Puyallup High School football may be the program that legendary coach Mike Huard and his three prolific quarterbacking sons built, but there’s another signal caller etching his name in Vikings lore these days.
Much of the buzz surrounding Friday’s district playoff game between third-ranked Puyallup and Kennedy Catholic centered around Lancers quarterback Sam Huard making his debut at Sparks Stadium.
But, Holcomb and the Vikings displayed the same discipline and consistency they have all season, scoring seven touchdowns in the second half to pull away, and capping the night with a 65-35 win to advance to the Class 4A state playoffs.
“We believe in our offense,” Holcomb said. “We trust in our offense more than anything. We believe that we can outscore anyone.”
Puyallup racked up 683 yards of total offense — a balanced 369 yards passing and 314 rushing — to outshoot Kennedy’s vaunted air attack, led by Holcomb’s 509 total yards.
Holcomb finished 24 of 34 passing for 369 yards and five touchdowns, and added another 140 rushing yards and a score on 17 carries.
The Vikings had two receivers in seniors Justin Haase (four catches, 133 yards) and Darius Morrison (nine catches, 126 yards) finish in triple digits.
“We were taking what they were giving us,” Holcomb said. “They were giving us almost man coverage, and we had the guys on the outside, and the guy sin the slot, too.
“They all balled out, and they got their matchups, and they played well.”
But, it took longer than usual for Puyallup to find its rhythm.
The Vikings were limited to a 21-yard field goal by Carter Pierce on their first drive, and Kennedy immediately responded with a flashy 78-yard touchdown pass from Huard to Jabez Tinae to take an early lead.
Puyallup punted on its next two drives before an 18-yard connection between Holcomb and Morrison shifted the lead back.
Another pass from Holcomb to a wide open Ethan Steward for a 31-yard score pushed the Vikings’ lead to 17-6 early in the second quarter.
But, Huard threw another long touchdown, this time to a leaping Reed Shumpter for 36 yards on the following drive. And, a Puyallup fumble near the red zone set up another Lancers touchdown, when Huard hooked up with Tinae for an 8-yard score.
Kennedy scored a third consecutive touchdown on a 33-yard pass from Huard to Junior Alexander to push its lead to two possessions with three minutes to go in the second quarter.
Though, Puyallup cut the lead back to 27-24 just before the break, when Holcomb scampered in on a 10-yard keeper.
“We maybe tried to do too many things offensively (in the first half), instead of just doing what we do,” Puyallup coach Gary Jeffers said. “Kennedy had a great defensive plan. They came out and they took away our run game. They have some phenomenal athletes on their team.
“We just kind of had to work our way through it until we figured out what was going to work.”
Huard was the star of the opening half, completing 20 of 26 passes for 343 yards and the four touchdowns.
He finished 34 of 55 passing for 526 yards and five touchdowns, cracking the top 10 on the all-time list for single-game passing for the fifth time in his two-year career.
“He’s got a wide skill set. He can do lots of different things,” Jeffers said. “He’s a hard kid to contain. He’s a great athlete.”
Huard’s season ends with him completing 248 of 395 passes for 4,165 yards and 42 touchdowns. His single-season yardage places him ninth on the all-time list, just behind Skyline’s Max Browne, who threw for 4,182 yards in 13 games in 2010.
“He’s the best quarterback in the country. He’s the best quarterback in the state of Washington,” Kennedy coach Sheldon Cross said. “I’m so proud of him for the way he competed. He played great tonight.
“I knew this one meant a lot to Sam, and I’m proud of the way he played with poise all night. He got better every game. He’s a stud.”
Tinae (12 catches, 222 yards) and Alexander (eight catches, 139 yards) were Huard’s top two targets against Puyallup. Those two and Justin Baker (six catches, 54 yards) each finished well above 1,000 receiving yards for the season.
But, as explosive as Kennedy’s vaunted offense was Friday, Puyallup’s depth and experience took over in the second half.
“We’re young — 4A football playoffs, you have to be big enough, strong enough, old enough,” Cross said. “Puyallup, hats off to them, they had a good game plan. They’re big, physical and strong. I think we gave it a fight, and they wore us down.”
Puyallup exploited Kennedy’s defense consistently in the second half.
Vikings running back Kyle Cramer — who had a game-high 171 yards on 15 carries — took the first play of the second half up the sideline for a 70-yard touchdown.
And Puyallup found the end zone twice more before Kennedy answered. Holcomb and Haase connected twice on touchdowns of 21 and 64 yards.
“we tell our kids all the time, ‘There’s plenty of answers in the toolbox, we just have to sift around in there until we find the right one,’ ” Jeffers said.
Huard’s final touchdown of the game, a 38-yard pass to Shumpert on fourth-and-long, cut the Vikings’ lead to 45-35, but that’s as close as Kennedy got.
“They can score early and often,” Jeffers said. “Even late during the game, we felt like we had to keep our offense on the field and keep scoring, because who knows what’s going to happen with them. They can score at any minute.”
The Vikings scored on three consecutive possessions — on a 13-yard touchdown catch by Cohen Cleek and a pair of rushing touchdowns by Cramer (3 yards) and Danny Uluilakepa (8 yards) — to seal the win.
Puyallup will learn its next opponent Sunday, when the newly created state playoff seeding committees construct the final 16-team bracket.
“That was a really good win for us, but we’re 1-0 in the season right now,” Holcomb said. “Once we find out who we play next week, we’re back to 0-0, so it’s a whole new season. We have to keep grinding and, every week, we have to come ready to play.”
NO. 3 PUYALLUP
P – Carter Pierce 21 field goal
KC – Jabez Tinae 78 pass from Sam Huard (kick failed)
P – Darius Morrison 10 pass from Jacob Holcomb (Pierce kick)
P – Ethan Steward 31 pass from Holcomb (Pierce kick)
KC – Reed Shumpert 36 pass from Huard (run failed)
KC – Tinae 8 pass from Huard (Justin Baker pass from Huard)
KC – Junior Alexander 33 pass from Huard (Michael Snyder kick)
P – Holcomb 11 run (Pierce kick)
P – Kyle Cramer 70 run (Pierce kick)
P – Justin Haase 21 pass from Holcomb (Pierce kick)
P – Haase 64 pass from Holcomb (Pierce kick)
KC – Shumpert 38 pass from Huard (Huard pass from Tinae)
P – Cohen Cleek 13 pass from Holcomb (Pierce kick)
P – Cramer 3 run (Pierce kick)
P – Danny Uluilakepa 8 run (kick failed)
Passing: KC – Huard 34-55-1-526. P – Holcomb 24-34-0-369.
Rushing: KC – Zaire Lozolo 8-14; Baker 6-9; Tinae 1-(-2); Huard 6-(-13). P – Cramer 15-171; Holcomb 17-140; Uluilakepa 1-8; Cleek 1-(-5).
Receiving: KC – Tinae 12-222; Alexander 8-139; Shumpert 3-78; Baker 6-54; Zane Thornton 3-25; Lozolo 2-8. P – Haase 4-133; Morrison 9-126; Steward 2-37; Cramer 3-35; Cleek 4-31; Isaac Clark 2-7.