An inspired Hoquiam defensive effort couldn’t stop Billy Green and his King’s teammates forever.
Green passed for 237 yards and engineered three touchdown drives in the second half as state poll leader King’s came from behind to end Hoquiam’s football season, 28-13, in a state Class 1A playoff opener Saturday at Olympic Stadium.
The Knights from Shoreline (11-0) will likely return to the Harbor for a second consecutive week when they face Montesano in the state quarterfinals next weekend. With the Bulldogs having the choice of venues for that contest, it will probably be staged at Aberdeen’s Stewart Field.
Bidding for their first 11-win season in school history, the Grizzlies closed out a landmark campaign at 10-1.
The match-up of the top-ranked Knights and the fourth-rated Grizzlies lived up to its billing. Hoquiam led 13-0 early in the second quarter and had two opportunities to equalize in the fourth quarter before King’s widened the final margin by scoring on the final scrimmage play of the game.
“I’d say it was pretty much a state championship game right there,” Hoquiam senior running back Nolan Hoiness reflected. “We came to play; they came to play. We made a few mistakes in the red zone, but it was a great season.”
“The kids played their hearts out,” Grizzly coach Jason Ronquillo emphasized. “They executed the game plan. (If there’s) fault, it lies on my shoulders. I’ll take that because (the players) gave me their hearts.”
Dropping off the bulk of their defenders into coverage, the Grizzlies limited the Brigham Young University-bound Green to three yards passing in the first quarter and doubled his season interception total with two picks.
But the versatile senior quarterback was too talented to contain indefinitely. Demonstrating an exceptional ability to find open receivers while on the move, Green wound up completing 20 of 31 passes.
“Oh, man, their pass defense was phenomenal,” King’s coach Jim Shapiro said. “They have great athletes. We just had to adjust our passing schemes and did a great job of it late in the second quarter. The good news about our offense (is) we found a way to adjust and make the changes.”
A swarming King’s defense deserves some props as well by keeping the explosive Grizzlies in check. Hoquiam entered the game averaging 51 points per game.
Hoiness concluded his magnificent prep football career by rushing for 131 yards on 25 carries and scoring both HHS touchdowns, but had only one scrimmage run longer than 13 yards.
If there was a turning point, it came midway through the third quarter.
Trailing 13-7, the Knights faced a third-and-13 situation from their own 22-yard line. Green’s deep pass, into a nest of three defenders, grazed the outstretched hands of linebacker Ronnie Espedal but wide receiver Caleb Taylor somehow came down with the ball for a 36-yard gain.
Three completions later, the Knights were on the HHS 4-yard line. Green ran it in from there. Ryan Fransen’s conversion gave King’s a 14-13 lead — just the second deficit Hoquiam faced this season.
The Knights then marched 57 yards on six plays on their next possession, with Green finding Alex Brouwer on a slant pattern for a 9-yard scoring play with 1:10 remaining in the third stanza. Fransen’s PAT increased the margin to eight.
The Grizzlies failed to convert two scoring opportunities in the fourth quarter.
Devin Kelly’s 14-yard run, accompanied by a face-mask infraction, gave Hoquiam a first down on the King’s 25 as the final period opened. Quarterback Evan Erickson actually connected with Cody Parker on an apparent 21-yard touchdown pass, but the play was nullified by an obvious illegal motion penalty. Erickson’s subsequent fourth-down pass was intercepted by Kelby Strohm.
Hoiness returned the favor by intercepting Green moments later, then ripped off a 20-yard sweep to the King’s 9-yard line before briefly exiting due to cramping.
The Grizzlies were unable to move from there, however, and Nick Severson knocked down Erickson’s fourth-down pass to Parker in the end zone with 5:36 on the clock.
Hoquiam’s offense never saw the ball again.
Green’s 14-yard completion to Ben Welch on third-and-nine dug King’s out of a hole. The Knights continued to move the chains until reaching the Grizzly 1-yard line in the waning seconds. Since they were unable to run out the clock and taking a kneeldown would have given Hoquiam a last-gasp opportunity, the visitors opted to go for the touchdown, which Green converted on a keeper with two seconds on the clock. Time expired on the ensuing kickoff.
Hoquiam strikes early
Hoquiam enjoyed a clear upper hand in the opening 10 minutes.
Hoiness opened the scoring by taking a pass from Erickson on about the King’s 25, veering to the right sideline and going the distance on a 41-yard scoring play at the 1:49 mark of the first quarter. Erickson kicked the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
The Grizzlies put together a 56-yard scoring march on their next possession. Finding open space on a perfectly executed option keeper, Erickson motored 26 yards to the King’s 9.
On the next play, Hoiness swept the left side and scored standing up less than a minute into the second quarter. Erickson’s PAT attempt hit the left upright and caromed wide.
The Knights answered on Green’s 29-yard TD pass to Trevor Hansen midway through the period.
King’s drove to the Hoquiam 2-yard line in the final minute of the first half but Green, on the verge of being sacked by Espedal, was intercepted on Kelly on his fourth-down pass.
Ronquillo gave praise to his seniors for their leadership and performance in a season in which the Grizzlies won their first undisputed league championship since 1979.
“We had an exceptional season,” the Hoquiam coach summed up. “The kids believed they could be great and they were.”