The fifth-ranked Puyallup High School football team built a three-touchdown halftime lead.
But then the Vikings held off a second-half push from Bellarmine Prep to clinch the 4A South Puget Sound League 4A title outright, 35-28, Friday night at Sparks Stadium.
Bellarmine Prep took possession with 1:53 to play down one touchdown and advanced to near midfield, but the Puyallup defense forced an incompletion on fourth-and-5 to seal the win.
“This is where you figure out what you’re made of,” Puyallup head coach Gary Jeffers said. “This was a game that we could’ve given away. Our kids hung in there and they battled and they fought until the end.
“It’s going to take that every week from here on out.”
Puyallup’s only loss was a nonleague game against Skyline, so this is the Vikings first undefeated league finish since 2005, when they went on to reach the Tacoma Dome for the state semifinals (losing to Skyline).
They will host a first-round playoff contest next week against Auburn Mountainview.
“I love playing for all the past people who have played, playing for the community, seeing all the people here,” junior running back/linebacker Kyle Cramer said. “It’s just amazing having everyone come out and support us.”
Jeffers shared that sentiment.
“Our kids and our community and our school are so proud,” Jeffers said. “They have a strong tradition of having those kinds of seasons, and so we’re just happy to be able to deliver one to them this year.”
Cramer was the Vikings’ offensive workhorse Friday night, carrying the ball 30 times and scoring a pair of touchdowns. He admitted to being sore after the game, but that can hardly slow him down.
“Whatever I can do to help the team,” Cramer said. “I’m just glad we pulled it out, a long stressful game but we pulled it out.”
Puyallup also had starring offensive performances from junior quarterback Jacob Holcomb and wide receiver Darius Morrison, who connected nine times for 132 yards and three touchdowns. One of those was a 30-yard back-shoulder catch on fourth-down in the final minute of the first half to make it 21-0. Another came on third down late in the fourth to put Puyallup back up two scores.
Sophomore quarterback Marcus Stowers tossed two touchdowns for Bellarmine Prep, while Chase Chandler and Derrion Summers each ran for touchdowns.
The Lions’ loss means Bellarmine Prep (5-4; 4-4) won’t continue its season into the playoffs for the first time since 2009. It needed a win to surpass Olympia for the 4A SPSL’s final playoff spot.
Despite the result, head coach Brian Jensen praised his team’s effort, particularly in the second-half comeback.
“It’s about heart and playing hard and loving each other, and we’re super proud of our guys for doing that in the second half,” Jensen said. “The results fall the way they fall, and we can’t control that per se, but we can control our effort. We’re pleased about that.”
Now Puyallup turns its attention to its first-round playoff game next week, as the Vikings look to improve some of the areas that allowed for the second-half comeback.
“We’ve got five days to get our stuff together and fix some of the issues that we found tonight,” Jeffers said.
Puyallup 35, Bellarmine 28
P – Kyle Cramer 10 run (Nathen Cutler kick)
P – Darrius Morrison 8 pass from Jacob Holcomb (Cutler kick)
P – Morrison 31 pass from Holcomb (Cutler kick)
BP – Derrion Summers 41 run (Nick Kokich kick)
P – Cramer 1 run (Cutler kick)
BP – Sam Behnke 15 pass from Marcus Stowers (Kokich kick)
BP – Christian Brown 46 pass from Stowers (Kokich kick)
P – Morrison 9 pass from Holcomb (Cutler kick)
BP – Chase Chandler 2 run (Kokick kick)