On Saturday, college football powers Ohio State and Michigan added another chapter in their historic rivalry, with the Buckeyes eventually coming away with a 30-27 win over the Wolverines.
As they battled in one of the better games in recent memory, there was a little war raging 2,346 miles away back here in Puyallup.
“A bunch of us were in a group messaging each other over texts talking about the game since many of the parents are Michigan fans,” said Kristina Castle, who was texting back and forth during the game with Denise Overhulse and Jeff Skoda. “I’m an Ohio State fan and they’re rooting for Michigan, and after we won, I told them their team actually looked better in the loss.”
“Then Jeff texted back, and I could only imagine that this is what (his former wife) Krystal (Skoda) would say, too, that ‘It’s football. We don’t need your pity,’” she added. “That’s what volunteering for these clubs can do, create those lasting friendships.”
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Ever since Krystal Skoda first dreamed up the idea of putting everything her boys Justin, Kort and Logan did first, the idea has grown to something incredible on South Hill at Emerald Ridge High. Krystal died earlier this year after a two-and-a-half-year battle with ovarian cancer.
Her idea was about creating an environment that helped propel the teachings of six men that Skoda, Overhulse and after one year, Castle, came to create.
“Krystal was always pushing for more moms to get involved, and if someone said they didn’t have the time, she would find a way to get it done,” Castle said. “She led by example, and that motivated the other moms like myself to put more into the program.”
Because without the support of the parents, Castle remembers Krystal always saying that the kids won’t get the chance to succeed like the other teams in the area.
It was about giving their children a chance to play the sport that they loved.
“(Coach Troy) Halfaday would come to us telling us what the team need, whether it’s in the weight room or equipment or just meals prepared for the boys after practice,” Carole Wagner said. “He would tell us what they needed, and we would get it for them. Krystal would always make sure they had what they needed. … It’s been hard this year, and we had to keep asking each time, ‘What would Krystal do?”
What would Krystal do?
Legacy in place
The simple answer would be anything and everything, many of her friends and family say. Krystal wasn’t just a parent that spent eight years around Emerald Ridge’s inner circle.
Emerald Ridge has become a family like no other, one that extended beyond the school grounds and embraces Puyallup and its sister cities and towns.
“She was always excited for the team, not just for her boys, but for the team. I remember when my son went into the game and she said, ‘Look! Mitch is in the game,” Castle said. “It wasn’t just for our team, but kids from the area, too. She was very aware of the community around her. I remember a few years ago when ER played (Graham-Kapowsin), and this big lineman on their team landed and was laying on one of our guys who was smaller than him. I started to yell he couldn’t do that, he was so much bigger than the kid on our team.”
That freshman G-K lineman that landed on top of the ER player was and is arguably the top recruit in the nation: Foster Sarell.
As Castle went up to cry foul on the play — especially for safety concerns — she remembered Krystal reaching over and touching her arm to stop her before passion overwhelmed Castle.
He would tell us what they needed, and we would get it for them. Krystal would always make sure they had what they needed. …It’s been hard this year, and we had to keep asking each time ‘What would Krystal do?’
“I remember her saying that it was okay,” Castle said. “She said (the Skodas) knew the Sarell family and that he was a good, kind and sweet boy. He was going to have a long and productive football career.”
All Krystal ever cared about, from Roughriders to Rogers and Emerald Ridge football and baseball, was the community around her.
And all she ever wanted was to help people do the same.
What would Krystal do?
This has been a tough year for the Emerald Ridge and the Jag Nation, and it’s been even tougher on the Skoda family as the boys deal with the loss of their matriarch.
(Logan) put the entire family on his shoulders. It was still too hard for me to go out in public at the time.
Last spring, as the Emerald Ridge baseball team prepared to host Puyallup, coach Larry Marshall and the team honored Krystal with a ceremony before the game. It was only two weeks after the funeral and only Logan Skoda had the strength to attend.
“He put the entire family on his shoulders,” Jeff Skoda said. “It was still too hard for me to go out in public at the time.”
Logan showing up to the ceremony was exactly what Krystal would do — come rain or shine, good health or bad, Krystal was almost always there.
Entering the first season in nearly a decade where she wasn’t involved with the booster clubs, for the first time the Jag Moms were without their best weapon in fundraising and getting the job done.
No matter when a player or parents were in need, Krystal made sure the Jag Moms were there, a favor they have returned this year.
“We’ve all been bringing the boys (Skodas) meals each week, making sure they are all taken care of,” Jeri Roten said. “We try to take care of everyone in our community that’s in need. That’s what the coaches would do, and Krystal always would remind us of that. It was about helping the families when you can.”
Emerald Ridge has built a community, that no matter what any member goes through; that no matter whoever comes to them or plays for them, that they felt like they were welcomed.
Stats come and go, and records will always fall, but it’s the people in our lives that matter most.
The scoreboard doesn’t matter. I had a great high school career, my parents made it even more special. That’s what matters to me at the end of the day.
“It would be nice having won either against Curtis or Bellarmine and already have that playoff spot locked up,” said Logan Skoda the night before the Jaguars played 4A SPSL league champion Sumner. “We can do that tomorrow, but it doesn’t matter. The scoreboard doesn’t matter. I had a great high school career, my parents made it even more special. That’s what matters to me at the end of the day.”