Momentum is momentum, coach Gary Jeffers said.
It doesn’t matter what serves as the catalyst, it can infiltrate a whole sideline — as it did Friday night for the Puyallup High School Vikings.
And they can thank a teenager playing in his first game of the season for that.
Ethan Steward returned two kickoffs in the first half for touchdowns, and Puyallup surprised No. 5 Sumner, 45-24, on Friday night in a high-scoring 4A SPSL game at Sunset Chev Stadium.
With the victory, the Vikings moved to 5-0, and have set themselves up for an important showdown next week against No. 2 Graham-Kapowsin at home for first place in the league standings.
But this was a night Jeffers will remember as the Puyallup coach for a long time.
Sumner’s Ben Wilson had just tied the game, 17-17, on a 1-yard plunge midway through the second quarter.
Back there deep stood Steward, a junior who was ineligible the first four games of the season.
Steward had already burned the Spartans on the first time he touched the football, racing 99 yards on a kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter.
This time, he scooted past everybody on a 90-yard return to give the Vikings the lead for good — 24-17 — with 5:40 remaining before halftime.
“No question, a true game-changer,” Jeffers said.
Sumner coach Keith Ross was in disbelief even after the game how poorly his normally rock-solid special teams played in the first half.
The Spartans also had a punt blocked at the 1:21 mark that set up the Vikings’ final first-half score — Jacob Holcomb’s 14-yard touchdown strike to Darius Morrison just 25 seconds later.
Puyallup led 31-17 at halftime.
“They came in here and did what they needed to do,” Ross said. “They came in and took it to us. Not many teams do that.”
Taking a screen pass from Holcomb, Landen Neff raced 33 yards for a touchdown early in the second half that pushed the Vikings lead to 38-17.
“It doesn’t matter how you get points on the board,” Jeffers said. “To match a team like Sumner, it gives you the momentum to play confident on defense, to play confident on offense, and on special teams.
“Our kids were ready to play.”