Gavin Kralik’s interview to be South Kitsap High School’s next football coach was four parts and lasted four hours.
But it was 30 minutes of interaction with students that really garnered attention, resulting in a new role that was announced Monday.
“In a half hour, he had our kids running a no-huddle offense,” South Kitsap School District athletic director Ed Santos said. “The way he held command of the kids, it was impressive.
“The kids were incredibly excited.”
Despite the positive experience meeting with prospective football players, Kralik said he turned down the job when he first was offered it around March 20. He had accepted a position as a special-education instructor in the Auburn School District during winter break, but sought to teach within SKSD.
“All of the teaching position stuff was resolved,” Santos said. “We’re ready to go.”
But Kralik, who succeeded Eric Canton, acknowledged that he also had some trepidation based on his family situation. Kralik, 37, and his wife are expecting their sixth child “any time.”
“It was the absolute worst time for us to make a life-changing decision,” said Kralik, a 1996 Sumner High School graduate.
After his offer from SKSD improved, Kralik reconsidered his decision for five days — and then accepted the offer. He will teach special education within SKSD.
Kralik said he “was content not to coach this year” after guiding Texas’ Bay Area Christian to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools’ Division III state football championship game.
But Kralik long has been an admirer of South football. His older brother, Joe, was a teammate of former Wolves’ standout offensive lineman Andrew Peterson on the University of Washington’s 1991 national championship team. Two other South linemen, Tony Coats and Benji Olson, also played for the Huskies in the late 1990s. Kralik said he wants to “build upon that [physical] mentality” — with a different flair.
While Kralik said Bay Area Christian “wasn’t the right fit for our family” — he noted that staying there would have required them to attend a particular church and his homeschooled children would have had to enroll at the Houston-area school — he ran a successful spread, no-huddle offense there that he will install at South. Bay Area Christian, which ran more than 80 plays in a game multiple times, produced 705 points in 14 games last season. That continued a trend from Kralik’s time at Bethel, where the Braves usually were among the South Puget Sound League’s most prolific offenses. Kralik produced a 50-42 record from 2005-13 at Bethel.
“We definitely want to make the game as uncomfortable for our opponent as possible,” Kralik said.
That could have described the feeling when Kralik took over at Bethel. His predecessor, Eric Kurle, left for rival Graham-Kapowsin when it opened — and took many players with him.
Instead, Kralik delved into rebuilding. The 2001 graduate of Liberty University in Virginia traveled to several states to chronicle 12 of the best high-school football programs in the country. The four-year project culminated when “Gridiron Dynasties” was published in 2008. Among the coaches Kralik interviewed was Ray Akins, who guided Texas’ Portland High School to 293 wins and 17 state-playoff appearances in 24 season. Akins’ grandson is New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
“When I was younger in my career I would find myself going to coaching clinics and find myself hearing about skills and techniques,” said Kralik, when asked about the impetus behind the book. “But I didn’t hear a lot about building a great program.”
That once described the South job, where Ed Fisher guided the Wolves to a 196-49 record from 1974-96. Fisher’s 1994 team won a state championship and the program advanced to the playoffs every season from 1980 to 2002.
“I think you can make a case that this is the best high school football job in the state of Washington,” Kralik said.
One that has fallen in recent years, though. When D.J. Sigurdson’s Wolves finished 4-6 in 2004, it marked the program’s first losing record since 1977. During the last five seasons, South has produced three losing seasons. Canton, who resigned under pressure in December, had a 13-17 record in three years.
“My biggest job is not to build a program, but one that sustains for a lot of years like Coach Fisher did,” Kralik said. “I think it just takes a ton of buy-in from the kids and the community. Getting everyone with the same vision.”
He believes he received an indication of that when he worked with his prospective players during his four-part, four-hour interview, which included a sit-down with superintendent Michelle Reid.
“They made a massive impression on me,” Kralik said. “I’m really looking forward to working with this group of kids.”