Some football players are described as coaches on the field. Hoquiam linebacker Ronnie Espedal fit that description in the Hoquiam-King’s state 1A playoff game Saturday.
The Evergreen 1A League defensive MVP, Espedal turned a typically stellar performance in Hoquiam’s 28-13 loss to the top-ranked Knights.
He also was given more than the customary amount of latitude in calling defensive signals.
Wanting to keep the Knights guessing, HHS defensive coordinator Rick Moore said he allowed Espedal to call “automatics” in reshaping the defensive alignment based on what formation the Shoreline club used.
“We wanted to give them a different look,” Moore said.
“Last year, Hoquiam brought a lot of pressure on the quarterback and didn’t do that as much this year,” King’s coach Jim Shapiro said.
For the better part of the first half, the strategy worked like a charm. Usually rushing only three or four linemen, with an occasional blitzer, the Grizzlies dropped the majority of their defenders into pass coverage.
King’s quarterback Billy Green completed only two of his first eight passes for three yards.
“On our first three drives, we schemed that the defense would bring a ton of pressure against me and they did the exact opposite,” Green said. “My line did a great job of giving me room to move and time. I could have sat back there all day to find a receiver, but they did a great job in the secondary.”
Green adjusted by throwing for 237 yards.
“We came out hot,” said Hoquiam coach Jason Ronquillo, whose team owned a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter. “They’re a good quality football team. They caught fire and we couldn’t stop them forever.”
Although King’s representatives had expressed concern earlier in the week about playing on Olympic Stadium’s grass field, the condition of the field proved to be a non-issue.
“This is a beautiful stadium and both teams had to play on (the same field),” Shapiro said.
King’s will advance to a state quarterfinal date with Montesano next weekend, probably at Aberdeen’s Stewart Field.
That will perpetuate a Bulldog tradition of sorts. This will be the seventh straight Monte playoff game against a private school. The Bulldogs last played a postseason game against a public school in 2009, when they routed Meridian, 54-14.
On the carpet at Harry Lang Stadium in Lakewood, Montesano rumbled through Charles Wright’s defense in the first half as if it was set on fire with rock music playing behind them.
Well, the latter part of that is correct, thanks to the Charles Wright “band.” The Tarriers’ cheering section was backed up by a six-piece rock group, complete with woofers, speakers and plenty of electricity. The group had a six-song repertoire that it went back to throughout the contest.
During the vast majority of the contest, however, the group played and rocked out with Montesano’s offense on the field. The group stopped playing about a half-second before the Bulldogs snapped the ball and restarted once the play ended. It was constant. It was loud. It was gamesmanship. And, it was illegal.
According to the WIAA, bands can play only before and after games, during timeouts, dead balls and between periods. That’s it. No musical accompaniment is allowed, especially when the opposition’s offense has the ball. With the stadium’s cement walls and overhang acting like a natural amplifier, the noise could have easily drowned out Montesano’s calls at the line of scrimmage and given Charles Wright’s defense an advantage.
The group nearly got away with it. The head referee finally had enough with six minutes left in the contest, stopped play and motioned to the band in the stands to stop. Not another sound was heard until the end of the contest from the group.
To be fair, the Bulldogs didn’t look as if they were affected by the group’s playing. It was almost movie-like to hear the group playing as Montesano’s offense ran a non-stop, no-huddle, Oregon-esque speed drive down the field in the first half. It just added to the game’s atmosphere.
Montesano head coach Terry Jensen certainly cited running back Tucker Ibabao for his four touchdown night, but he also had plenty of praise for other players, especially on defense. Quarterback/linebacker Matthew Jensen and running back/linebacker Elliot Mendenhall earned praise for their work on defense, with wide receiver/cornerback Ben Ohashi standing out on both sides of the ball. Ohashi caught two key first down conversion throws and intercepted Charles Wright’s Fritz Jacobson with a toe-tapping interception in the third quarter that gave Montesano a big defensive stand. Also, linebacker Kenny Roy got onto the stat sheet when he picked off Jacobson on the last play of the first half. … Coach Jensen noted that Ibabao runs just a little faster with the ball than without, especially on Friday night. The senior running back adds another dimension to Montesano’s offense that is already stacked with playmakers — Matthew Jensen at QB, Mendenhall and Shad Rogers at running back and Ohashi at receiver. “Matthew runs the offense perfectly,” Ibabao said. “We don’t have just one guy who can make the plays and that’s what is so special about this offense. We have two great running backs, Ohashi on the outside and Matthew is an all-state quarterback.”
Around Western WasH
Tumwater 45, Steilacoom 22: Andrew Brown rushed for 152 yards and Christian Cummings scored four touchdowns as the T-Birds advanced to the state 2A quarterfinals. Tumwater will face Archbishop Murphy in the playoffs for the third consecutive year..Mount Baker 21, Woodland 14. Eighth-ranked Mount Baker came from behind to edge upset-minded Woodland, the third seed from the Southwest Washington 1A district. The Beavers were frustrated by a sequence in the fourth quarter, when they had eight snaps inside the Mount Baker 10-yard line but failed to score.