By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News
Want more top stories? Sign up here for daily or weekly newsletters with our top news.
However, the Spartans were eliminated from the postseason because the rest of the Evergreen 1A League continued its crazy season.
To make the playoffs, Forks (3-3, 4-5) needed a win over the Grizzlies and a loss by defending 1A state-champion Montesano, which is having a down year.
The Bulldogs, though, went on the road and upset Elma 42-14.
After Friday's game, though, the Spartans were more focused on what they accomplished than missing out on the district playoffs.
“It feels awesome,” Forks senior running back Brett Pederson said of the win.
“The whole time I've been in school here at Forks, all four years, no one won senior night until this year.
“It sucks we didn't go all the way, but, I mean, we did what a lot of previous classes haven't.”
Despite the 10-7 final, the game was a back-and-forth affair filled with big plays as well as turnovers.
The Spartans ran for 302 yards, which featured nine runs over 10 yards, five over 20 yards and two over 40 yards.
Miguel Moroles led the team with 107 yards on eight carries. The big running back had runs of 13, 20, 18 and 43 yards.
Dimitri Sampson was Forks' workhorse, though, finishing with 95 yard on 20 rushes.
Sampson 5-yard run with 8:34 remaining in the game ended up being the game-winning touchdown.
Pederson picked up 50 yards on nine carries, and wide receiver Reece Hagan had a 42-yard run on a third down-and-11 play. Reece Moody took the snap, handed it to Sampson, who handed it to a crossing Hagan.
The run not only picked up a first down, it advanced the Spartans from deep in their own territory to Hoquiam's side of the field with three minutes left in the game.
“That's our criss-cross,” Forks coach Mark Feasel said.
“It's a counter to our Wingback, and it's been good all year.
“It caught them off-guard. [Defenses] have to flow so hard to our running backs, and you've got to have counters to answer back.
“We usually save that for later in the game. All year, that's been a huge play for us.”
Hoquiam's Devin Kelly ran the ball 23 times for 211 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown run in which he initially appeared stopped for a 5 or 6 yard loss before breaking through and then winning a race to the end zone.
That second-quarter touchdown gave the Grizzlies a 7-3 lead at halftime.
Kelly had six runs over 10 yards — and three over 20 yards — but the Forks defense held him to three yards or less 12 times, and only 51 of his yards came after halftime.
But with the score so close, Kelly was a threat to alter the game every time he touched the ball.
Unfortunately, he was a bit of a one-man show, as the rest of the Grizzlies combined for 43 yards rushing.
On the rare occasions Hoquiam dropped back to pass, a Forks defender often broke through the line of scrimmage to harass quarterback Jeff Capoeman.
“[That was us] just working hard,” Spartans defensive end Leo Gonzales said.
“Trying to play faster, play stronger than the offensive line.”
Javier Contreras picked off two passes for Forks, and both were big plays.
He returned his first pick 97 yards for a touchdown, but the return was called back due to a blocking penalty that appeared to happen 20 yards behind the play.
After missing part of the second half with an injury, Contreras returned to intercept a pass with two minutes left in the game that all but sealed the win.
The Spartans moved the ball well for most of the game, but struggled when they reached the red zone.
This was especially true in the third quarter, when Forks controlled the ball for nine minutes, but had both drives end with turnovers inside the Hoquiam 20-yard line.
The Spartans finished with four turnovers, two fumbles lost and two interceptions, and had a number of other fumbles that they managed to jump on.
“It doesn't feel dirty, it felt ugly, though,” Feasel said of the win.
“We made way more mistakes than they did — coughing the ball up, or the 97-yard interception return that was called back.
The Grizzlies (1-5, 2-7) made mistakes, too. They had three turnovers and a few crucial unsportsmanlike penalties helped set up Forks' only touchdown in the fourth quarter.
For Feasel, the beauty came from how his team responded to its errors.
“A couple plays, we kind of made some huge mistakes,” Feasel said.
“But we stepped up, we didn't let it affect us as much as it could have.
“As I told the kids, the way they stepped up to adversity tonight, I said, 'Take that to the rest of your life.'
“We had a bunch of plays that got called back or brought back or something that went bad, and the kids didn't let up, they just kept right on, kept right on, and put faith in each other.
“So, it was a really good way to end the season, no matter what happened with going to the playoffs or not.”
Winning for those 13 seniors, and winning what is likely their last game of the season, was more important after the game than what had happened in the Montesano game.
“Went out with a bang,” Sampson said.
“It was awesome. I love these guys.”
No game scheduled
Feasel doesn't anticipate the Spartans will find a game to play next week.
“Right now it's not in the plan. I'm kind of thinking the kids want to be done,” he said.
“We could set up another crossover game with someone. If the kids wanted to, we would, I just don't think that's going to be in the plans.
“I'm open-minded to it, I just don't think it's going to be in the plans.
“It's a pretty emotional time for those older guys.”
How strange was the Evergreen League this year?
With its win, Montesano goes from the brink of missing the postseason to the league's No. 2 seed at the district playoffs.
Montesano, Rochester and Elma all finished with 4-2 league records, and the Bulldogs held the tiebreaker.
Tenino (5-1) won its first league title since 1986.
Hoquiam, which went 12-1 last year, finished last with only one league win.
“Hoquiam, to give them 100 percent credit, that team at the beginning of the year was having a lot of trouble getting things going and getting stuff established, and boy, the last couple weeks, those guys have come on, and they're a great team,” Feasel said.
“This league is surprising every week in who's beating who. Every week's a different scenario. That's just a testament to how tough the league is.”
Sports Editor Lee Horton can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.