ELMA — Inspired Hoquiam made a topsy-turvy Evergreen 1A League boys soccer race even more complicated on Wednesday night.
Alex PugaDeLaRosa’s goal midway through the second half gave the Grizzlies a 2-1 victory over Elma in balmy conditions at Davis Field.
Entering the contest with a 1 1/2-game lead, Elma (7-3, 8-4) could have all but wrapped up the title with a victory. Instead, the Grizzlies (6-3, 8-4) gained a virtual tie for the league lead — and own the tiebreaker over the Eagles.
Both teams, however, must face third-place Montesano during the next week in a league that has produced no gimmes in any match-up.
The Eagles scored first and were on the attack for the final 10 minutes, but the Grizzlies — using through passes to good effect — were the aggressors for much of what transpired in between.
“We said before (the match) that this was a playoff game,” a jubilant HHS coach Fidel Sanchez said. “Tonight was all heart and we got the job done.”
The winning goal came on a run against the flow of play.
Hoquiam sophomore Pedro Weber-Cruz, moved up from defender, took it up the right side and launched a strong shot from the wing in the 59th minute.
Goalkeeper Tyler Davis batted the shot away, but the rebound went directly to PugaDeLaRosa, who headed it into an open net from nearly point-blank range.
Elma’s best chances to equalize came with about 10 minutes remaining.
Midfielder Julian Hernandez got off about a 15-yard shot with falling to the turf, but Hoquiam goalkeeper Tahj Malone made the save.
An even better chance came some 30 seconds later.
Intending to clear a free ball, Malone succeeded only in directing it to Elma forward Cory Marsh, who was alone against the goalkeeper just outside the penalty area. Perhaps a bit surprised by the sudden opportunity, Marsh sent his shot directly to Malone, who handled it without much difficulty.
Defenders Weber-Cruz and Brenner Carlstrom and midfielder Osiel Rivera broke up some other Eagle runs in the remaining span.
“They did what they wanted to do better than what we wanted to do,” Elma coach Carson Seaberg summarized.
Elma opened the scoring with a classic field-length run in the 18th minute. Taking a pass from Juan Perez, Marsh dribbled up the left sideline with Weber-Cruz on his hip. The Eagle forward sent a crossing pass to Edgar Hermenegildo, who seemingly came out of nowhere to knock it past a diving Malone from perhaps eight yards out.
The Grizzlies equalized about 11 minutes later. A leaping Rivera headed one of Carlstrom’s patented throw-ins into the lower right corner of the net from about 10 yards away.
Both teams threatened early in the second half. Malone made a nice save off a long blast by Perez in the 45th minute, while Davis turned away PugaDeLaRosa’s free kick in the 56th minute.
Sanchez praised his entire team for its play. Seaberg praised Marsh’s all-around performance.
Hoquiam won the JV match, 1-0.
The Grizzlies host Montesano in a 5 p.m. match on Friday. The Eagles are home against Tenino on Friday night.