Merrill continues on his way

What should have been a great weekend for Gig Harbor (Wash.) S Jake Merrill got off to an auspicious start with a tough loss to Shelton Friday night. Merrill and his Tides teammates lost 21-14 to their league rivals in a hard fought game that saw the Gig Harbor line abused all game long by the more experienced High Climbers linemen.

"It was a tough loss, really hard fought and tough," Merrill told on Sunday afternoon. "Athlete-wise, we were right with them, but their size and experience along both of their lines just mashed our guys. They have seniors straight across and we just have two seniors and the rest are sophomores. They just man-handled our guys, I mean I was hit by three guys on almost every play.

"Even when I was in deep coverage, their two wideouts would take a run right at me and do their best to take me out of the play. I finished with six tackles and an interception, but I only had one tackle in the second half. It was the most I've been hit in a game in a while."

Merrill said that even with the tough loss, he saw some positives. His teammate, Tony Henderson had two kickoff returns over 90 yards for touchdowns and while the Gig Harbor offense struggled, the defense remained tough throughout the game even when the offense turned the ball over in their own end.

"We had to take the field when they were inside our own 30 twice," Merrill said. "We held tough both times and they had to score on fourth and inches both times, otherwise we stopped them.

"Even with them dominating us, we still had a chance to tie the game at the end. We recovered an onside kick after Tony's second touchdown return and had the ball on the 50 with like three minutes remaining. We drove down to the 10-yard line and on a halfback sweep our back fumbled and that was pretty much the game. Like I said, it was a tough loss."

On the recruiting front, Merrill said that things are going slow right now, but that a couple of schools are really starting to heat things up. "Oregon State has been really aggressive with me," Merrill said of the Beavers coaching staff. "They want some more game film for me and they are talking about setting up an official visit in November. Washington State is also asking for a lot of film.

"Washington and Oregon are both right there as well. I talk to coach (Steve) Wilks from Washington all the time. I haven't gotten a call from them this weekend, but they usually call at night, so they may call tonight, but like I said, we talk a lot."

Merrill said that he has no intentions of committing to a school right away, but if one were to step up with a written offer (he has a verbal offer from Oregon State), he would seriously consider that.

"I will be asking schools a lot of questions when and if I decide to commit," Merrill said matter-of-factly. "I want to take some visits and see what the schools have to offer. I will be asking a lot of questions. I want to know about the academic support, the coaches, the players, the living situations and how they'll use me."

The Huskies are on the top of Merrill's mind most of the time and while they would have to be considered one of Merrill's favorite schools, he said he isn't so sure they will get a visit.

"I'm not sure I would even take a visit to Washington," Merrill said. "I've been up there so many times. I know how their practice schedule works, how the coaching staff is, how the school is…all that stuff.

"When you're going through recruiting, a lot of people tell you it's all B.S. and that schools will tell you things and treat you differently just to get you to commit. Washington's staff isn't like that at all. I know that the way they treat you now is how they will treat you as a player for them. There is no concern on that with me."

So is that important to Merrill?

"That's very important to me," Merrill said. "I like knowing the coaches will treat me the same and be up front with me. The Husky coaching staff is all that and more. I have a great relationship with them and I feel very comfortable with the Washington program."

One would think that a football player on a Sunday during the fall would be positioned in front of the T.V. watching football, but that wasn't the case for Merrill.

"Today is my (18th) birthday, so I've just been relaxing and playing the games I got for my X-Box. I'm playing Madden 2006 and I'm playing safety for the Seahawks," Merrill said with a laugh. "Michael Boulware is my backup."

Merrill and his Tides teammates' next game is against South Kitsap in Port Orchard on October 14th.

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