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Taking over the starting quarterback position for a team that went to the 4A state semifinals and had a quarterback that threw for over 3,000 yards and 45 touchdowns in the process is no easy task, especially when those gaudy numbers were put up by your older brother.
Junior Luke Holcomb takes the reins as the starting quarterback for the Puyallup Vikings this season, less than a year after his brother Jacob was named The News Tribune’s All-Area Player of the Year in a season where he completed 210 of his 307 passes for 3,148 yards, 45 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
Luke Holcomb is actually the third brother to play quarterback for the Vikings. Nathaniel Holcomb, who holds the state record for touchdown passes in a game (10), quarterbacked the team prior to Jacob taking over 2017.
Watching his brothers’ success before him has been a fun experience for Luke, who now gets his own shot to set records.
“It’s pretty cool,” Luke Holcomb said. “They’re great mentors and great brothers, and they’ve helped me with really almost everything I know about the game. I appreciate them a lot.”
Both Jacob and Nathaniel now play at College of Idaho.
Coaching the Holcomb brothers has also been a fun and rewarding experience for Gary Jeffers, who is entering his 10th season as the Vikings’ head coach. With Luke taking over at quarterback, this will be the sixth season of those 10 with a Holcomb behind center.
“It’s been really fun,” Jeffers said. “It’s been fun to watch the development of all three of them and to work with the same family over a nine-year period, or whatever it’s been. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Luke figures to have his own share of success as the team’s offensive leader, but Jeffers seemed careful to expect too much right away from his young quarterback.
“It’s going to take some time to replace a Jacob Holcomb,” Jeffers said. “He’s a special player in so many different ways. Luke is working really hard, and we’re all working alongside of him to try and close the gap.
“(Luke) is a super-athletic kid, and he’s got great range and size,” Jeffers added. “He’s got a great arm, and he can make all the throws. It’s really just about understanding the system and timing and all the things that take repetition. He hasn’t had any varsity experience. We’ll know more in week two, three and four on how he’s adjusted to the fire.”
Luke’s teammates don’t seem worried.
“Luke does a good job of talking to everyone, and making everyone feel comfortable – and he has a great arm,” senior running back and linebacker Danny Uluilakepa said. “Jacob has been helping Luke with his quarterback stuff, so we all feel confident about Luke stepping in.”
And Luke himself, well he’s just excited to get going.
“We have a great team and a great (offensive) line,” he said. “I love the whole team and our whole energy. I’m really excited.”
The offensive line figures to be a strength for the Vikings, who are looking to make another deep playoff run. If the line holds up the way players and coaches expect, the Vikings’ figure to be one of the most balanced offensive teams in the state with a strong running game and a young quarterback who can sling it all over the field.
“It’s huge,” Jeffers said of the line. “I think it is every year. You’re going to win or lose by your offensive and defensive line. We feel like we have a pretty good group, so we’re excited.”
In addition to the offensive line, Luke Holcomb said the defense figures to factor in a lot of wins for the Vikings as well.
“I’m confident that our defense is going to be one of the top defenses in the state,” Holcomb said. “They’re all dogs. If we can have them hold teams to like 10 points a game, all we have to do is score more than 10 points and I feel like we can do that. Obviously, there are tougher teams that we’re going to play against, but I feel pretty confident about our defense and I feel like they’re going to get it done this year.”
The Vikings finished 2018 with a record of 11-2. Their only two losses of the season came to eventual state champion Union, which defeated Puyallup 38-31 on Sept. 28 and 35-28 in the state semifinals on Nov. 24. The Vikings will get a rematch with the Titans in week five this season.
Though players and coaches were adamant that the Vikings take things one game at a time. Uluilakepa admitted the team is looking forward to the game.
“I can’t wait,” Uluilakepa said with a laugh. “It’s going to be a good one.”