Grizzlies shut down Forks to wrap up undisputed league title

Hoquiam did not lack offensive production last night, but stifling defense was the force that helped drive the Grizzlies to an unbeaten regular season.

Limiting Forks to one first down, the Grizzlies wrapped up the undisputed Evergreen 1A League championship with a 52-7 rout of the Spartans in an league finale Friday night at Olympic Stadium.

The win gave the undefeated Grizzlies, who are ranked fourth in the state among 1A teams, their first undisputed Evergreen 1A League title since 1979.

The Grizzlies will host Toledo in a winner-to-state district-crossover game next weekend.

Hoquiam (6-0 in league play, 9-0 overall) held Forks (2-4, 4-5) to nine yards of total offense, and forced five Spartan turnovers.

“A lot of kids played well,” said Hoquiam head coach Jason Ronquillo. “Brenner Carlstrom and Jaycob Guined played really well at defensive end, Alex Munoz at linebacker played well, but we got contributions from a lot of guys.”

After forcing Forks to lose the ball on downs on its opening drive, it took the Grizzlies just two plays to put the game’s first points on the board.

Paul Girts took a handoff from Evan Erickson, found a crease, and outran everyone up the left sideline for a 44-yard touchdown that put Hoquiam up 6-0.

Later in the first quarter, Ronnie Espedal hit Forks’ running back Sergio Chase in the backfield, and forced a fumble. The Grizzlies recovered on the Spartans’ 23-yard line, setting up a short field for Hoquiam’s offense.

Four plays later, Girts ran 11 yards up the middle for the second of his three rushing touchdowns in the game, and giving the Grizzlies a 12-0 lead.

Hoquiam’s defense came through again on the ensuing drive. Hoquiam linebacker Zack Phillips hit Braden Decker as he threw, forcing a wobbly pass that went up in the air. Carlstrom ran under the pass and intercepted to give the Grizzlies possession on the Spartan 17-yard line.

Two plays later Nolan Hoiness danced into the end zone from five yards out. Erickson added the extra point, putting the Grizzlies up 19-0.

Hoiness carried the load for the Grizzly offense. The senior carried the ball 22 times for 287 yards, and four touchdowns.

Hoquiam led 39-0 at halftime, and 45-7 after three quarters. However, despite the lopsided score, Ronquillo elected to keep his starters in the game on Senior Night until the six-minute mark in the fourth quarter.

“It was kind of a senior night thing” said Ronquillo. “But we are preparing for something bigger, and I want to make sure the boys are prepared.”

Hoiness capitalized on the opportunity to stay in the game in the second half, and showcased his speed by rushing off the left tackle for a 72-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and taking a sweep 57 yards down the right sideline in the fourth quarter for his fourth score.

Phillips made the defensive highlight reel again early in the second quarter. The senior ripped the ball out of Forks’ running back James Salazar’s hands in the backfield, and ran into the end zone. Erickson converted the point after, putting Hoquiam up 26-0.

The only Spartan touchdown was scored on an attempted onside kick by the Grizzlies in the third quarter. The kick did not travel the required 10 yards before Leo Gonzales snagged it and took it 48 yards for the score. Salazar kicked the extra point.