WALLA WALLA — Wa-Hi’s offense ran head-on into a classic character-building moment on the gridiron during Friday’s Big Nine Conference football playoff game against Moses Lake at Borleske Stadium.
The Blue Devils, who had played catch-up for nearly 43 of the game’s 48 minutes, still trailed 7-6 with 5:39 to play.
Wa-Hi’s Austin Schilling had scored on a 43-yard run in the second quarter, but the Chiefs’ Brian Chamberlain blocked the extra-point try to maintain a one-point lead.
Worse than that, Wa-Hi faced a fourth down with 10 yards to go for a first down.
Finally, the Blue Devils needed to move the ball 38 yards to wrest the lead from the hard-hitting Chiefs.
Punt the ball away, and the explosive Chiefs could very well score again or run out the clock.
Wa-Hi probably had one more chance to stay in the game and keep its regionalDe playoff hopes alive.
So, Michael Weisher drilled a 20-yard, first-down pass over the middle into the mid-section of a sliding Colton Arias, who saw his first action since suffering a leg injury at West Valley nearly a month ago.
Then, with a first down on the Chiefs’ 18-yard line, Gary Winston took a Weisner handoff and raced behind a wall of blue-clad blockers for the go-ahead touchdown and a 12-7 lead.
Wa-Hi’s solid defensive effort over the final five minutes sealed the 12-7 margin.
"It’s amazing to be back," a sweaty Arias said. "These last two weeks were just killing me. I was just aching to get back in, and it’s great.
"At halftime the coaches mentioned that play," he said about the first-down pass play. "They saved it for the time when we needed it. It worked perfect.
"And it was a great pass," Arias added. "Mike has been throwing good all season, and the line is protecting him. I’ve got the easy job."
And Winston saw the play, if successful, as a harbinger of Blue Devil success.
"As soon as we called that play, we knew that if Colton caught it, that we could win this game," Winston said. "And sure enough we did."
Winston ran the ball four times for 18 yards, including one 12-yard loss.
"I just kept getting hit," Winston said. "I hadn’t been hit all year. It was surprising. They were playing a crazy defense, but I knew sooner or later it wouldn’t work.
"And the reverse finally worked," he continued. "In the Richland game it didn’t work very well. When Moe (Handcox) ran it (Friday), it didn’t have that much success. But it worked when we needed it to.
"The blocking made the play," Winston insisted. "It’s actually Eric Eastman’s touchdown. My name shouldn’t be in the paper for that. Eric Eastman got the touchdown block right there."
Wa-Hi kicked off, and Moses Lake started at its 34-yard line with 5:02 left to play. The Chiefs ran eight plays, suffered one 10-yard holding penalty, one sack, and turned the ball over on downs with 3:18 left.
Wa-Hi then ran out the clock to book the win and a ticket to Yakima against Eisenhower next week.
On its final series, the Chiefs quarterback Dylan Signorella attempted six passes and completed two.
Wa-Hi senior defensive back Jake Crawford drew the chore of hounding a top Big Nine receiver, Jimmy Molina (six catches for 50 yards for the game).
Crawford allowed Molina to snare one 5-yard reception on the Chiefs’ final offensive series.
"I was a little bit worried that we scored with two much time left, and that they would come back and score," a smiling Crawford said " I knew that guy (Molina) was pretty good. They’d been throwing to him the whole game.
"Those quick passes are tough to defend, but I’m glad we won," he added. "This was a big game. It was really cool. It was good to see Colton come back and have a catch like that. It’s big time.
"It was a great win," Crawford said. "We were trying to figure out how to stop them, and we did there at the end. We got some big stops. And Mike (Weisner) did a heck of a job. It was good."
The Chiefs scored first when Signorelli passed 27 yards to Mitchell Hill for a 7-0 lead with 8:05 on the first-quarter clock.
Wa-Hi’s Austin Schilling drew the Blue Devils to within a point with his 43-yard TD scamper with 11:02 left in the first half.
Schilling bagged the game’s top rushing honors with 18 carries for 110 net yards. Wa-Hi netted 162 yards rushing and 90 yards passing.
Weisner completed 8-of-14 passes with one interception for Wa-Hi.
Arias, Winston and Handcox each caught two Winston passes for 25, 27 and 34 yards, respectively.
Brandon Lublin led Moses Lake’s 83-yard rushing game with 57 yards on 18 carries.
Signorelli went 11-for-21 for 87 yards with one interception.
Wa-Hi stopped Signorelli for a loss of 22 yards.
Wa-Hi’s Brandon Porter had two sacks, and Zac Meyer and Morgan Maddess had one each.
"What a great football team we beat tonight," a happy Wa-Hi coach Marc Yonts said. "I was worried. They’re explosive. They’re great on defense. They’re well coached. And they hit. They’re a physical football team.
"And I’m really impressed with the way our kids kept going toe-to-toe with them," Yonts said. "We were already a tough football team, but I think we got a lot tougher tonight playing a tough football team like that and getting the win.
"The kids just kept battling," Yonts said. "It was a tough one because it was so hard to get anything going offensively.
"They’re playing this bend-but-don’t-break defense, but at the same time they’re not bending very much," Yonts said. "They’re doing a good job. Hat’s off to them. They’re a great defensive team.
"I thought we played really, really well at the end of the game when we had to," Yonts said. "Obviousley that last series was a big, big series. The kids were tired, and they were still getting a pass rush. That quarterback is great. I wouldn’t want to face him every night."
Moses Lake 7 0 0 0 — 7
Wa-Hi 0 6 0 6 — 12
ML — Hill 27 pass from Signirelli Signoirelli kick).
WW — Schilling 43 run (kick blocked).
WW — Winston 18 run (run failed).
First downs 10 14
Rushes/yards 29-83 39-162
Passing yards 87 90
Passes (att-comp-int) 21-11-q 14-8-1
Punts 5-26.6 2-38
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 3-30 0-0
RUSHING — Moses Lake: Lublin 18-56, Koon 1-0, Hill 3-27, Signorelli 7-3; Wa-Hi: Schilling 18-110, Porter 8-17, Weisner 6-29, Winston 4-6, Handcox 1-2.
PASSING — Moses Lake: Signorelli 11-21-1, 87 yards 1 TD; Wa-Hi: Weisner 8-14-1, 57 yards, 1 TD.
RECEIVING — Moses Lake: Molina 6-50-0, Hill 3-23-1, Johnson 1-9-0; Wa-Hi: Arias 2-25-0, Winsto n 2-27-0,