High School Sports

‘We just have that will to win.’ Puyallup rides hot streak into 4A soccer semifinals

Puyallup High School junior forward Craig Johnson is leading the Vikings with eight goals scored on the season.
Puyallup High School junior forward Craig Johnson is leading the Vikings with eight goals scored on the season. jon.manley@thenewstribune.com

There are at least two versions of Puyallup High School center midfielder Logan Oyama: A regular season version and a more dangerous playoff version.

That’s good for the Vikings and bad for their opponents.

Oyama has seven goals in Puyallup’s four playoff games, including three in the Vikings’ two state tournament games so far. His play is a big reason why Puyallup is in the 4A state semifinals, beginning Friday night at 8 p.m. against Jackson at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.

“Part of it is that it’s the postseason,” Oyama said of his recent form. “That extra motivation, that different mentality. These are must-win games. Our whole team, we were getting chances before and struggling to put some of them away early in the season. In the postseason, we’ve been able to finish more and just take advantage of those opportunities.”

Puyallup forward Craig Johnson, who led the team in goals during the regular season, said the Vikings are an especially difficult matchup when Oyama is on his A-game.

“All of us knew he’s a next-level player,” Johnson said. “He’s starting to show everyone why. His athleticism, soccer IQ and ability with the ball is great.”

That’s not to say Oyama has been the only bright spot in Puyallup’s two state wins: 4-0 against Mariner in the opening round and 4-1 against Inglemoor in the quarterfinals. Senior midfielder Dane Helle scored twice in Puyallup’s win over Inglemoor.

“They’re just tearing it up, combining, working well together, getting in behind teams,” said Puyallup coach Matt White. “It’s pretty hard when you have three or four guys who are all scoring.”

With a plus-seven goal differential through two state tournament games, it’s safe to say things are working well.

“The team chemistry is at an all-time high,” Johnson said. “Our attack, defense, everything is really clicking. We’re playing together and working together well.”

On defense, Puyallup is making life tough for opponents. In two state tournament games, the Vikings have only conceded one goal. Puyallup’s back line of Wyatt Hegg, Gibson Hooper, Mattia Parlani and Andrew Beni have been extra sharp in the postseason.

“It’s a hard working group of kids who are so coachable,” White said. “It’s just been a solid bunch of kids who keep working together and are intense in their desire.”

White also said Vikings’ holding-mid Spencer Williams has been a big factor in Puyallup’s success.

“He wins the ball, connects the pass and just continues to grind,” White said.

Puyallup hasn’t just been winning games this postseason — the Vikings have been dominating them.

“You go into the games and obviously, it’s a big game so you’re feeling pressure,” Johnson said. “Once we hit our groove, it takes a big weight off of you. … We have a lot of hard workers. That’s what separates us. A lot of our players have that mentality, especially in the postseason. We’ve just wanted every single game.”

All of Puyallup’s games this postseason have been either tied or close at halftime. But the second half has been when the Vikings have pulled away.

“We’re so relentless throughout the entire game,” Oyama said. “Teams get tired and we keep on pushing. That’s where it comes into play. We don’t let up. We score another one and maybe they start giving up. We just have that will to win.”

Puyallup has never won a boys state soccer title. The Vikings’ best finish came in 2008 when Puyallup was the runner-up, losing to Bellarmine Prep, 2-1, in the championship game.

“It’d be awesome for our team (to win a state title),” Johnson said. “It’s a really special team. To make history like that would be really cool for us.”

First, Puyallup will have to get through a hard-pressing Jackson team.

“They’re going to high press like it’s nobody’s business,” White said. “They’re the most fit team, the most energetic and they gain energy from your mistakes, gain energy from their successes and just keep going at it,” White said. “At kickoff, it’ll be a full sprint.”

And the Vikings are ready for the challenge.

“We’ve always had the belief that we could pull it out,” Oyama said.