Chris Paulson spent five easygoing seasons at his first head coaching job in high school football at Kentlake.
So when he was hired at Curtis High last spring, he made sure to leave the warm and fuzzy introductions at the door.
“It was the toughest summer I have ever put a team through,” Paulson said. “We ran them hard four days a week — for six straight weeks.”
Blessed with a hungry squad of experienced seniors, Paulson is seeing quick returns in September.
The latest was a 42-28 road victory at fifth-ranked Union on a sweltering Friday afternoon at McKenzie Stadium in Vancouver.
This win was more than satisfying for the Vikings, who lost twice to the Titans a season ago — including in the postseason to end their year.
“This is a lot you can build off with wins against Kentwood and Union,” Paulson said.
Curtis is 2-0 for the first time since 2011.
And unlike its come-from-behind win over the Conquerors to open the season, Curtis built a big lead (21-7), saw the Titans crawl back to take a slim advantage (28-27 with 6 minutes, 44 seconds left), but had enough to put the game away in the fourth quarter.
Union (1-1) took a 28-27 lead on Rey Green’s 13-yard scamper midway through the fourth quarter.
The Vikings then went 80 yards for the winning score, converting a third-and-18 play on Gage Ferguson’s 20-yard touchdown strike to Tristan Beard on a fade pattern in the left side of the end zone.
Donnell Diego converted the two-point run, and Curtis led 35-28 with 4:52 to go.
Then came more preparation payoff. Paulson said he has never forgotten the fake punt Union ran in the Class 4A playoffs in 2011 that went for a touchdown. He warned his players all week about it.
And after the Titans were held on third down, they tried a delayed rugby punt from deep in their own end. A whole crew of Curtis defenders were waiting for it, with Reggie Hayden eventually getting the tackle well short of the first down.
Two minutes later, Ferguson scored on a 1-yard run to put the game away.
“These kids refuse to quit,” Paulson said. “They’ve got great character. They are good kids. And they are winners.”
At Tahoma 44, Rogers 17: This time, Amandre Williams had a more normal passing game — 26 of 35, 352 yards, three touchdowns — as the Bears routed the Rams in an SPSL crossover game in Maple Valley.
Last year, Williams threw for 579 yards in a 48-41 Tahoma win in Puyallup.
Beamer 30, at Evergreen of Vancouver 25: The visiting Titans scored 28 consecutive points to stun the Plainsmen at McKenzie Stadium in Vancouver.
Andrew Tofaeono tallied a pair of second-half touchdowns — the last gave Beamer a 28-19 advantage in the fourth quarter.
Kent-Meridian 46, at Auburn 41: Malik Woolery finished off a back-and-forth game with a 25-yard touchdown scamper with 57 seconds remaining, lifting the Royals to a win at Memorial Stadium.
The Trojans had taken their first lead, 41-40, on Caden Borden’s 23-yard field goal with 1:35 to go.
Lincoln 41, at Puyallup 16: Dionte Simon rushed for a career-high 265 rushing yards on 32 carries, and the No. 4 Abes pulled away in the second half for a victory at Sparks Stadium.
Lincoln rolled up 335 yards on the ground. Tucker Hanson had a 71-yard fumble return for a score for the Vikings.
At Olympia 41, Capital 7: Scott Gunther, the Bears’ junior tailback, rushed for 216 yards and three touchdowns, and Olympia won the annual Spaghetti Bowl rivalry game at Ingersoll Stadium in Olympia.
Gunther’s 85-yard scoring scamper gave the Bears a 27-0 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Auburn Mountainview 55, at Steilacoom 14: After a rough first quarter, the third-ranked Lions turned on the jets for a road victory.
Auburn Mountainview scored its four second-quarter touchdowns in a 5 1/2-minute span — capped by Bitner Wilson’s 26-yard scoring run with three minutes to go in the first half to give the Lions a 41-14 lead.
Gresch Jensen completed 21 of 26 passes for 400 yards and four touchdowns.
At Lakes 71, Franklin Pierce 28: Yisrael Stephens led seven different Lancers scoring on running plays with his three touchdown gallops, and ninth-ranked Lakes cruised past the Cardinals at Harry E. Lang Stadium.
Eatonville 48, at Charles Wright Academy 6: Ray Springer caught a touchdown pass and returned an interception a school-record 102 yards for a score in the third quarter as the Cruisers dominated the Tarriers in University Place.