Zach Munizza could have packed it in before his Puyallup High teammates forced overtime against Curtis in a 4A South Puget Sound League South Division clash Oct. 1 at Sparks Stadium.
No one would blame the Vikings kicker if his head wasn’t there after missing two field goals in crucial situations — a short shot he shanked right of the goal post right before the half, and a potential game-winner that Curtis blocked late in the fourth quarter.
But one message ran through the senior’s head when he lined up for his 29-yard attempt.
“Coach (Gary Jeffers) told me the team needed my head in the game. He said we were going to go to overtime, and we were going to win it with my leg,” Munizza said.
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And with a perfect snap, Munizza set sail an even better kick that lifted Puyallup to a 40-37 upset win over Curtis in overtime.
“I told Zach right after he missed the one at regulation, ‘You’re going to have to have your head about you, because this thing’s going end on your leg,’” Jeffers said.
Munizza’s kick lifted Puyallup to 2-1 mark in league and 2-3 overall. Curtis (3-2) fell to 1-2 in league action.
Right before the half and trailing 23-9, Nathaniel Holcomb had Puyallup’s offense moving down the field and into Curtis territory. But the Vikings of University Place hunkered down and forced a missed field goal.
Instead of trailing by two scores heading into the half, Puyallup saw an 11-point swing go into Curtis’ favor as quarterback Gage Ferguson gutted the Vikings defense on two runs.
The Vikings of University Place’s quarterback hit Puyallup with a 42-yard scamper before capping the drive with an 18-yard touchdown run and a 30-9 Curtis lead at the half.
“Coming into the half, I challenged the guys — I challenged the defense to step up and not allow them to score again,” Jeffers said about his halftime speech. “They rose to the challenges me and the coaching staff laid out at halftime.”
Trailing by three scores and facing a team pegged to contend for the league title, things looked dire for Puyallup heading out of the half.
A perfect half
Puyallup’s comeback could have been written on the opening drive of the second half. With Taje Davis and Matt Palmer gutting Curtis right before the half, the Vikings of University Place loaded up the box on Puyallup.
That opened up the passing game for Holcomb (18 of 27 passing for 221 yards), who connected with his favorite targets, Noah McFadden and Tyler Torgerson, for large gains until Puyallup reached the 1 yard line.
“We just came out with tempo and our (offensive) linemen kept kicking their butts, the running backs running hard,” Holcomb said. “Again, it set up the pass game like last week as slants were wide open.”
Palmer capped the drive with a touchdown run and Puyallup was one step closer.
But Curtis looked like the team that finished the first half, with Ferguson dicing through the Puyallup defense until he erased Puyallup’s previous efforts with a 26-yard touchdown run.
“I told the defense that if they allowed them (Curtis) to score one more time, we were going to lose this game,” Jeffers said. “Well, I was wrong. They not only scored but our guys still found a way to win.”
With the deficit now 37-16, Holcomb never wavered, keeping his composure while keeping his teammates loose.
“They changed up their defense and dropped their best guy back,” Holcomb said. “We ran the ball (well) in the first half ... we just kept them off-balanced and our coaches called a heck of a game.”
On Puyallup’s next three drives, Holcomb found McFadden for two scores (5 and 14 yards) and hit Torgerson with a third touchdown — from 12 yards out — late in the fourth to tie the a game 37 apiece.
“I knew once we got the ball back (in overtime), Zach (Munizza) was going to win this game for us,” Holcomb said. “I told him that we were going to give him the chance to win this for us.”
Curtis had first crack at scoring in overtime, but Ferguson failed to move the ball against Puyallup’s defense. Twice, Ferguson looked for his top target, Tristan Beard, and twice it was senior cornerback Orlando McDaniel who broke up the play.
“I knew he wanted to go to (Beard),” McDaniel said of his deflection in the end zone. “I just read the quarterback’s eyes and batted the ball down.”
After a botched snap on third down, Curtis turned the ball over on downs, giving way to Munizza’s game-winning kick.
“It’s time the kicker had their day,” Munizza said with a huge grin after the game.
Sumner 21, at Peninsula 20
When Peninsula High running back Komisi Siolo scampered into the end zone in the game’s final seconds to pull the Seahawks within one Thursday, Sumner coach Keith Ross thought the Seahawks were going to go for a two-point conversion to win the game.
But Peninsula went with the usually safe, conservative option of kicking the extra point. Only this time, it didn’t work out. The holder couldn’t handle the snap and the kick was blocked, sealing a wild 21-20 victory for the Spartans in a Class 3A South Puget Sound League game at Roy Anderson Field in Gig Harbor.
“There’s a lot of pressure on people,” Ross said. “It was a classic game.”
While the Spartans dismantled the then-No. 3 Auburn Mountainview Lions last week, Ross knew the trip to Peninsula wasn’t going to be easy, by any means.
“They’re the defending champs,” Ross said. “They play like us. They’re tough, they’re solid, they’re well coached. I knew all week it was going to be exactly like this.”
Sumner had a big day on the ground. Star junior running back Connor Wedington rushed for 129 yards on 18 carries, including a pivotal 50-yard score early in the third quarter. Not to be outdone, senior Josh Riley also passed the century mark, going for 101 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.
Emerald Ridge 35, at Rogers 21
The defending South champions have their first win. The Jaguars (1-4, 1-2) pulled away in the second half behind Dustin Resnik’s three interceptions and Waipa Hoopii’s pair of touchdown runs.
Hoopii ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns, both in the second half, on 15 carries.
Resnik returned an interception 9 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter and also caught a 7-yard TD pass.
Staff writer Jon Manley contributed to this report.