BY TJ COTTERILL
PUYALLUP – Sermon Wilson couldn’t help but lose his train of thought and laugh a little.
He had just finished relentlessly punishing the Lakes High School football team’s offensive line in Puyallup’s 44-16 victory on Saturday at Sparks Stadium. The Central Washington University-bound senior had two sacks and plenty of other play-busting rushes.
With no spectators in the stands – although plenty gathered outside the fence or sat on a long flatbed trailer supplied by Bartelson Transport – his teammates began chanting Wilson’s name from the stands behind him as he spoke with reporters after the game.
“I love this team,” Wilson said with a smile “They’re my family. They are my ride-or-dies. I love them.”
Wilson, Puyallup’s defensive leader, was among many standout performers in what was an anticipated South Sound matchup between the sixth-ranked (4A) Vikings and No. 4 (3A) Lakes – a brief rekindling of a longtime rivalry.
“We were really excited when we heard we were going to play (Lakes),” said Luke Holcomb, Puyallup’s 6-foot-5 senior quarterback who threw for 212 yards and four touchdowns. “We heard they have athletes and are a great team. We were excited for the challenge and to prove ourselves a little bit more.”
Prove, they did.
Here are three observations from Puyallup’s dominating victory:
DON’T MESS WITH PUYALLUP’S LINE
These Puyallup-Lakes South Puget Sound League games in the 90s used to pack the Sparks Stadium stands before Lakes moved to 3A and Puyallup remained in 4A.
That was so different from Saturday’s empty seats.
But Lakes coach Dave Miller said Puyallup’s physicality was eerily similar to those Puyallup teams he remembers battling in the 90s.
“That was back when the Huards were throwing it all over the place,” Miller said, talking about Damon, Brock and Luke Huard, of course. “But I tell you what – there’s not a lot different physically. Their line, I was really impressed with their front.
“I called (Graham-Kapowsin coach) Eric Kurle … I said, ‘what do you think about Puyallup?’ And he said they are scary up front. Really good up front. He wasn’t joking.”
Puyallup’s junior running back Ziere Ford ran behind that front to the tune of 163 bruising yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, coming after he scored five touchdowns in Puyallup’s season-opening win over Bethel.
But Puyallup’s defensive front was just as menacing, led by Wilson.
“He’s been doing this since like kindergarten, playing for the Roughriders,” Holcomb said. “He’s just a playmaker. He’s always been that way. I have full faith in him that he’s going to get the defense right. He’s a great leader and a great friend, too. It’s awesome just to get the chance to play with him for another season.”
The score doesn’t show it, but Lakes controlled this game for much of the first half.
The Lancers opened with a 40-yard field goal after driving to Puyallup’s 6, then standout safety Jaedon Hall picked off Holcomb on fourth down on the Vikings’ opening drive.
They kept the ball out of Puyallup’s no-huddle, high-tempo offensive for much of the first half, taking a 10-7 lead when Justin Brennan connected with David Wells for a 41-yard touchdown pass with 2:45 left in the first half.
That was the last time Lakes would lead.
Puyallup scored the next 37 points, including a quick answer on Holcomb’s 40-yard TD pass on a slant to Jordan Dwyer, who caught seven passes for 87 yards and two scores. A quick Lakes three-and-out allowed Puyallup to get a field goal as time expired in the first half to give the Vikings a 17-10 lead.
Then the dagger – Ford bulldozed for a nine-yard touchdown run on Puyallup’s opening drive of the second half, Puyallup’s defense forced a three-and-out and Puyallup struck for another score on a 32-yard pass from Holcomb to Jaylan King to make it 31-10.
“Even last week against Bethel we were a little slow starters,” Puyallup coach Gary Jeffers said. “And I think that might have to do with overall lack of time and preparation with the season. Typically you have summer and double days and those things. We’re just not in regular-season form yet.
“But we talked to the kids at halftime that there’s one team that can stop Puyallup – and that’s Puyallup.”
Take away normal preseason routines and practice schedules in this pandemic landscape, take away the pomp and circumstance of a packed stadium for a revived Puyallup-Lakes rivalry game and even take away the ability to play postseason football and compete for a state championship like this year has brought, you’re not seeing guys like Wilson hang their head – though they’d have every right to.
“To be honest, it’s special,” Wilson said of this season. “It really is. To be able to play right now and be alongside my brothers again and finish out my senior year, it is special. I’ll cherish it forever.”
Puyallup’s and Lakes’ originally scheduled opponents were shut down because of COVID protocols. Puyallup was set to play crosstown rival Rogers and Lakes was going to play Stadium.
So Puyallup then tried to scramble, thinking it could set up a game against Skyview of Vancouver, Washington. But it then found out Tuesday that Lakes was looking for a new opponent, too.
Jeffers was plenty familiar with Miller’s Lakes’ teams, dating back to when Jeffers was coaching at Washington High School in Tacoma.
“This is the first time I’ve ever won (against Miller),” Jeffers said with a laugh. They played each other every year from 1997 until Jeffers left Washington in 2003.
“But it was actually a pretty calm week. The kids adjusted well. I think they were just excited to get a game. That’s how this whole season has been. Our kids have just been so happy to play that all the other variables and extraneous stuff doesn’t matter. Let’s just go play.”
WATCH THE GAME HIGHLIGHTS
— TJ Cotterill