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Auburn Mountainview's Gervais is Auburn Reporter's Coach of the Year
In his final, backward glance at Auburn Mountainview High School's 2011 football season, outstanding memories jostle for space in the mind of head coach Jared Gervais.
Gervais, the Auburn Reporter's Coach of the Year, led the Lions to their first ever postseason berth with a 6-4 overall record, 3-2 in the South Puget Sound League 3A.
For a 26-year-old in his first year ever as head coach, that's big stuff. But ask Gervais to choose his favorite memory, he knows what it is.
"Beating Bonney Lake was a defining moment, but I think my favorite moment was against Yelm," Gervais said.
With the ball on the goal line, Gervais called a fade, a lob pass to the back of the end zone. That's a play normally built for a team's tallest receiver, the guy who can out leap his defenders and snag the pass.
Gervais called the play for pint-sized senior Skyler White.
"My offensive line coach on the headset said, 'did you know you just called a fade to a 5-8 kid on the goal line?'" Gervais said. "And I said, 'I don't care, Skyler is going to catch it.' And he caught it with a crazy catch in the corner. I just went nuts. That was the best moment for me in the season."
After taking over the program in the spring of 2011 from Craig Spence, Gervais, nephew of Washington State coaching legend Steve Gervais, was confident he'd be able to provide a little stability for a team that was on its third coach in as many seasons.
"We had a pretty good group of seniors and a good group of juniors, too," he said. "It's pretty easy to be confident when you've got the horses. That always helps."
He wasted no time implementing the spread offense that had been so key to his uncle's success at Skyline and Eatonville, where he won six state titles.
It didn't take long for the Lions to start to roar.
"We had a scrimmage against Auburn Riverside last spring, and we were pretty successful against them," Gervais said. "At that point the kids kind of bought into the offense, and the defense came along as we got the coaching staff together. That was really big for us to get them to buy in during the spring and believe in the offense."
Although the team was practicing and scrimmaging well, that was no guarantee of success under the harsh glare of Friday night lights.
"I remember down in Sumner – I live there – driving by the stadium and thinking, 'we have to play there in a week,'" he said. "That was kind of a moment where I was a little worried. At the same time, though, I knew I had to be confident, because we're not going to do very well if I'm down there shaking in my boots before the game. There were a few nerves before the game, making sure we had everything in. We hadn't done it before with all the plays and special teams. Offensively, I was pretty confident, and defensively, I knew we had it down. Just being prepared really helps the confidence and the nerves."
Although a few miscues cost the team that opening night win, the Lions falling 28-13, the team responded well despite being down.
In the next five games, Auburn Mountainview ran the table, beating Eatonville, Foss and Yelm, before opening league play with wins over rivals Bonney Lake and Enumclaw.
Although a 36-10 loss to Peninsula ended the winning streak, the team was already a different beast than it had been in years past, more confident, less inclined to let down.
"They finally kind of figured out that Bonney Lake, Enumclaw and Peninsula aren't these invincible juggernauts that you lose to every year," Gervais said. "You don't have to lose to Bonney Lake just because you show up to play Bonney Lake. They kind of finally saw that, and this is going to help us out as we go along."
After a 63-7 loss to Lakes, a perennial state contender, the Lions closed out the regular season with a 29-12 win against Decatur.
The boys wrapped up the year with a 51-9 loss to Mountain View of Vancouver in the first round of the postseason.
"It was a good experience for them to learn we're going to have to fight, there are just going to be teams as good as them (Lakes and Mountain View)," Gervais said. "You just have to be ready for them. And you have to fight and play them again next year."
Gervais is already jazzed about next year, despite several key losses, like workhorse running back Victor Korchemniy, White and three of the team's lineman. The team returns three-year senior starter Domenic Rockey at quarterback, along with seniors Devin Bryant and Brandon Bodine. Plus, Gervais has a year under his belt.
"I'm more comfortable with the coaching stuff," he said. "All the other things, like fundraising, have been a bit of a stress. But the football stuff? Not worried at all. Every year is a new adjustment, with new kids and figuring out what we're going to do with this group. But having already gone through it once with the same group of coaches is huge for us. The kids know what to expect from us in practice. They know what to expect from us in games. So that helps a lot."
"(Last season) was a blast, it was awesome. Going through the Sumner game, then barely winning the Eatonville game, where we had six holding calls in the first half, and I thought my head was going to explode. After that it was Foss and Yelm, with the fireworks show. It was a pretty good year and the kids seemed to enjoy it. I know the coaching staff loved it," Gervais said.