Had the Olympic Stadium scoreboard been operational Friday night, Elma would have lit it up in the final three quarters.
After spotting Hoquiam an early lead, the Eagles erupted for 49 unanswered points in the last three periods to rout the Grizzlies, 49-12, in an Evergreen 1A League football game.
Ryan Collin passed for 218 yards and three touchdowns and Todd Swinhart amassed 209 all-purpose yards and scored three times as the Eagles (3-1, 3-3) vaulted into a virtual five-way tie with Montesano, Rochester, Tenino and Forks for the Evergreen lead.
Olympic Stadium’s notoriously finicky football scoreboard expired due to electrical malfunctions during pre-game warm-ups, forcing game officials to keep time on the field.
Although the Grizzlies (0-3, 1-5) endured what was literally and figuratively a long night (the contest lasted nearly three hours), their Homecoming contest began very promisingly.
With Tyler White and Devin Kelly breaking long scoring plays, Hoquiam led 12-0 early in the second quarter and could have enjoyed an even greater margin. Outgaining the Eagles, 132-26, in the first period, the Grizzlies had two scoring threats die inside the Elma 25-yard line.
The first quarter, meanwhile, was a veritable microcosm of Eagle ills in the games they’ve lost this season. Elma was plagued by missed tackles, dropped passes and a lost fumble in the opening 15 minutes.
But the Eagles turned things around with a dominant performance on both sides of the ball thereafter.
Collin completed seven successive passes at one stage and Swinhart and Steven Persell both ran effectively. Loading up the box, Elma’s defense shut down what had been a productive Hoquiam ground game.
Elma coach Jim Hill credited his assistant coaches with preparing his troops following a lopsided loss to Rochester last week. But he also credited his players for regrouping.
“For us to go on the road, be numbskulls in the first quarter and come back, that shows good character,” Hill said.
White dodged tackles at the line of scrimmage and sprinted 61 yards for a touchdown on the game’s third play from scrimmage.
Then Kelly, like White a state-class sprinter in track, turned a swing pass from Kenny Wakefield into another 61-yard scoring play early in the second stanza. Both conversion attempts failed.
“(Then) the floodgates opened, didn’t they?,” Hoquiam coach Rick Moore reflected with a weak smile.
Swinhart’s 46-yard run, accompanied by an HHS half-the-distance personal foul penalty, on the first play following the ensuing kickoff put the Eagles in scoring territory.
Collin converted moments later on a 1-yard quarterback sneak and Persell added the first of seven successful conversion kicks.
Elma took the lead with a 75-yard scoring drive on its next possession.
Collin hit Kevin Farr on a pair of 13-yard completions before finding Justin Spencer on a 3-yard scoring strike. Persell’s kick made it 14-12.
A snap that sailed over punter Kelly’s head resulted in a 31-yard loss back to the Hoquiam 17-yard line. Swinhart’s 2-yard burst off right tackle finished that four-play drive.
The Eagles regained possession with about one minute remaining in the first half.
After first taking a 28-yard pass from Collin, Swinhart beat the Grizzly secondary on a deep route down the left sideline and gathered in Collin’s 35-yard scoring throw for a 28-12 halftime lead.
Collin’s 29-yard pass to Farr, Swinhart’s 8-yard run and backup quarterback Tristan Robinette’s 10-yard keeper represented Elma’s scoring in the second half.
Reserve running back Ira Hartford did most of the damage on the final scoring drive.
“Poor tackling, not covering people and not being aggressive enough,” Moore said in summing up Hoquiam’s defensive difficulties. “Elma is well-coached, well-prepared and they’ve got some good kids. We got on our heels and never recovered.”
The Eagles lost ace linebacker Ricky Escalante to a knee injury of undetermined severity in the first half. Chazen Hurd and Joe Wilson were among the top Elma tacklers.
White, Tahj Malone and Brenner Carlstrom (the latter playing despite a bout of food poisoning) drew Moore’s praise.
Elma hosts Ilwaco in a non-leaguer Friday. The Grizzlies entertain Rainier in a league contest the same night.