Photo by Trinity Potter
Eatonville's Payton Hanly (7) celebrates with Max Henley after Henley ran down Hoquiam quarterback Zander Jump, dropping him for a loss and forcing another Hoquiam punt in the Cruisers’ 42-7 win Thursday.
Photo by Trinity Potter Eatonville's Payton Hanly (7) celebrates with Max Henley after Henley ran down Hoquiam quarterback Zander Jump, dropping him for a loss and forcing another Hoquiam punt in the Cruisers’ 42-7 win Thursday.

After being sidelined for the last two weeks because of game cancelations, the Eatonville Cruiser football team took out their frustrations on visiting Hoquiam to the tune of a 42-7 shellacking of the Grizzlies to clinch a share of the 1A Evergreen Conference title on Thursday night.

The defense limited Hoquiam to 41 yards of offense in the first half and 134 yards total. They forced six punts, a fumble and intercepted the Grizzlies once.

“The defense collectively executed at a high level,” defensive coordinator Rex Norris said. “There was a lot of communication, and they tackled well in space. Some of the top performances were Max Henley at linebacker. He had some key plays and physical tackles for loss, as well as a sack. The entire secondary played well. Ky Nation was a physical presence in the alley with his tackling, and Riley Hill, as well as Walker Bruun made some big plays with broken-up passes and an interception to stop a drive. The defensive line was much improved, with Tristen Lewis anchoring the line and finishing with a sack.

“The goal was to get out there and stop them early and keep giving the ball back to the offense,” Norris added. “We did a good job of that, especially in the first half."

The win secures a share of the 1A Evergreen Conference title with Tenino and Montesano. The conference tie-breaker system was used to determine seeding into the district playoffs. Eatonville will be the No. 3 seed, with Tenino receiving the No. 1 and Montesano the No. 2 seeds.

The Cruisers scored on six of their seven possessions in the first half before letting their foot off the gas late in the second quarter. Running back Dylan Norman rushed for more than 100 yards for the fourth straight game after being sidelined due to an injury suffered against Tenino.

“Having Dylan back healthy is very important to our team,” coach Gavin Kralik said. “It's not just his play. He also elevates the performance of those around him. Walker played well, also, and it is nice to be able to rotate fresh backs that bring a little different skill set to opposing defenses.”

Eatonville opened the scoring floodgates when it marched 55 yards on its first possession for a score. Quarterback Job Kralik kept the ball and bounced outside the left side of the offensive line and into the end zone to give the Cruisers a 7-0 lead.

After Hoquiam's next drive was stalled at the Grizzlies’ 29-yard line and they were forced to punt, the Cruisers marched 78 yards and capped the drive off by handing the ball off to Nation on a jet sweep. Nation outraced the defense 33 yards to extend the Cruiser lead to 14-0.

Following another Grizzlies’ punt that set the Cruisers up with good field position, Eatonville only needed to go 35 yards. This drive was capped with a Dylan Norman 5-yard carry for the score. Eatonville led 21-0 as the first quarter came to an end.

Following another Hoquiam punt, the Cruisers wasted no time putting together a five-play, 60-yard drive resulting in another Kralik touchdown run from 4 yards out to put the Cruisers up 28-0.

A Bruun interception put the Cruisers back in business at the Eatonville 36-yard line, where it only took five plays to find the end zone. Bruun got the call and carried the ball in untouched from the 7-yard line for the score. Eatonville then led 35-0 with 6:04 left in the half.

Another Hoquiam punt gave the Cruisers good field position again, this time at the Hoquiam 33-yard line. One play later, Bruun took the Kralik hand-off to the house to put the Cruisers up 42-0 with 4:08 left in the second quarter.

With Eatonville leading 42-0 in the first half, both coaches agreed to enact the running clock rule, which usually goes into effect when a team is up by 40 points or more in the second half.

A timely sack by Eatonville’s Max Henley forced a Grizzly punt that set the Cruisers up at their 42-yard line. A few plays later, a sloppy pitch to the running back resulted in a fumble that Hoquiam recovered at the Cruiser 41-yard line. The Grizzlies only had time for one play, an incomplete pass as the game clock expired on the first half with Eatonville holding a commanding 42-0 lead.

With the Cruisers receiving the kickoff to start the second half, Kralik opted for his team to kick to Hoquiam, instead.

Starting at the 35-yard line, the Grizzlies fumbled the ball at their 48-yard line, and Eatonville's Boedy Porter fell on it.

Eatonville's backups were unable to move the ball and punted the ball back to Hoquiam.

Set up at their 20-yard line, the Grizzlies strung together a 13-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a Zander Jump-to-Owen McNeill 24-yard yard touchdown reception to erase the Cruiser shutout at 42-7.

Following a Colton Herbrand 20-yard kick return, the Cruisers wound down the clock on the ground on their way to the 42-7 victory.

Norman led the team rushing with 136 yards and a touchdown — and rushing more than 100 yards meant his offensive line got doughnuts again on Monday. Bruun rushed for 50 yards and two touchdowns. Job Kralik scored twice for the Cruisers, and Nation carried the ball once for 33 yards and a touchdown.

The Cruisers will hit the road and travel to the TriCo’s No. 2 team, the Castle Rock Rockets, for a 7 p.m. matchup Friday in a winner-to-state, loser-out contest.

“Castle Rock is 7-2 and going to be a big challenge next week,” Kralik said. “They will spread you out defensively and have the ability to present challenges in both the running and passing games. They are diverse in how they attack opposing offenses with their defensive scheme. We have a big challenge ahead of us, and we look forward to the opportunity.”

Norris agreed that Castle Rock will present a challenge to the Cruisers. 

“Castle Rock will be motivated to show why they have won seven games in front of a home crowd,” he said. “They are athletic at the skill positions and challenge our ability to defend the entire field. They have had a lot of success both running and passing the ball. This will be the fourth team we will play with seven wins or more.”