When the high school playoffs began a few weeks ago, there was an impressive number of Tacoma-area teams still in the hunt for a state championship. After the 16 squads took to the fields for their respective rounds of 32, only three teams saw their seasons come to an end. What went down during the round of 16 in the state tournament was a bit of a surprise for the dozen remaining.
Curtis, Lincoln, Lakes, Bethel, Washington, Cascade Christian and Tacoma Baptist all saw their successful seasons come to an end. Advancing to the their respective quarterfinals were Puyallup, Graham-Kapowsin, Yelm, Peninsula, Fife and Steilacoom.
Not a single one of those five teams would be the host team for their contest.
Once the quarterfinal dust settled, just two of those teams emerged from the pigskin wreckage. Separated by just 5.4 miles of road, the Puyallup Vikings and the Fife Trojans pulled off huge road victories to advance to the 4A and 2A semifinals, respectively.
Puyallup headed north to face vaunted quarterback Sam Millen and his Mount Si Wildcats on Friday, Nov. 16. Things looked bleak for the Vikings early on, as Mount Si immediately rolled out to a 14-0 lead on their home field. Without any sense of panic, Puyallup senior quarterback Jacob Holcomb and the Vikings’ offensive machine began to pick up steam.
By halftime, Puyallup trailed 21-19 and the momentum had clearly shifted in favor of the visitors. Puyallup would drop two more unanswered touchdowns on the Wildcats in the third quarter and Mount Si found itself playing an unfamiliar game of catch-up. Two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter iced the game for the Vikings, as Holcomb threw for 296 yards and five touchdowns in the 47-34 victory.
Up next for Puyallup (11-1) is a revenge match-up with the top-seeded Union Titans (12-0) at McKenzie Stadium in Vancouver on Saturday, Nov. 24, at 1 p.m. Back on Sept. 28, Union hosted the Vikings in a non-league game that saw the Titans stage a comeback 38-31 victory. The loss is the only blemish on the Vikings’ record.
If the Puyallup victory over Mount Si wasn’t impressive enough, the Fife Trojans may have one-upped their close neighbors to the south. Playing under stormy conditions, the Trojans headed south to Tumwater District Stadium to face the second-seeded, and undefeated, Black Hills Wolves. The two teams fought to a scoreless stalemate midway into the fourth quarter before Fife put a touchdown on the board. With the clock ticking away, Black Hills put the ball in the air and the Trojans came away with an interception at the Black Hills 35-yard line. Fife was then able to cash in on the turnover with another touchdown and left the stunned Black Hills crowd wondering how they just lost 14-0.
Fife will have its hands full in the semifinals. However, as the brackets go, their upset of Black Hills gives Fife the home field on Saturday, Nov. 24, at Sparks Stadium. The undefeated Lynden Lions (11-0) will bring their powerhouse squad south after narrowly avoiding a last-second defeat by Tumwater in the quarterfinals. The T-Birds missed a chip-shot field goal with 12 seconds left that would have likely won the game, but the kick was off-target and Lynden would live to play another day.
However, they also may be running into a Fife Trojan team that is hitting on all cylinders and peaking at just the right time. The semifinal contest will go off with a predicted temperature of 52 degrees, along with only a 20-percent chance of rain. This could lead to some serious action on the scoreboard.
Just one more win for Puyallup and Fife is all that separates these two communities from a championship experience at the Tacoma Dome.