Grizzlies turn back Bulldogs

Victories are coming harder lately for Hoquiam’s league-leading boys soccer team. They are, however, still coming.

Jonathan Molina scored twice as the Grizzlies kept their Evergreen 1A League record perfect by edging Montesano, 2-1, on Thursday at the Sea Breeze Oval Field.

It was the second time in three days that the Grizzlies (8-0, 8-1) had beaten a Grays Harbor rival less decisively than in their first meeting of the season. They were coming off a penalty-kick victory over Elma on Tuesday.

Although Hoquiam controlled time of possession and outshot Monte, 12-5, the Bulldogs (4-4, 4-5) did an excellent job of minimizing the damage.

“I thought the guys played our game plan perfectly,” Monte coach Jeff Lenherr said, “kept the ball in front of us and countered.”

While crediting the Bulldogs for their defensive positioning, Hoquiam coach Fidel Sanchez wasn’t pleased with his team’s performance — although he shouldered the blame for what he considered a lack of mental preparation.

“We’ve got to go back to basics, work harder and be a better team,” he said. “I think we’re making things too complicated. We making too many turnovers because we’re trying the (lower) percentage pass.”

Despite failing to convert a bushel of first-half scoring chances, the Grizzlies seemed in control when Molina left-footed about an 18-yard shot into the upper left corner of the net off a pass from Austin Montoure in the 63rd minute. That gave Hoquiam a 2-0 lead.

Two minutes later, however, Monte’s Brandon Lovell was taken down in the box and Skye Jefferson made the ensuing penalty kick.

That seemed to energize the Bulldogs, who had been in a defensive posture for much of the preceding action. They had a couple of late scoring opportunities, but HHS defender Brenner Carlstrom cleared away a crossing pass from Luke Peoples and Jefferson’s 18-yard try with about a minute left was easily stopped by goalkeeper Jamie Bigbie.

Hoquiam also had a good scoring chance go awry with about nine minutes left when freshman Alex PugaDeLaRosa overshot the net from perhaps 10 yards out.

Molina opened the scoring in the 16th minute. Taking a pass from PugaDeLaRosa, the HHS senior split the defense. When Monte goalkeeper Brett Cooper came out of the net to meet him, Molina lofted a shot into the upper left corner.

About 15 minutes later, Molina’s shot deflected off Cooper’s hands and rolled slowly toward the goal line. But Cooper was able to somehow scramble back, beat another Grizzly to the ball and knock it free.

The game’s first prime scoring chance, however, belonged to the Bulldogs.

Lovell’s sharply angled attempt from the left side in the seventh minute had Bigbie beaten, but hit the right post — a near-miss that Lenherr believed may have changed the complexion of the match.

Bulldog defender Nolan Walker was cited by Lenherr for fine play.

Hoquiam was without midfield stalwart Israel Fernandez, who is recovering from a sprained ankle.

The Grizzlies took the JV match, 1-0.

Both teams hit the road Tuesday, with the Grizzlies at Tenino and the Bulldogs at Rochester.