Saturday morning, William Garrow will get up hours before the crack of dawn like he always does, and go for a run.
The first-year Tumwater coach’s alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m., and while most of the world still sleeps, he gets a jog in, the consistency and quiet helping him clear his head before the day really begins.
“I live out in the sticks, so you only have to worry about racoons then,” he said. “You don’t have to really worry about cars then.
Saturday, that run will be a rare moment of normal for Garrow. After he gets back, it’s going to be an early trip to Tumwater, a scramble to load up the buses, and a trip north to Montlake for the T-Birds’ 2A state championship at Husky Stadium.
It’s not Garrow’s first state title game experience — he was an assistant on Bill Beattie’s staff for two of them — but this time, he’ll be the one in charge.
“It has helped me in terms of understanding an approach,” Garrow said. “If I had never gone through it before and didn’t have a bunch of coaches who’d coached in a lot of these games, honestly I’m not sure how I would have approached it.”
Thirty miles down the freeway in Napavine, Josh Fay is getting ready for his own state title game — when Napavine takes on No. 2 Okanogan in the 2B championship Saturday at 11 a.m. — with a bit more experience to draw on.
Saturday will be his eighth trip to the finals, coming just over 15 years after his first, when Matthew Waltenburg came down with a miracle touchdown in the final minute at the Tacoma Dome to beat Asotin 28-24 in Fay’s own first year on the job back in 2008.
“We had no business winning that game, which is what made that even better,” he said.
But while the decade and a half since have turned Fay into one of the authorities on high school football in Washington, he’s had a consistent staff behind him, building up experience of their own to get them ready for a chance at another title.
“We’re all just as excited as any other time to be here,” Fay said. “It certainly helps having a veteran coaching staff.”
Of course, when it comes to experienced staffs, they don’t get much deeper than Tumwater’s. Even with longtime defensive coordinator Tim Otton retiring alongside Beattie last season, Rick McGrath and Tony Prentice have been coaching defense on Sid Otton Field since Sid Otton himself was coaching there, and Scott Haury has done the same for the offense.
When Garrow came into the program after a short stint at North Thurston, he spent four years learning from them, only to jump to the top of the organization at Beattie’s urging this past spring.
“You had to learn your role and how everybody works together, and once I did that, those guys are easy to be around if you’re willing to do your job and put the program first,” Garrow said. “There’s no ego with any of them. For me, once I figured that out and how selfless they all are, it’s easy to get along with them and easy to work with them.”
Saturday, both sets of coaches will get their own new experience, going from the normal digs in cramped high school boxes to the setup that Ryan Grubb and the UW assistants work from every week, towering over the turf at Husky Stadium.
“Hopefully our Coach Coms will work from that far away,” Fay said with a laugh.
Fay’s first championships were in the Tacoma Dome, but the past two have been played in Lakewood, while both of Garrow’s times coaching in title tilts took place in Puyallup.
Saturday will be a different sort of beast, for the ones wearing headsets as well as the ones in helmets.
“I just think it’s trying to keep it as routine as possible,” Fay said. “We've talked about it with the kids: Husky Stadium is going to be massive, and it’s going to be a lot different. We’re going to have to take that all in, and then we’re going to be on a normal football field.”