Puyallup quarterback Brendan Illies, who went 20-for-31 passing for 352 yards and six touchdown passes Friday night, hit Brady Winter on a 5-yard crossing pass in the middle of the endzone with 40 seconds left to lift the Vikings past the Bethel Braves at Sparks Stadium.
Puyallup’s defense held Bethel on the ensuing possession when defensive lineman Quinn Rawson sacked quarterback Jamon Jones on the final play, preserving a 42-35 Puyallup victory.
Illies connected with Winter despite air-tight coverage.
“That was kind of a hectic play,” Illies said. “I saw that they had the outside covered, so I had to come back to the middle. You can’t defend it any better than that, but you’ve got to find an open window somewhere. Luckily, we were able to find one.”
Fourth-quarter mistakes nearly resulted in disaster for the Puyallup (5-3 overall, 4-3 SPSL South). The Vikings led 35-21 with 4:32 left in regulation, but an interception and a fumble resulted in two Bethel touchdowns, and the Braves (2-6 overall) pulled into a 35-35 tie with 1:42 remaining.
Puyallup had one last final drive, and the Vikings delivered.
Tight end DJ Winter had seven catches for 98 yards and three touchdowns, Levi Jordan had six catches for 136 yards and a touchdown, and Brady Winter had four receptions for 79 yards and two touchdowns. Vikings senior running back Trevor Whitney had rushed for 143 yards on 21 carries.
Illies said Jordan and DJ Winter are potent threats in the passing game.
“Both of those guys are such offensive weapons, it’s ridiculous,” Illies said. “You’ve got DJ, who can’t be covered by a linebacker or safety, and Levi, who is nice and shifty in the open field. When those two are on the same side, it’s unstoppable.”
DJ Winter knew the Vikings’ offense would be tough to stop with everything on the line.
“I knew we were going to punch it in,” he said. “I was just really excited when we took the field. Our offensive line was getting stronger as the game was going on. I’m proud of our team for redeeming ourselves.”
Puyallup head coach Gary Jeffers was proud of his team for coming through in a pressure situation.
“I’m so proud of our kids’ resiliency,” he said. “They don’t quit. We believe in what we do, and we feel like we can score quickly, if we need to. I think having that confidence and that belief really sustains us when times are rough, and times got rough tonight.”
Puyallup will face Rogers this Friday night at Sparks Stadium in the regular-season finale. The winner will advance to the district playoffs, and the loser will be eliminated from playoff contention.
“It’s for the playoffs and the city championship,” DJ Winter said. “It should be a big game with a great atmosphere. I’m looking forward to it.”
Jeffers said his team will be ready for its biggest contest of the season.
“The playoff thing is certainly a factor, but I don’t think Rogers needs any extra motivation to get up for us, and I don’t think we need any extra motivation to get up for them,” he said. “My message to our kids is, ‘If you can’t get up and get ready to play Rogers, then you don’t deserve to go to the playoffs, so let’s get it up and let’s go. We will be ready.”