Hoquiam’s Connor Darras takes a shot from long range in the first half of a game against Elma. (Hasani Grayson | Grays Harbor News Group)

Hoquiam’s Connor Darras takes a shot from long range in the first half of a game against Elma. (Hasani Grayson | Grays Harbor News Group)

Hoquiam clinches state berth with shutout over Elma

PREP SOCCER

Hoquiam 3, Elma 0

Hoquiam is headed to state for the first time in four years after shutting out Elma 3-0 on Friday in the District IV Tournament in Montesano.

Connor Darras said the state tournament clinching victory feels especially sweet after Hoquiam suffered a bitter defeat to Columbia White-Salmon in districts last year.

“It feels good because we have a hell of a team this season. Probably better than any I’ve played with,” he said. “Last year we didn’t make it but this year we needed and we wanted.”

Hoquiam’s first goal came in the seventh minute from Andy Garcia. Cameron Bumstead settled the ball near the top of the box and passed it square to Garcia, who took advantage of the space in front of him by ripping a shot to beat AJ Hernandez to his left.

Garcia said picking up the early goal gave the team a positive energy that helped propel the Grizzlies for the rest of the match.

“It pumped me up and got me full of energy. It gave us a lot of momentum,” he said. “That’s when everybody started picking up their play. We started getting possessions, we started getting passes, we started getting shots. It was just beautiful soccer.”

Elma’s Rodrigo Luna runs down the sidelines while Hoquiam’s Andy Garcia tries to chase him down in the second half on Friday. (Hasani Grayson | Grays Harbor News Group)

Elma’s Rodrigo Luna runs down the sidelines while Hoquiam’s Andy Garcia tries to chase him down in the second half on Friday. (Hasani Grayson | Grays Harbor News Group)

Elma head coach Carson Seaberg acknowledged that giving up the early goal put his team behind the eight ball, but he was mostly pleased with the play from his back line.

“We talked about not getting beat going down the line like that. They got a couple of other goals late and neither one of them came on something like that,” he said. “We just made a poor defensive play that we were kind of scrambling from.”

The Grizzlies picked up the early tally, but saw their offensive chances dwindle a bit as the Eagles limited the shots on frame to three for the remainder of the half.

The Eagles’ improved defense didn’t translate into many scoring chances of their own. Elma put one shot on frame in the first half and had one corner kick which never materialized into a scoring chance.

Hoquiam head coach Fidel Sanchez said he was pleased with how his midfielder stifled Elma’s attacks, for the most part.

“These guys are really organized in the middle. Once in a while they can get out of position, but I do like that my back forwards clean the easy attacks,” he said. “Our goal is to not have a lot of pressurized attacks on our backs or our goal keeper.”

Hoquiam took a 1-0 lead heading into halftime and added a key insurance goal in the 65th minute from Darras. The senior forward found some room to dribble, worked his way into the box and converted on the close-range opportunity to put Hoquiam up 2-0.

With its deficit now doubled, Elma dropped just three defenders back for the rest of the match in pursuit of a goal.

The tactic didn’t yield the results the Eagles were looking for as Skyler Johnson capped off the scoring when he intercepted a pass and converted from eight-yards out to cap off the scoring.

With Hoquiam up 3-0 and less than five minutes to play, Elma subbed some of its starters out of the game, including Hernandez, who received a round of applause while heading to the sidelines in the last game of his high school career.

Seaberg said it won’t be easy to move on from Hernandez next season.

“We’re going to miss him. We enjoyed having him and I think he’s the best goalkeeper in the league, hands down,” he said. “We didn’t always make things easy for him, but he’s just shown himself to be top notch year in and year out.”

Elma keeper AJ Hernandez makes a save in the second half against Hoquiam on Friday. (Hasani Grayson | Grays Harbor News Group)

Elma keeper AJ Hernandez makes a save in the second half against Hoquiam on Friday. (Hasani Grayson | Grays Harbor News Group)

Hoquiam will enter the tournament as the fourth seed from the District IV and will play either King’s Way Christian or Overlake.

The time and date of Hoquiam’s next game have not been announced yet. The Grizzlies will be on the road to face King’s Way Christian or Overlake (time and date to be determined).

Regardless of who they play next, Sanchez said the Grizzlies will have to do a better job possessing the ball in order to continue their postseason run.

“We have to better passing the ball and we have to keep the ball longer. If we want any chance at state against a really good team we need to keep the ball longer or we’re going to be defending most of the game.”

Elm 0 0 – 0

Hoquiam 1 2 – 3

Top Players: Garcia (G, 7th minute), Darras (G, 65th minute) Johnson (G, 73rd minute)