Puyallup High football had a harsh lesson last season when the Vikings fell to a 4-6 record and a fifth-place finish in the Class 4A South Puget Sound League South Division.
Health is key to any high school football team’s success. Not just staying healthy up and down the roster, but staying healthy at the most important position on the field: quarterback.
“Well, injuries played a little to that record,” Puyallup coach Gary Jeffers said. “It’s hard to do what you want (offensively), and we want to throw the ball if we can. It’s hard to do that when your No. 1 goes down and you have no quarterback behind him.”
Before Nathaniel Holcomb could take hold of the Vikings offense last season, the then-sophomore starter went down with a concussion in week four against Emerald Ridge.
“You’d like to have a couple guys behind your starter if you can,” Jeffers said. “We’d like to not have to go to the Wildcat again.”
Last week at Puyallup’s spring camp, Jeffers said he has been pleased with the progress of Puyallup’s overall health, especially at quarterback. Holcomb, a multi-sport athlete, was away at another spring camp last Friday, giving Jeffers and his staff a chance to see what future sophomore Colby Burton had to offer.
Burton, the projected third string quarterback, might take some time before he can contribute to the varsity squad, but having a player like him in the fold makes Jeffers’ life more at ease.
“(Burton) looks good right now, but he’s probably not going to see varsity this year,” Jeffers said. “We want to have a true freshman team (C-team), and use our sophomores as our JV team.
“We want them to grow into their bodies more, and not rush them against bigger, stronger talent.”
Perhaps the biggest growth any player, or person for that matter, is taking responsibility for what happened in the past and growing from it.
If you want to lead Puyallup football, this is a trait that must be ingrained into your persona. Good thing the Vikings have two players not only willing to take responsibility for last season’s results, but make sure it doesn’t happen next year: Matthew Palmer and Taje Davis.
“The attitude is a lot more upbeat, I’d say, as a lot of people are holding people accountable,” Palmer said. “We’re just trying to capitalize on what happened last year.”
Lacking full focus at these practices, Palmer said, played in to some of Puyallup’s struggles last season. It’s hard not wanting to let just let loose with your friends at these practices, with the school year coming to a close and summer about to begin.
Yet there’s a different sense at Puyallup’s practice one year later. Eyes and ears are wide open — a change that happened months ago, according to Jeffers.
“Our weight room has been a lot more spirited,” Jeffers added. “We’ve had about 40 to 60 kids pretty regularly in there … I credit Matt Palmer as the young man that really led that offseason weight room.”
And now it’s time for the next set of seniors to step up. Palmer and Davis are helping keep players involved with next season while welcoming the next set of players into the program.
“We have a few juniors stepping up (with) our seniors this year,” Davis said. “I think we’re going to be stricter (at practice) this year, and I think we’re overall going to be a better team.”
Strict but loose, all focusing toward a turnaround for Puyallup football.
“We want to make next season memorable,” Palmer said.