Beginning with the opening kickoff, the 108th renewal of the trans-Myrtle Street football rivalry belonged to Aberdeen.
Ignited by a fumble recovery on the opening kickoff, the Bobcats took command early en route to a 36-2 drubbing of Hoquiam in a non-league contest Saturday afternoon at Olympic Stadium.
Senior quarterback Veek Cheema accounted for 172 yards of total offense and scored two touchdowns as the Bobcats (1-1) snapped a two-game Hoquiam winning streak in the ancient rivalry. Aberdeen leads the series, 68-35-5.
The Cats also received two post-game pieces of hardware, the Myrtle Street Trophy from Aberdeen entrepreneur John Yonich and another from the online-based, Marine Corps-sponsored Great American Rivalry Series.
If anything, this victory was even more decisive than the score indicated. The Bobcats had one drive end with a fumble into the end zone and the Grizzlies (0-2) turned away two first-half threats inside their 25-yard line. At one stage late in the second quarter, Aberdeen had outgained HHS, 280-14.
Cheema, who has a knack for finding holes on option runs and continues to progress as a passer, threw for 102 yards while running for 70 more. The senior quarterback received the Great American Rivalry’s Most Valuable Player award.
As many had expected, Aberdeen’s big, experienced offensive line of Chase Johnson, Rayce Otterstetter, Jordon Logan, Kaleb Levao and Cory Mays dominated up front.
Three Bobcat backs netted at least 70 yards on the ground, with sophomore Joel Dublanko rushing for 95 and senior Drew Stocker adding 89.
“I thought the line blocked beautifully and I thought Veek completed some really nice and timely passes,” Bobcat coach Terry Dion said. “Both sides of the ball, the entire team played well today.”
“They were bigger and stronger,” Hoquiam coach Rick Moore agreed. “Everything started with that initial (kickoff return). We had to hit them early and get the momentum, but that took the wind out of our sails.”
The Grizzlies won the toss and elected to receive — a dubious benefit considering what transpired later.
A squib kick was handled by one of the Hoquiam linemen, but a resounding hit from senior Austin Kerrigan jarred the ball loose. Aberdeen’s Deon Schlesser recovered on the Grizzly 32-yard line.
“That was a really spirited effort today, starting with the Kerrigan hit on the opening kickoff,” Dion noted. “That really set the tone.”
Stocker turned the corner on Aberdeen’s first scrimmage play and rambled 22 yards to the 10.
An apparent 6-yard touchdown pass from Cheema to tight end Lorenzo Ontiveros was nullified when the Bobcats were called for having an ineligible receiver downfield.
But Cheema, running an option to the right side, pitched out at the last moment to Stocker, who completed the 11-yard scoring play.
Andres Valdez kicked the first of his four successful conversions for a 7-0 lead with the contest only 90 seconds old.
“We punched them in the face right there,” Levao said. “That started the whole thing. It was a snowball effect. We just kept rolling from there.”
Another Grizzly fumble, this one on a punt, set up an Aberdeen drive that eventually died on the Hoquiam 17.
The Bobcats, however, were back in business moments later following a Grizzly punt. This time they converted, with Cheema eluding a tackler at the line of scrimmage and motoring 34 yards on a keeper for a touchdown with 1:53 remaining in the first quarter.
Aberdeen drove 66 yards on 10 plays late in the second quarter. Cheema completed passes to Schlesser, Stocker and Carter Harris to set up his own 3-yard scoring run with 2:07 remaining in the first half. Dublanko ran for the conversion and a 22-0 halftime lead.
Whatever comeback hopes the Grizzlies entertained vanished in the first four minutes of the third quarter. The Bobcats scored on their opening possession of the third quarter.
Cheema’s 38-yard pass to Schlesser and 18-yard strike to Harris gave them first down on the HHS 2. From there, Cheema lunged forward on an option keeper. He fumbled, apparently just shy of the goal, but teammate Harris recovered for a touchdown.
Three plays after the ensuing kickoff, Schlesser picked off an option pitchout from Hoquiam quarterback Brenner Carlstrom and had clear sailing on a 25-yard return into the end zone.
Although unable to find running room on scrimmage plays, HHS speedster Devin Kelly used his leg to set up his team’s only score.
His 56-yard punt pinned Aberdeen back on its 1-yard line late in the third quarter.
On first down, the Bobcats were called for an illegal block in the back in the end zone, which constitutes an automatic safety.
Reserve quarterbacks Kenny Wakefield and Bubba Hollandick engineered a pair of Hoquiam drives against Bobcat reserves in the fourth quarterback. Hollandick completed three consecutive passes to help the Grizzlies reach the Aberdeen 16 in the final minute, but they eventually lost the ball on downs.
Moore cited Wakefield and Michael Harris for fine defensive efforts.
“We, as a team, have to work harder and grow up,” the Hoquiam coach concluded.
The Grizzlies face another traditional battle Friday when they open Evergreen 1A League play at home against Montesano.
The Bobcats have two more non-leaguers on tap. The first will occur Friday at Centralia.
Ab 14 8 14 0 — 36 Hoq 0 0 2 0 — 2
First Downs: 18 10
Net Rushing: 280 61
Net Passing: 102 85
Total net yardage: 382 146
Passing: 10-16 11-25
Had Intercepted: 0 0
Fumbles Lost: 1 3
Yards Penalized: 65 30