Puyallup’s Craig Johnson discusses Vikings’ season
The players on the Puyallup High School boys soccer team aren’t afraid to admit they’re a little weird. Walk past Sparks Stadium on a spring afternoon after school hours, and onlookers might see the players running around with large gray garbage bins on their heads.
Or they might be shooting soccer balls into the bins, basketball style. Or maybe kicking soccer balls at each other while they’re yelling at each other.
Vikings’ coach Matt White calls it “weird fun,” and his squad excels in it.
“They bring that weird, teenage male energy that makes it fun and they’ve got a great energy about it,” White said. “That kind of weird fun is what they bring to just about everything. They celebrate each other, they celebrate what’s fun and they’re enjoying that.”
That energy often manifests itself in competition with various drills. Ladder drills? They’ll compete. Passing drills? They’ll find a way to make it a competition. Anything they can do to make the mundane suddenly intense and competitive.
“Having fun with it is a big reason we’ve been so successful,” said Puyallup junior attacking midfielder Logan Oyama.
Whatever they’re doing, it’s tough to argue with the results. Puyallup has posted a 9-1-0 overall record with a 2-0-0 mark in the Class 4A SPSL, one of the area’s toughest leagues. In the last five games, Puyallup has scored 19 goals.
Junior forward Craig Johnson leads the team with eight goals and four assists, while Oyama has six goals to go along with seven assists.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate to score a lot of goals this year,” Johnson said. “The team has just been really well put together and has really gelled as one. We’ve all committed to each other and a lot of us have been playing together since we were little. I think that’s really helped us and helped the team come together.”
White said his team isn’t filled with clinical finishers, but rather a group that has a high work rate defensively.
“We’re scoring goals because we’re putting teams under a lot of pressure and we’re able to consistently win the ball back high,” White said. “We force teams into pretty manageable stuff. Lots of teams will just try to jack the ball up, and give up a very predictable ball. For us, the faster the ball goes up, the faster it comes back. And then we try to connect a pass and move up together.”
Pressing has worked for this year’s squad, with the quality team speed and collective soccer IQ.
“We’ve got a lot of really good players on the team,” Johnson said. “We’re more comfortable with each other, the way we’re playing is more fluid and we’ve moved the ball a lot better and it has just created a lot more chances to score. We’ve taken advantage of those opportunities.”
Puyallup split the league title last year with Sumner and advanced to the Class 4A state tournament, before being bounced in the quarterfinals. Oyama, who missed most of last season with a dislocated shoulder, said the team has the pieces to be a state championship contender.
Puyallup’s biggest game of the regular season comes against Sumner at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Sunset Chevrolet Stadium in Sumner.
“We’re on a good track right now,” Oyama said. “We’re beginning to combine really well and finishing goals well. So for us, it’s just about continuing to improve. That’s one of our team goals. Keeping a good chemistry with our team, I think that’s what it’ll take. I think we have a really good shot of taking the state title if we do those things.”