This statement has been made about Puyallup High School’s trusted quarterback many times before. And, it merits repeating again.
Jacob Holcomb is a winner.
“He’s always been a winner,” Vikings coach Gary Jeffers said earlier this season. “He’s a winner at everything he does. He’s a winner for us. He makes winners out of people that are around him. Those are the intrinsic characteristics you can’t coach a kid on. They either have them or they don’t.”
Holcomb has the intangibles, is praised by his coaches and teammates for his leadership, and has the talent and play-making ability to back all of that up.
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As a senior, he led the Class 4A SPSL in passing and total offense, and paced Puyallup to back-to-back undefeated league titles, and the program’s first appearance in the 4A state semifinals since 2005.
For these reasons, Holcomb, who finished his final high school season with 3,913 yards of total offense — and averaged 301 per game — is The News Tribune’s All-Area football player of the year.
“Every game, I went out there and played my heart out, because I love the game of football, and I love playing with my brothers,” Holcomb said.
His actual brothers, and the teammates he considers family. Holcomb, who was also this year’s 4A SPSL MVP, is the second in a trio of quarterbacking brothers.
The oldest, Nathaniel, set a state record for passing touchdowns in a single game (10) his senior year in 2016, and now plays at College of Idaho. The youngest, Luke, is the heir apparent for Puyallup behind center.
Each of the Holcomb brothers have been playing quarterback for Puyallup’s feeder programs since youth football. And, Jacob Holcomb, in his second year starting after Nathaniel graduated, led the Vikings to one of their most successful seasons in history.
“I grew a love for it,” Jacob Holcomb said. “Being a quarterback is a really special thing, because I feel like I’m connected to everyone on the football team. I hang out with the linemen, I hang out with the receivers, the running backs. It’s a pretty special feeling.”
As a dual-threat quarterback, Holcomb finished 210 of 307 passing — an impressive 68.4 completion percentage — for 3,148 yards, while throwing just four interceptions. He added another 765 yards on 120 carries, and scored 53 total touchdowns.
With Holcomb leading the backfield the past two seasons, the Vikings were 20-4, and advanced to the state playoffs both seasons, ending a decade-long drought.
Puyallup’s only two losses this season, during its run to the state semifinals, were to eventual state champion Union — each time by a single touchdown. No 4A team in the state played the Titans closer this year.
“We’re just a bunch of fighters,” Holcomb said. “We came out at the start of the season and knew we belonged (among) the top teams in the state. We really believed in each other, and I think we proved to everyone that we can play with anyone in the state.”
Holcomb said the win he will remember the most from this season is when the Vikings edged league rival Graham-Kapowsin — which advanced to the state quarterfinals — and Washington Huskies-bound quarterback Dylan Morris in overtime on the road.
That win sent a message to the rest of the state the Puyallup was a contender, and Holcomb ranks it among his favorites moments of the season, along with the back-to-back undefeated league titles, and a thrilling win over Mount Si and another Division I-bound quarterback — Oregon commit Cale Millen — in the state quarterfinals.
“He was everything for them,” Morris said of Holcomb. “He could find somebody open. He could throw it or take it himself. I just know every time we played him throughout high school, it was tough game-planning for him because you can’t really stop him. He could beat you with his legs or his arm, and he did that all year.”
Holcomb said much of Puyallup’s success this season — the Vikings averaged 44.2 points per game — started with offseason preparation, and continued through practices. Holcomb orchestrated workouts with his receivers to nail down timing, and spent time getting stronger and faster.
“I think it’s just the way we interacted with each other — our teammates and our coaches — we really felt like a family,” Holcomb said. “Every single game, we’d go out there and we’d be ready. It started with our practices. ... We always preach, ‘Practice how you play.’ And, I think that was a big reason we came out on Fridays and did what we did.”
Holcomb was in the middle of it all, and never wavered as the program’s biggest playmaker this season.
“He’s just a leader,” Puyallup running back Kyle Cramer said. “He’s the best person to have on a team. He can help your whole team do whatever you need.”
Cramer, who has played with Holcomb since their youth football days, says the quarterback has always displayed these characteristics.
“Always, since we were young, and he’s going to keep doing that for the rest of his life,” Cramer said.
“I’ve always been a winner, I would say, just because throughout little league, through Roughriders, our team would always win,” Holcomb said.
“When I came in as a junior (at Puyallup), I wasn’t really fazed. I was like, ‘I know what to do. I know how to do this.’ With the help of coach Jeffers, I got comfortable, and I really felt like I grew into my game.”
Jeffers has spoken at length this season about what Holcomb has meant to Puyallup’s program, speaking several times about the senior’s leadership, his determination, and his winning mentality.
“It’s all true and it all stays the same. He’s the guy,” Jeffers said. “I’m going to miss him so much as a person.”
Holcomb said playing high school football has meant everything to him, he put his heart and soul into it, and it is tough to know it’s over, though he plans to continue playing in college.
“You cherish all the moments you made with everyone you played with,” Holcomb said. “There’s no better feeling than stepping out on Friday night and playing under the lights.”