gig Harbor received the opening kickoff and had a good drive going out of the gate. Quarterback, Koi Calhoun and running backs Jayden Mayes and Ryland Geldermann had the Tides all the way in Peninsula territory. That would be when the Seahawks would come up with their first takeaway. Carson Zimmerman would jump a floating pass for the interception to give the ball to the Peninsula offense. Gig Harbor’s defense would come up with a stop to put their offense back on the field, but another turnover via a fumble gave the ball immediately back to the Seahawks inside the Gig Harbor 30-yard line. A handful of plays later, Conner Burton made his way into the endzone for a seven yard score and the first points of the Fish Bowl belonged to Peninsula as they led 7-0.

Gig Harbor’s next drive carried into the second quarter but would stall around midfield. Attempting a punt wouldn’t be easy for the Tides as Peninsula would block the kick and get tremendous starting field position at the Gig Harbor 14-yard line. Peninsula capitalized again on great field position as Mana Smythe completed a six yard touchdown pass to a player nobody in the booth could find the name of. What we all did know is that Peninsula quickly had a 14-0 lead.

A scary moment changed the feelings at Roy Anderson Field late in the second quarter. The Tides were marching for the third time but the Seahawk defense would come up with their third takeaway and second interception. Thomas Erickson made a great read on a pass and picked off the Koi Calhoun pass as it felt like Peninsula had a chance to tack on another score. On the return, two players would be injured. Thomas Erickson was rolled up on on the return but he was helped off and was wrapped up and was walking on the sidelines. Koi Calhoun was down away from the play and that injury resulted in a long delay as he was attended to. Everything changed as both teams just wanted to get their kids to the locker room after the scary situation and Peninsula kneeled out the rest of the clock to take a 14-0 lead into the halftime break.

A failed onside kick began the second half as Peninsula got the ball at midfield. Once again though, the Gig Harbor defense gave their offense a chance with a big stop to keep it just a 14-point deficit. With their quarterback on their minds, Gig Harbor had to turn to their third quarterback in the last two weeks. Benji Parks would take over at QB in the second half and the senior was more than ready for the moment. On his first drive, a screen pass to Ryland Geldermann ended up being blocked perfectly and Geldermann did the rest with his speed as he went 65-yards for the touchdown. In the blink of an eye, Gig Harbor was on the board and cut the deficit to a one score game trailing just 14-7.

That made the next drive for Peninsula extremely important. While they could not score on that drive, the Seahawk defense came up with a stop to send their offense back out onto the field. On the first play of that next drive, Mana Smythe dropped a dime right over the shoulder of Wyatt Abrigo who looked like Willie Mays with an over the shoulder catch for a 55-yard gain. With the Peninsula crowd right back into it, Landon Watson etched his name into the scoresheet with a one-yard touchdown run. Gig Harbor would be able to block the PAT, but Peninsula still extended their lead to 20-7.

Time was not on the side of the Gig Harbor Tides. With under six minutes left, Gig Harbor had to start their next possession at their own 35-yard line. The good news for the Tides was that they did not need much time. It took less than a minute and only three plays for the Tides to go 65 yards. A long pass to Drake Matthies and an intermediate pass to Liam Green had the Tides at the Peninsula 27. Benji Parks would drop back and had a ton of time to throw before he found Liam Green in the endzone for a 27-yard score. One PAT later and Gig Harbor would only be trailing 20-14.

An issue with the snap really stopped the following Peninsula drive before it could ever really get going. The Seahawks would punt the ball back to Gig Harbor but more issues on the punt forced the Seahawks to just get the ball away as Gig Harbor took over at the Peninsula 44-yard line. It was a balance of trying to score while also trying to leave as little time for Peninsula to answer as they could. Parks was like a surgeon working his way down the field very meticulously. A completion to Ben Stevens would move the ball all the way down to the one-yard line with under two minutes left. After a timeout, the Tides let Benji Parks do it himself as he fought his way into the endzone for a touchdown. The PAT all of a sudden became the most important play of the game as Boone Leverett put it right down the middle to give the Tides the lead 21-20 with one minute to go.

Peninsula did still have two timeouts in their pocket but were facing an uphill battle. Starting at their own 37, the Seahawks burned both of their timeouts but did not get too far against the Tides. Gig Harbor’s defense knew that they had to keep the Seahawks in bounds to keep the clock running. Three times, the Tides would get big tackles near the sidelines that forced Peninsula’s timeouts. After the third big tackle, the clock read all zeros as the Gig Harbor students stormed the field as Gig Harbor had defeated Peninsula and won the Fish Bowl for the first time since 2015, as they fought back for the 21-20 win.

Our MVP of the game was Benji Parks. Stepping in as quarterback in the second half of a rivalry game when your team is down 14-0 is such a difficult task and Parks made it look like a walk in the park. In just one half of play, Parks went 9-11 through the air for 218 yards and two touchdowns while also scoring the game winning touchdown with his legs. Senior leadership was a necessity for Gig Harbor following the scary injury and to try to stop a rivalry game losing streak. Parks not only showed the leadership he possesses, but also his talent and heart. To come up with big play after big play, Parks looked like a natural QB will always know what it is like to win a Fish Bowl in incredible comeback fashion.

Not only did the win move the Gig Harbor Tides to 2-1, but it also gave the Tides a 1-0 start to South Sound Conference play. The Tides will try to keep things rolling next week at Roy Anderson Field when they host another team that won their league opener on Friday in the Capital Cougars. For the Peninsula Seahawks (0-3), they start SSC play 0-1 and will continue to search for their first win of the season. They hope they won’t have to wait too much longer but it won’t be easy as they travel to take on the North Thurston Rams on Friday.

If you want to rewatch the entire game, you can visit the link below. For just $11.99 a month you can watch any event streamed on the NFHS Network from across the country live or on-demand.

Peninsula vs Gig Harbor – Boys Varsity Football 09/15/2023 | Live & On Demand (nfhsnetwork.com)


Peninsula Strikes First

Gig Harbor Finds the Endzone

Peninsula With a Big Answer

Tides Begin to Turn

Gig Harbor Game Winner




WordPress Image Lightbox