Puyallup Vikings head football coach Gary Jeffers couldn’t bear to watch.
The Vikings, who trailed the Emerald Ridge Jaguars 39-37 with one-tenth of a second left in regulation, lined up for a 45-yard field goal with the outcome hanging in the balance.
“I was praying,” Jeffers said. “I put my play card down, put my headphones down, took a knee and closed my eyes. I waited for the crowd to tell me what it was.”
The visitors’ section at Sparks Stadium let him know.
Puyallup kicker Brad Macdougall’s attempt cleared the crossbar by just a couple of yards, and the Vikings (4-2 overall) scored an improbable 40-39 victory on Friday night.
The 45-yarder was a career best for Macdougall, although he’s made one from 50 during practice.
“I was just trying to throw everything out and not think about anything,” Macdougall said. “I knew from the start (of their final drive) that we could get as far as we needed to.”
Puyallup began that drive at its own 25 with 32 seconds left. Quarterback Brendan Illies went 2-for-4 passing before he connected with Karl Fjellstad near the sideline at the Emerald Ridge 28 to set up Macdougall for the game-winner.
Puyallup wide receiver Hunter Davis, who finished with six catches, said the offense was calm on the final drive despite being out of timeouts.
“We just did what we had been doing for most of the game,” Davis said. “We ran a lot of comeback routes, and Brendan just put the ball right on the spot every time, which allowed me and Karl to get out of bounds on the final drive to give us a chance at the field goal. It feels so great that we were able to pull it out at the end. I’m so proud of the team and am unbelievably happy for us.”
Emerald Ridge’s defense made a huge play late in the fourth quarter when Ashanti Kindle intercepted an Illies pass on third and goal from the Jaguars’ 8. Kindle picked it off after it bounced off Puyallup receiver Levi Jordan’s chest in the end zone, and he returned it to the 10.
But Emerald Ridge (0-6) wasn’t unable to run out the clock. Puyallup forced a three-and-out, and the Jaguars punted with just 42 seconds left.
Emerald Ridge’s defense forced five Puyallup turnovers and sacked Illies five times. Jeffers knew the Jaguars would be formidable.
“I told my kids all year long that Emerald Ridge is an incredibly talented football team,” Jeffers said. “Regardless of what their record was, they played an extremely tough schedule to start the season. They wanted a piece of us, and they came out and gave us everything we could handle. My hat is off to them and their coaching staff.”
The mood in the Emerald Ridge locker room was somber, but offensive coordinator Darren Erath said his team gave it everything they had against one of its biggest rivals.
“Our defense stepped up, especially in the second half,” he said. “We made some key plays, and we made a few mistakes, but overall I was so proud of how these guys played. We played awesome tonight.
“Troy Halfaday said it best: ‘We lost the fight and didn’t win the war,’ ” Erath said. “What we’re trying to do here is start a tradition, and we’re building this right now. The reality is, from where we started four years ago to where we are now, it’s just miles and miles of improvement. The tradition is being built, and the foundation is being poured. We’re just going to keep working.”
Emerald Ridge will try again Thursday night as it travels to play Todd Beamer at Memorial Stadium in Federal Way. Puyallup will host the undefeated Graham-Kapowsin Eagles on Thursday night at Sparks Stadium.