Entering the 1A Evergreen League matchup on Tuesday, March 22, the Montesano Bulldogs and Hoquiam Grizzlies were two boys soccer teams seemingly headed in opposite directions.
Montesano has impressed in its two wins this season, outscoring its opponents 10-0.
Hoquiam, meanwhile, had struggled through its three games thus far, allowing 26 goals in three shutout losses.
But a game that appeared to be one-sided on paper turned out to be anything but as it took two late Bulldogs goals to break a tie game and propel Montesano to a 3-1 win at Sea Breeze Oval in Hoquiam.
Early on, it seemed as though the game would proceed as scripted. Montesano (3-0 overall, 2-0 1A Evergreen) took a lead in the game’s opening minutes on a goal by Luke Clements.
But Hoquiam (0-4, 0-2) — a young squad with just two seniors — responded over the remainder of the first half. Playing on a soft and soggy home field, the Grizzlies were able to keep pace with Montesano and force the Bulldogs into their own third of the pitch for extended periods of time in the first half.
The Grizzlies’ effort paid off when junior midfielder Rene Garcia outran Montesano defenders to chase down a long through ball on a breakaway. Garcia calmly tucked a shot just inside the far post past Montesano keeper Jayden McElravy to tie the game at 1-1 in the 11th minute.
The game remained tied throughout the first half and well into the second half, with both teams getting offensive chances as the game became a chess match of midfield control with moments of attack and counter-attack play.
With just under 14 minutes left in the second half, McElravy drop-kicked a long clearance that bounced past the Hoquiam back line. Montesano’s Felix Romero outran the Grizzlies defenders to the ball and punched a shot into the back of the net for a goal, giving Monte a 2-1 lead.
Six minutes later, Montesano got a big insurance goal that was not without its share of controversy. The Bulldogs were awarded a corner kick, which was sent into the penalty area by Romero. Leaping Montesano midfielder Jiovanny Torres deflected the ball off his chest toward the far post. Hoquiam goalkeeper Carlos Perez Orozco dove and got his hand on the ball and swept it away just as it was crossing the goal line.
Despite Grizzlies players and coaches voicing their disagreement with the call, referees gave the goal to Montesano, giving the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead and all but securing the victory with 7:24 left to play.
“At first, I was just trying to head it in, but it was too low, so I just tried to make it go in,” said Torres, who immediately raised his hand as the ball crossed the line. “When I first saw it, (Perez Orozco) touched it from the inside (of the goal post), so I knew it was a goal. It was already in.”
“They played us tough and came out with fire,” Montesano head coach Fidel Sanchez said of the upstart Grizzlies — a program he previously guided before taking up the soccer coaching duties at Montesano a few years ago. “They’ve been getting beat by a lot, and then all of a sudden come out here and give us a really good game. Credit to them for working hard to take it to us and push us a little bit.”
Hoquiam head coach John Johnson thought his team played well enough to win, but the inability to finish chances ended up hurting his team.
“The whole first half, we controlled the ball and did really great. Our shots on-target just weren’t there,” he said. “Second half came and I think they just got distracted by their frustrations and let themselves kind of fall off their own game. I think that’s all that happened, honestly.”
But after seeing his team improve from 10-0 and 12-0 losses in its first two games to playing a more competitive brand of soccer, Johnson wants to make sure his players keep focused on the substantial improvements made and not so much the losses.
“We’re just trying to keep them all in a positive mindset,” he said. “Don’t pay attention to the bad things they did. Watch (on film) what they did that was good and keep moving with that. … This game was hard because they don’t see the progress I’m seeing. From game one until now, there is a huge amount of progress. They just need to see that and keep fighting for it. … By the end of the season, they are going to be a pretty good team. I have a lot of faith in them.”
Montesano 1 2 — 3
Hoquiam 1 0 — 1
First half — 1, Montesano, Clements, 4th minute. 2, Hoquiam, Garcia, 11th minute.
Second half — 3, Montesano, Romero (McElravy), 67th minute. 4, Montesano, Torres, 72nd minute.