Hoquiam clinches share of boys soccer league title with 2-1 win over Montesano

The Evergreen 1A League boys soccer title is in Hoquiam’s hands. One more win and it’ll be all theirs.

Parlaying Jose Juarez’s goal at the stroke of halftime in a momentum-grabbing lead, the Grizzlies withstood several Montesano attempts to tie up the match for a 2-1 victory at Sea Breeze Oval on Thursday afternoon.

Juarez and Connor Darras scored for Hoquiam (5-1, 9-4), while Braden Stowers scored for Montesano (3-3, 3-8-2). Elma is one-game back of Hoquiam in the standings with two matches to play, while Montesano is two back with two to play. The Grizzlies own the tiebreakers against both teams.

“I don’t want to jinx it,” HHS head coach Fidel Sanchez said. “We are 90 percent there. We had most of the possession in the first half, but we just never got it back in the second half. That is where I was frustrated. We just couldn’t keep the ball long enough.”

“It could have gone either way; it was 2-1, but it could have been 2-1 us,” Montesano head coach Rick Denholm said. “If we were able to get that one touch or one break here or there, we could have come out on top. It was a good game.

The eventual game-winning goal was orchestrated by Juarez and Darras with the halftime whistle looming. Darras timed his well-weighted through ball to a charging Juarez perfectly into the Bulldogs’ penalty area. With space and time, Juarez easily slotted the ball past goalkeeper Waymn Thoemmes into the lower left corner for the goal.

Darras got his chance with a similar play in the 18th minute when his run into the penalty area resulted in a foul from Thoemmes, who was diving down for the ball and clipped Darras at the same time. The sophomore knocked home a well-struck ball into the lower left corner, beating Thoemmes by inches for the opening goal of the match.

“We’ve been working on that run with our forwards and (Jose) was spot on today,” Sanchez added. “Also, the penalty kick came on that kind of play. That pressure, making runs like that into the box, was very good to see.”

“We did pressure them, but their combination plays from their forwards and center midfielders hurt us,” Denholm added. “The second goal was like cutting through butter. We had some control in the end, but we were unable to really take advantage (in the second half).”

Montesano, which opened the match with pressure on Hoquiam’s goal early and often, got its chance to tie the match in the 30th minute.

With pressure and men in the penalty area, the Bulldogs had several close-range chances to score. With more than 10 players in front of the Hoquiam goal in maroon and white jerseys, the ball pinged several players before deflecting over to Stowers at the far left post. The junior midfielder didn’t miss, slamming the ball home as HHS goalkeeper Johnny Smith dove in vain for the tie.

Juarez’s goal opened up the second half, allowing both teams to increase the pace of the match. Juarez nearly made it 3-1 early in the second half and Montesano’s Connor Parkinson had a chance at goal early on as well.

As the second half unfolded, the Bulldogs gained more possession and forced the Grizzlies to defend more and more ground. Hoquiam had some trouble clearing the ball from in front of its own goal, but Montesano was unable to capitalize.

In the end, the Grizzlies’ defense bent, but didn’t break to secure the win and the share of the league title.

On Tuesday, Hoquiam can clinch the outright title at Elma, while Montesano will travel to Forks.