The first test of the 2012 season for Hoquiam was passed with flying and aerial colors Friday night at Olympic Stadium.
Using a rock-solid defensive performance to aid several big offensive nights, the Grizzlies routed Class 2A Centralia, 49-13.
The game could not have started much better for the Grizzlies.
Hoquiam pinned Centralia inside the Tigers’ 15-yard line on the opening kickoff, then recovered a Centralia fumble on the 12-yard line on the first play from scrimmage. Hoquiam capitalized on the mistake when Evan Erickson threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Cody Parker.
However, Centralia responded quickly. Joe Blaser led the Tigers on an 80-yard, 19-play touchdown drive to tie the game at 7-7 with 9:48 left in the second quarter. Blaser completed six of his seven pass attempts for 62 yards on the drive, and punctuated it with a 1-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper.
Paul Girts put Hoquiam back on top 13-7 with 7:46 left in the second quarter, scoring on a 13-yard scamper, and the Grizzlies never looked back.
The Tigers turned the ball over on downs on their next drive. Nolan Hoiness followed up by breaking through the line of scrimmage 59 yards down the middle of the field for another Grizzly score. Girts ran in the 2-point conversion, putting Hoquiam up 21-7.
Hoiness led Hoquiam on the ground, rushing 16 times for 158 yards and two touchdowns.
Erickson exploded in the third quarter, passing for 124 yards and two touchdowns, including a 70-yard bomb to Girts. Erickson passed for 211 yards on 9-of-14 attempts and four touchdowns in the game.
The Grizzlies defense, anchored by senior linebacker Ronnie Espedal, stifled the Tigers after halftime. Centralia gained just 56 yards from scrimmage in the second half.
“I thought Ronnie Espedal did great on defense,” Hoquiam head coach Jason Ronquillo said. ”He doesn’t always get the stats, but he was in plays, making plays, and helping our team. Sometimes that stuff goes unnoticed, but it was big for us tonight.”
Late in the third quarter, Grizzles defensive lineman Jacob Guined blocked a Tigers punt and Hoquiam recovered the ball at Centralia’s 2-yard line. Hoiness ran it in for a touchdown on the next play for a 35-7 score.
“I was really pleased with the execution on both sides of the ball,” Ronquillo added. “I was a little disappointed by the number of penalties we had. We need to clean that up, but I was very pleased with our execution.”
The Grizzlies overcame 10 penalties totaling 110 yards in the win.
On Friday, Hoquiam (1-0) will face their biggest rival, the Aberdeen Bobcats, at Stewart Field.