Two flashes of brilliance for Hoquiam, timed when Elma was regrouping on defense, was all the difference Wednesday afternoon.
Senior forward Jonathan Molina connected on two goals in a five-minute span in the first half to provide all of the scoring needed for the Grizzlies’ 2-0 Evergreen 1A boys soccer match win over the Eagles at Sea Breeze Oval.
Hoquiam (11-1, 11-2) holds a one-match lead over Rochester at the top of the league standings. The Grizzlies will take on Montesano (Friday) and Tenino (Tuesday) before they hit the road to visit the Warriors next Thursday in a potential league title match.
“Overall, I’m happy with the result, because we needed the win,” HHS head coach Fidel Sanchez said. “I wasn’t pleased with the low intensity (in the second half). The fans come out here to watch us play and we have to play with high intensity and have a good game, both sides. We have to improve, finish at the end and find a way to keep that intensity. We have the guys to do it. We just need to find a way.”
“Our defense was just a little out of whack (without Bieker in),” Elma head coach Carson Seaberg said. “That unit is very comfortable with each other and know where the other guy will be. Hoquiam just caught us. We settled down after that to halftime. In the second half, (the defenses) did their work. We just weren’t as dangerous as we should have been.”
Both teams stepped up their defenses in this third meeting of the season. Hoquiam had more ventures into the Elma (6-6) penalty area for shots and near-chances, but most of the play was confined in midfield.
The turning point came in the 24th minute when Elma sweeper Donovan Bieker suffered an upper body injured in a collision of several players — both Hoquiam and Elma — inside the penalty area. Bieker left for the remainder of the first half, but returned in the second half.
With Bieker on the bench, the Grizzlies took advantage of a reshuffled Eagle defense.
In the 25th minute, Mario Joya settled a loose ball just inside the penalty area and tapped the ball to Israel Hernandez, who found a wide-open Molina close in. The senior striker just tapped the ball home past goalkeeper Tyler Davis for the goal.
Molina made it 2-0 in the 29th minute when he received a long ball over the top from sweeper Austin Montoure. Molina gathered the ball in and powered it past Davis for the marker.
Following Molina’s second goal, play slowed down as the defenses took over again. Elma’s Reynaldo Ayala, charged to overtake the Eagles’ offense with the loss of forward Edgar Hermemgildo with a season-ending collarbone fracture, created a few chances, but couldn’t threaten HHS goalkeeper Jamie Bigbie.
The second half were light on goal-scoring chances. Both teams ventured into the penalty areas to threaten, but the defenses and goalkeepers cleared the area quickly and efficiently. Montoure and Bieker, as sweepers, were effective in keeping their defensive teammates in the right places to severely limit any damage the offenses could do.
In the junior varsity match, Hoquiam won, 3-0. Adin Fillo, Oscar Baltazar and Sebastian Rodriguez scored for Hoquiam.