Culture Change

Playoff loss doesn’t dim future for Gibraltar football

Gibraltar football coach Mike Peck put the Vikings’ 61-25 loss to Newman Catholic in the second round of the eight-man playoffs in perspective. Even though the Vikings took a lopsided loss, Peck chose to talk about where his program is headed.

“As far as the season goes, I think we are in a great spot,” said Peck, who was head coach this season after serving as an assistant in 2018. The Vikings finished 8-3, defeated Suring in the opening round of the playoffs and won the MONLPC-8 Conference title – the first conference crown for Gibraltar since 1974.

“We are one full season into developing a culture of football here at Gibraltar,” Peck said. “I think the way that [our players] fight for each other on every play is a testament to the time we spent on developing character this season. A lot of the players now have a true understanding of varsity football, which will guide their off-season choices.”

Gibraltar found itself in a tough position shortly before the start of the 2018 regular season, when head coach Scott Biemeret resigned abruptly to take a teaching position at Southern Door. Middle school head coach Jim Laughlin accepted the interim head-coach role, and Peck and Tom Sawyer were named assistant coaches.

The 2018 Vikings finished 7-1 in the conference – one game behind state champion Sevastopol – and 7-3 overall, including a loss to Newman Catholic in the opening round of the state playoffs. Tyler Hanusa joined the staff this season as the special-teams coach after Laughlin returned to his role in the middle school program, and John Sawyer has pitched in as a volunteer assistant.

“They all stepped up and helped in a situation that caught us off guard,” said Peggy Tanck, Gibraltar’s athletic director. “I’ve seen growth in the program as players and student-athletes as well. The kids respect [Peck and his staff], and that’s first and foremost.”

Luke Steebs and Alex Laughlin will return next year after leading the Vikings’ offense in 2019. Steebs threw for 1,531 yards and 18 scores and ran for 789 yards and 14 touchdowns. Laughlin had 1,019 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns and added 914 yards rushing and 14 scores. Peck also named Spencer Krause and Manny Macias as other top returning players. The Vikings will need to find replacements for Connor Duffy and Brandon Stillman, who were Gibraltar’s top two tacklers.

“The most memorable thing of this season will definitely be the feeling of [being] a part of Gibraltar football’s first-ever playoff win in history,” said Laughlin, who gave credit to the coaching staff for the successful season. “They definitely created a winning and competitive culture.”

Peck says he looks forward to developing the program but added that he hasn’t lost perspective about what his staff’s ultimate job entails.

“I am so proud of the mature young men [who] are leaving our program to either go to other sports or to continue their studies,” Peck said. “Winning and losing [are] part of the game, but becoming a responsible young man is the main goal of this program.”