The Puyallup High School football team locked itself into the Puyallup Recreation Center on Tuesday night – just before its first practices of the season – and Nathaniel Holcomb came up with the team motto.
The team broke its huddles with the two words Wednesday at Sparks Stadium. And that’s how Holcomb plans to spend his senior year after missing the final half of his sophomore year with a concussion and the last half of last season with a sprained MCL.
“Anything can happen, but I’m not going to get scared of getting hurt,” Holcomb said. “I’m just going to go out there and play like I’ve never been hurt before.”
Opposing defenses are on watch if he does finally play a healthy season. In six games last season, Holcomb threw for 1,189 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“I think we believe we can play with anybody when he’s healthy,” Puyallup coach Gary Jeffers said. “He knows what we’re doing, he can distribute the ball, he can get it done, he can run our offense. And we got some tall, lanky kids at receiver. I think we have a shot as long as we’re healthy.”
The problem is Puyallup lost about 25 seniors to graduation – including receiver Tyler Torgerson, who broke former NFL, UW and Puyallup receiver Dane Looker’s school record for receptions in a season (Togerson had 60 catches for 926 yards). And this isn’t the largest team along the offensive line – which lost three starters.
Finding the team’s vocal leaders will be the first stop toward making the state tournament for the first time in 10 years. Jeffers got heated near the end of Puyallup’s evening practice because none of his defensive players were talking.
“It’s like I’m talking to a bunch of fish!” Jeffers shouted.
Only senior lineman Logan Vesey said this team’s chemistry is far above what it was last year, when Puyallup tied for second in the 4A SPSL standings at 6-3, but wasn’t one of the three teams to reach the postseason because it was the odd team out in the tiebreaker scenario.
“Instead of being more individuals, we’re more of a team,” Vesey said. “Everyone is coming together. I feel like we might not have the biggest guys or the strongest guys, but we want to be aggressive this year. I know that.”
The defensive line certainly should be. It’s led by Vesey, 6-foot-6, 250-pound defensive end Gavin Dunayski and 6-2, 290-pound Eric Steffany.
Then there’s those receivers, with Noah McFadden returning for his senior year, as well as sophomore Darius Morrison, junior Landen Neff, and junior George Johnston.
Holcomb’s younger brother Jacob Holcomb could also play there. But he’s also Nathaniel’s backup at quarterback and will play some safety on defense.
“Every single bad throw, I’ll hear it from him,” Nathaniel said. “He just keeps me on my toes.
“Growing up we were downstairs in the living room playing football with each other, no to high school – we have good chemistry and we’re hard on each other, too. That just helps our competitive edge.”
He’s also what will help keep Nathaniel playing worry free. Even if he gets hurt, he has a serviceable sub waiting in the wings.
“We are going to go out every single game and have no fear,” Jacob Holcomb said. “We are going to try our hardest and we’re going to play together.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677