ELMA – After looking shaky on back-to-back punts, Hoquiam’s Rayyon Dayton ended up being the hero on the game’s final play.
With Hoquiam holding on to a 14-13 lead in the waning seconds of its game against Elma, Dayton blocked what would have been the game-wining field goal attempt from AJ Hernandez to help the Grizzlies escape Davis Field with the victory on Friday night.
“I let my team down on those two punts and we made big stops so I just wanted to repay them for my mistakes. This is how I repaid them,” Dayton said after stuffing the attempt.
Dayton’s redemption play came after two poor punts late in the fourth quarter while the Grizzlies were deep in their own territory. Punting from the edge of his own endzone, neither of Dayton’s punts made it past the 30-yard line, setting up Elma in solid field position with a chance to take the lead.
Hoquiam (6-0, 2-0 Evergreen 1A) came up with some big plays to preserve the lead halfway through the fourth quarter, including a tackle on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line where the Grizzlies defense dropped Elma running back Taitum Brumfield in the backfield to keep the score at 14-7.
The Eagles weren’t done fighting, however, and got a touchdown with 2:32 left on the clock when Cody Vollan connected with Tysen Richardson on a 24-yard post route.
The point after from Hernandez was blocked when Hoquiam had several players get pressure through the middle of Elma’s line, keeping the score at 14-13.
The Eagles (5-1, 1-1) had a chance to win the game when Hernandez set up for what would have been a 35-yard, game-winning field goal, but Dayton came off the edge to make the block and preserve the win.
Elma head coach Ron Clark said he is still confident in Hernandez and thinks the officials missed a call.
“We have a very good kicker and if I need a field goal to win next week I’m going to send them out there,” he said. “That last field goal was not (Hernandez’s) fault, (Dayton) was clearly offsides.”
Clark also added that muddy field conditions could have played a factor in the missed kicks and is hoping he can play on a turf field soon.
Dayton came off the edge to block the 35-yard field goal attempt, though Hoquiam head coach Jeremy McMillian wasn’t sure who to credit with the blocked PAT immediately after the game. He was just happy to hear the ball hit somebody.
“I’m not quite sure who got the PAT, it look liked a lot of Grizzlies got through but all I heard was the thud,” he said. “That’s the sound you’re always waiting for.”
Both team’s had the benefit of playing with drier conditions in the second half as the teams looked to emphasize the run with a steady rain coming down on the first half.
Elma’s opening drive consisted of nothing but physical runs as the Eagles methodically marched down field and punched it in with a goal line run from Taitum Brumfield.
The Eagles 7-0 lead didn’t last long. Hoquiam found the endzone on its first possession as well and got a 14-yard run from Matt Brown to tie the score with 2:22 left in the first quarter.
Hoquiam and Elma both turned the ball over twice in the second quarter and the Elma pass rush and a slick football helped contribute to a Payton Quintanilla interception.
Elma’s offense struggled as well and couldn’t get the ball into the red zone in the second quarter.
Clark said the rain, particularly the heavy downpour in the second quarter, made things difficult for his signal caller.
“The game plan was altered by the rain. It ham strung our quarterback but he came up huge in the fourth quarter,” he said.
Quintanilla made up for it later in the quarter when he rolled out of the pocket away from pressure and found Kyle Larsen in the right corner of the endzone for a touchdown to give the Grizzlies the 14-7 lead heading into halftime.
Even though the comeback attempt came up short in the second half, Clark said he was feeling even more confident in his team after the loss.
“I feel better about them now than I did before because I didn’t know how we would handle a big game and now I know we can,” he said . “We’re staying the course and we’re in great shape right now. It was the first loss of the year and the kids take it hard but we’ll figure out what we did wrong and get better.”
Elma will try to bounce back from its first loss of the season Friday night with a home game against Tenino. Hoquiam will play Monte at home that night in a battle that will give the winner the inside track to a league title.