Hoquiam holds off Elma charge late, 2-1

ELMA — All of the opportunities for Elma to knock off Hoquiam on its home field came on Wednesday, but the Grizzlies converted in the end.

After forcing the visiting Grizzlies to play their style of game in the first half, the Eagles watched as Hoquiam scored 18 seconds into the second half and got a fortunate insurance goal late for a 2-1 Evergreen 1A boys soccer match win at Davis Field.

Anthony Hernandez scored the first goal for Hoquiam, while Owen Quercia got the eventual game-winner. Elma snapped the shutout with 3:22 left in the match off the foot of Reynaldo Ayala.

“We made it really interesting and fell right into their game plan,” HHS head coach Fidel Sanchez said. “I’m just very glad that everything turned out all right. That first goal, that was huge. I told my guys that we needed to put them away and score the first goal. I couldn’t have asked for a better response from them.”

“We had them feeling pinned in (late in the first half) and that goal in the first 18 seconds, we kept playing hard, but it brought them right back,” Elma head coach Carson Seaberg said. “Our defense played a really solid game. We controlled the midfield, we created opportunities, but not the really dangerous ones. We gave them a few dangerous chances, like that first goal there. The guys played hard and that’s important.”

The first half belonged to Elma (5-7), which aimed for its first win over Hoquiam (10-2, 11-2) this season. Pinning the Grizzlies back into their defensive zone, the Eagles had the chances and the shots to earn a well-deserved lead.

However, HHS goalkeeper Jamie Bigbie and his defense was up to the task. Bigbie, who has seven shutouts this season, faced seven shots on-goal, six of them right into his arms and one deflected just wide of the post.

Freshman forward Steven Persell, as well as Ayala and junior forward Trevor Hann, found those quality shots on-goal for Elma. However, they went right to Bigbee, including a skipping, dangerous long-range shot from Ayala early on.

Hoquiam was unable to get its offense going, resorting to long through balls that sent forwards Hernandez and Edgar Fernandez on the run to track them down. Elma defender Kevin Martinez matched the duo speed-for-speed to prevent scoring chances. The best one came in the 15th minute when Martinez executed a perfect slide tackle to take the ball away from a breakaway Hernandez inside the Elma penalty area.

But for all of the chances, the halftime score was 0-0 and Hoquiam changed it quickly in the second half.

Elma had the opening kickoff, which went right to Hoquiam and a long ball to a running Hernandez beat the defense — and Elma goalkeeper Edgar Hermenegildo — on a poke shot 12 yards away for a 1-0 lead.

With just 18 seconds gone in the second half, Elma went from in control to playing from behind.

“Our team relaxed for that split second and they got a step on us,” Seaberg added. “That happens; it is just frustrating.”

The goal changed the complexion of the contest. Hoquiam played confidently and with more control on offense, while Elma pressed hard for an equalizer.

The majority of the chances belonged to the Grizzlies, but the Elma defense kept most shots from a distance and away from Hermenegildo. Only when Elma was pressed up on offense did Hoquiam get the second goal on a counter-attack.

Hernandez got the ball on the run and fed Quercia to the far right side of the field, where the sophomore was wide open. Quercia dribbled in as Hermenegildo charged out and got a piece of the Grizzly’s shot. The ball, on a slick, wet field, skidded and rolled 15 yards across the goal line as two Elma defenders whiffed on attempted clearance boots.

The ball completely crossed the goal line as another Elma defender cleared the ball, prompting the sideline official to signal for the goal in the 73rd minute.

With a flurry of passes, Elma got two free-kick set pieces and converted one in the 77th minute. Sophomore Juan Perez chipped the free kick into the middle of the penalty area. Ty Bowe got enough of a pass to Ayala, who slammed the ball home from point-blank range for a 2-1 score.

With 3:22 left to play in the match, Elma tried for an equalizer, but Hoquiam held possession long enough to keep out any serious attempt.

Hoquiam won the JV match, 3-0.

On Friday, Hoquiam hosts Montesano and Elma hosts Tenino.