Hoquiam took a big step toward capturing its second consecutive league title with a 32-7 home win over Elma at Olympic Stadium on Friday night.
The Grizzlies (5-1, 2-0 Evergreen 1A) jumped on the Eagles (3-3, 0-1) early with 19 unanswered points in the first half.
Dane McMillan capped off Hoquiam’s first drive with a quarterback sneak for a touchdown to put the Grizzlies up 6-0 at 7:10 in the first quarter.
McMillan showed off his arm late in the period with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Larsen that gave Hoquiam a 12-0 advantage with 1:29 to go in the opening frame.
Larsen and McMillan linked up again late in the second quarter, this time on a 36-yard pass to put Hoquiam in the driver’s seat with a 19-0 lead with 4:47 left before halftime.
Hoquiam head coach Jeremy McMillan said Friday’s quick start was what he was hoping for.
“We wanted to come out and kind of get them off their spot and make them call their offense a little bit differently than they wanted to coming into the game,” he said. “The kids played hard in the first half.”
Elma showed signs of life before halftime, however, with a methodical drive that resulted in a 3-yard touchdown run from Brady Shriver.
The Eagles’ only score of the game came with 57 seconds left before the halftime whistle, which was just enough time for the Grizzlies to capture another first-half score.
McMillan picked up the third of his three passing touchdowns by finding Cameron Bumstead down the seam on a 56-yard touchdown play that included Bumstead breaking three tackles on his way to the end zone, giving the Grizzlies a 25-7 advantage at the break.
Elma head coach Ron Clark said the score could have been a lot closer had his team stopped big plays like that.
“We missed some key tackles at the beginning when we had opportunities on third down and stuff like that,” he said. “The kids played awfully hard tonight, they really did. I don’t think the score is indicative of the contest itself.”
Elma was also operating with a major piece of its offense missing that made a comeback attempt that much more difficult.
Elma starting quarterback Cody Vollan missed the game with an injury, forcing sophomore Rene Duran to play under center.
Hoquiam’s defense made life difficult for Duran as the first-time starter completed five passes for 23 yards.
Bumstead already made an impact on offense and came up big on defense as he came away with two interceptions in the second half.
“(Duran) didn’t look off anyone, so it was super easy to read him,” Bumstead said.
Hoquiam added one more score in the third quarter with 54 seconds left on a 1-yard run from Matt Brown. The drive was set up by a 36-yard pass from Bumstead to Larsen on a trick play that brought the Grizzlies down to the goal line.
Though the result didn’t go his way, Clark said he hopes to carry the lessons learned on Friday into next week’s 7 p.m. home game against Tenino.
“To go against a playoff team like Hoquiam is, was a good experience for us,” he said. “I think we’re better now than we were before we got here. (Hoquiam) plays fast and they play hard. I think that’s going to help us eventually.”
Hoquiam will face its biggest test of the year when it travels to Montesano for a game that could determine the league championship.
Coach McMillan said he’s expecting an intense matchup in Monte when the Grizzlies and Bulldogs square off next Friday at 7 p.m.
“The Evergreen conference is tough. I believe the top three teams are going to do pretty well in the crossover,” he said. “The league title has been decided between Montesano and us the last couple of years with that game. Next week should be a dandy.”