Puyallup High School junior quarterback Holcomb came out firing in Friday night’s SPSL 4A matchup against Sumner at Sunset Stadium, orchestrating a three-play, 58-yard touchdown drive on the Vikings first offensive series, completing his first two passes for 53 yards, the second of which was a 19-yard touchdown.
But then Puyallup’s offense went stagnant and Sumner’s defense played lights out for the rest of the first half, going into the halftime locker room with a 12-7 lead over the visiting Vikings.
But eventually, Holcomb and the Puyallup offense settled in and things started to roll in the second half, with Puyallup coming away with a 29-12 win before next week’s 4A SPSL showdown with Graham-Kapowsin.
“With what we do offensively and at the quarterback position, it is a rhythm,” said Puyallup coach Gary Jeffers. “When you’re in rhythm, it looks great. But when you’re out of rhythm, it doesn’t look good. So I think it’s just finding ways for a young quarterback to find his rhythm.”
For Holcomb, who finished completing 19-of-30 passes for 287 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions, it was important for the offense to come out of the locker room with more energy.
“We just believed in each other, trusted each other and played together,” Holcomb said. “In the first half, we were trying to come back in one play, trying to make it all back. We were scrambling, it looked like backyard football. It wasn’t good. We just needed to trust in each other and calm down.”
Puyallup’s offense, which was bottled up for most of the first half, became explosive in the second. Holcomb found Joseph Dwyer for a 25-yard score to retake the lead in the third quarter. He found Jordan Dwyer — Joseph’s brother — for a 75-yard pass, which set up a score two plays later at the end of the third quarter, giving Puyallup a 22-12 lead.
“We’re a younger offense,” Holcomb said. “We have a more senior line but our skill positions are first-year guys. We’re adapting to playing with each other, learning each other’s play styles. We need to come out stronger in the first half against GK, because they’re a great team.”
Sumner coach Keith Ross said the team’s second-half struggles are fixable and hopes the offense can turn a corner soon. Sumner had four turnovers on Friday night, giving the Spartans 13 turnovers through three games.
“You’re not going to beat a team like Puyallup with four turnovers,” Ross said. “We gave up big plays. We played hard, we played a good first half. Usually, we play really well in the second half. But they got some big plays on us and we couldn’t get anything going on offense. We turned the ball over, had a lot of penalties. But we played hard, we’re pretty good and we’ll keep getting better.”
Puyallup receiver Joseph Dwyer led the way for the Vikings with eight catches for 101 yards and a touchdown, while Isaac Clark caught seven passes for 63 yards. Jordan Dwyer added one big catch for 75 yards.
And Puyallup’s defense showed up in the second half, holding Sumner to three offensive points.
“We picked up our energy,” said senior linebacker Danny Uluilakepa, a Tacoma News Tribune 2018 All-Area selection. “The first half, our body language wasn’t right. We went into the locker room and told everyone what was happening and just came out hyped.”
Puyallup turns it focus next on hosting Graham-Kapowsin next Friday night in a game that could very well decide the league title. The Vikings are ready for the challenge.
“We’re just going to have to watch film, play together,” Holcomb said. “It’s so imperative that we come out strong in the first half and get it going.”