MONTESANO — The measure of Hoquiam’s performance was taken yard-by-yard, run-by-run at Rottle Field, a place host Montesano had defended with spartan efficiency in the past.
Senior running back Nolan Hoiness led the Grizzly charge through the Bulldog defensive ranks with 354 yards rushing on 25 carries and three touchdowns to spearhead a decisive 41-14 Evergreen 1A football victory on Friday night.
Overall, Hoquiam ran for 551 yards on 60 carries against Montesano, which lost its first league contest since 2005 — a 40-game streak that symbolized the Bulldogs’ dominance over the past six-plus seasons. The last team to beat Montesano in a league contest was Elma and the last time Hoquiam beat Monte was in 2003.
“I didn’t expect us to gain as many yards as we did on the ground, because we were expecting to come in as balanced as possible,” HHS head coach Jason Ronquillo said. “We took what they gave us. The offensive line play was stellar. The kids stuck to the game plan and they executed it. Nolan played outside of his mind; he played stellar. Big players make big plays in big games. He did.”
The Hoquiam offense began its night with Hoiness ripping off a 41-yard sprint to the Montesano 5-yard line on his first carry of the night. Quarterback Evan Erickson’s 1-yard sneak opened the scoring at 7-0. Erickson kicked 6-of-7 point-after tries in the contest.
The big yards were all Hoiness’s — an 89-yard touchdown sprint down the left sideline in the first quarter; a 64-yard one-cut-and-gone scoring gallop in the second quarter and a 41-yard broken-tackle exclamation point touchdown late in the third period. The third touchdown run unofficially broke the single-game school record for rushing yard, previously held by now assistant coach Jeff Gates (314 yards).
“We just played our game,” said Hoiness, whose father, former HHS head coach Todd Hoiness, once owned the school’s single-game rushing record before Gates.
“My offensive line was astounding,” Nolan Hoiness added. “I love them more than anything right now. I wouldn’t have the success I had tonight without them. (The game plan) was to run it down their throats.”
“Nolan Hoiness, he really hurt us with big runs,” Montesano head coach Terry Jensen said. “We missed some tackles, but that is because he is a really good football player. Our hats off to them, they out-played us in every facet of the game — offense and defense game plan. They did just about everything better than we did.”
Montesano, trailing 14-0 late in the first quarter, responded with its only score of the first half. Senior quarterback Matthew Jensen hit Jordan Bussard on a 26-yard fade-route touchdown pass at 14-7. Jensen would add a consolation touchdown in the final moments of the contest, a 36-yard scoring bomb to Richard Smith, to cap the scoring.
Between Matthew Jensen’s first and second touchdowns, it was all Hoquiam and its rushing attack.
Mixing up their running backs and getting their quarterback in the action as well, the Grizzlies popped holes in the Bulldog defense. Running backs Paul Girts, Drew Bravos and Devin Kelly and quarterback Erickson did their part inside the offense.
Girts capped a 54-yard, seven-run drive with a 2-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter. Hoquiam’s next possession, gained when the defense held Montesano on fourth down, ended quickly with Hoiness’ second touchdown of the night at 28-7.
After halftime, Montesano’s defense found some traction and held Hoquiam to two fruitless drives in the third quarter. The Bulldogs’ second drive had momentum, a mixture of runs by Elliot Mendenhall and Tucker Ibabao and a pass or two from Jensen. At midfield, Jensen tried to hit Bussard on a play-action pass. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Bussard slipped and fell as Girts, playing at safety, picked off the pass to end the drive.
Hoquiam methodically put down six running plays to get into Montesano territory and watched Hoiness bulldoze through the left side of the Bulldog defense en route to his third score and a convincing 35-7 lead with 2:17 left in the third.
Kelly gained the Grizzlies final touchdown of the night, capping another seven-run drive with a 4-yard touchdown plunge to seal the deal. Erickson, buoyed by a 39-yard run late in the contest, added 82 yards rushing on 11 attempts for Hoquiam. Kelly finished with 57 yards on eight carries and Girts ran for 33 yards on eight carries.
On Friday, Hoquiam (1-0, 3-0) will return home to take on Rochester, while Montesano (0-1, 1-2) will hit the road to take on District IV rival Woodland.