To beat Rogers is motivation enough for the Puyallup High School football team.
Gary Jeffers and the rest of his Puyallup coaching staff spoke to the team following Wednesday’s rain-soaked practice, which ended after 8 p.m. at Sparks Stadium, about the countless alumni who have reached out to them in the past week — Georgia State University quarterbacks coach Luke Huard and Stanford senior offensive lineman Josh Garnett among them.
The common thread — you better beat Rogers.
Not to mention the 4A district playoff implications that would come with it.
“If we don’t win, I won’t be able to walk in downtown Puyallup for a whole year,” Jeffers joked. “I don’t want to have to go to the Safeway here downtown without having beat Rogers.”
There’s a city championship on the line — and a trophy that sits in the Sparks Firehouse Deli. And Puyallup’s seniors have never before lost to that school up the hill.
In addition, if Puyallup (4-4, 3-2 4A SPSL South) wins and Bethel hands fourth-ranked Graham-Kapowsin its first loss of the season, the Vikings are one of the three teams out of the seven-team 4A South Puget Sound League South Division to earn a district berth.
If one of those things doesn’t happen, G-K (8-0, 5-0), Bethel (6-2, 4-1) and Curtis (6-2, 4-2) are in while Puyallup is left out.
Jeffers insisted that he hasn’t fed Bethel coach Mark Iddins any tips on how to beat G-K and he won’t check that game’s score while his own team is playing — though he won’t mind if someone makes a few in-game announcements over the microphone.
“We really want Bethel to go beat G-K, but I think we are really focused on the fact that Friday we need to take care of Rogers first and let things happen as they are supposed to,” Jeffers said.
It’s surprising Puyallup is even in this position.
It started the season 0-3, was out five starters, and eventually lost quarterback Nathaniel Holcomb to a strained MCL.
Then came backup quarterback Colby Burton and wide receiver Tyler Torgerson.
Burton was practicing with the JV, but has thrown for almost 600 yards and completed 60 percent of his passes in the past two games.
Torgerson broke the school’s season receptions record — formerly held by Dane Looker, the ex-University of Washington and St. Louis Rams receiver who is Rogers’ offensive coordinator and a member of Puyallup’s school board. Torgerson leads the league with 56 catches for 877 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
Torgerson missed all of his sophomore season with a broken collarbone and tore his ACL in last year’s third game.
Puyallup’s first win came against another cross-town rival — Emerald Ridge. The Vikings have won three of their four games since.
“We started pulling it all together,” Burton said. “And started to see what we’re actually made of.”
One side is for Washington, the other for Franklin Pierce.
That’s not just at Franklin Pierce Stadium, where the rival high schools in the Franklin Pierce School District will play Friday. But also the Helmet Bowl Trophy, which has a helmet with one side featuring the Patriots logo, the other the Cardinals logo, and has kept track of the game’s winner since 1992.
Former Franklin Pierce coach Howard Lutton, who retired at the end of last season, spoke to the team following its practice Thursday about the rivalry’s history.
“It’s just fun to bring all the people to one big game,” said Franklin Pierce quarterback Willie Patterson, who leads the 2A SPSL with 2,456 passing yards to go along with a team-high 485 rushing yards.
“Some of them are people that I grew up playing Little League with, some are family and some are just friends I’ve grown up with. It’s cool to know that if you win, you got bragging rights until next year.”
And you’ve got playoff implications.
Franklin Pierce (4-4, 4-2 2A SPSL) will clinch a district playoff berth with a win and would knock Washington (4-4, 3-3) out of playoff contention.
If Washington wins, it, Franklin Pierce and Steilacoom will be tied for two of the three district berths from the league and would play in a mini-playoff on Sunday at Orting High School, Kansas tiebreaker style.
Washington enters with the league’s top rusher, Tariq Ellis. He has 1,560 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns so far.
But Patterson said he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve.
“I know some of their weaknesses,” he said.
“Some of the teams they played on weren’t that good in Little League,” Patterson said. “So I think we got the edge on them in that way.”
Only something that could be brought up during rivalry week.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677