Sports

Fisher's influence still permeates SK program

There’s no doubt about Ed Fisher’s legacy at South Kitsap football High School.

The monstrous numbers he put up in his 23 years as the school’s footbal coach speak for themselves. He left after the 1996 season with a record of 197-48, a consecutive streak of playoff appearances still in tact at 17 and led three teams to the state championship game, winning it all in 1994.

And today, he will be one of the inaugural members inducted into the Kitsap Sports Hall of Fame in a ceremony in Bremerton along with another former South Kitsapper, Jud Heathcote.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and talking with the old football coach on two occasions, and as the induction ceremony drew closer, I decided to take a different approach in writing about it. Instead of talking with Fisher, who headed back to the sidelines this year as an assistant on his son Adam’s team at Spokane’s East Valley High School, I thought I might talk to a few former players and those who coached with him.

I was hoping to get some insight into the man that many consider the best high-school football coach the state has ever produced. And I did.

So here are a few thoughts and stories, anecdotes and humorous tales about a man who was, and still is, highly revered in this community from those who know him best.

• Steve Reischman: The recently retired athletic director coached with Fisher for all 23 years he spent at South and is happy to see him inducted in the Hall.

“I know he appreciates the honor of being in that (first) group,” Reischman said. “I know Ed is really honored to be recognized like that.”

That may surprise many who thought they knew him. Reischman said Fisher was a private person who took his job very seriously and many misconstrued that as a win-at-all-cost mentality, which was far from the truth.

“Ed looked at his job not in terms of winning or losing but developing young men (for life),” Reischman said. “Many people do understand what he did for the school and the players. But time passes and some people may forget.”

• Elton Goodwin: The former longtime baseball coach at South spent nine years as an assistant to Fisher, helping turn the program into what it eventually became. Goodwin says the man many saw on the football field was totally different than the man off the field, who was genuinely funny and very caring.

Goodwin recalled a humorous moment early in their coaching careers that had the pair sharing an innocent enough lunch break while in Seattle for a coaching clinic. It ended with Goodwin accidentally squirting Fisher in the face with a packet of ketchup.

“He gave me that look like we going to kill me,” Goodwin said. “But he ended up laughing about it — he had to. I still think about that to this day and laugh.”

• Eric Canton: Canton may have the best perspective of Fisher of anyone, having been around him in so many different situations. Canton started off as a ball boy for the Wolves soon after Fisher arrived, played three years for him in the mid 1980s and returned to coach with him as well. He still remembers the two- and three-word phrases that Fisher is famous for around South, and many of those that are still used today.

“It made me want to come back and coach for him,” Canton said. “I knew I wanted to coach and I didn’t want to coach with someone that just kind of slapped things together. I wanted to see how it was done right. I wanted to learn from the best.”

• Ron Ness: Ness, who was a year behind Canton, grew up just down the street from the school and remembers all the time Fisher would spend in the football office.

“He’d be sleeping underneath his desk or be sleeping in the weight room on a bench because he’d be there all night,” Ness said. “He wouldn’t go home. He was that dedicated. It’s amazing the amount of time he put in.”

One of Ness’s first encounters with Fisher came as a sophomore when he was responsible for getting a touchdown called back because of a clipping penalty and ended up owing the coach 1,000 yards of bear crawls. But that wouldn’t be the last time he incurred Fisher’s wrath.

A year later Ness was deemed responsible for something his cousin had done two years before in a playoff game with Gonzaga Prep.

“Of course, it was somehow my fault and I got just chewed out,” said Ness, who can laugh about it now.

• D.J. Sigurdson: The man who would end up taking over the reins when Fisher retired learned a lot in the four years they walked the sidelines together.

“My perceptions are only of him as a coach,” Sigurdson said. “He has the reputation of being extremely intense and very focused. And it was not just something he demanded from his players but his assistants and the entire program. It was just how things were done.”

And it should come as no surprise that Fisher’s way of doing things are still the way things are done.

“Our personalities are way different but the framework of it is the same,” Sigurdson said. “He’s definitely my coaching mentor.”

Jeff Wilson can be reached at (360) 876-4414, or by e-mail at sports@portorchardindependent.com.

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