RICHLAND - Wa-Hi's football season may not have ended like the Blue Devils had hoped with a 33-17 loss to Hanford in Richland Thursday, but the sixth-place Big Nine 4A representative showed no signs of quit in its finale.
The Blue Devils (2-7, 1-5) battled back from a 30-point, fourth-quarter deficit to score a pair of late touchdowns that put junior wide receiver Moe Handcox Jr. in the Wa-Hi history books.
By hauling in two scoring passes, Handcox pulled into a tie for the most career touchdown receptions in Wa-Hi history with 14 overall, including 11 this season.
"Moe has been exceptional all year long," said Wa-Hi head coach Mike Gobel. "It hasn't really mattered what opponents have thrown at him. He has found a way to be a factor, even when he's been dealing with double teams."
Hanford opened scoring with a march down the field for 68 yards that took less than two minutes and culminated with a 3-yard keeper by senior quarterback Riley Shintaffer.
The Blue Devils never recovered and Hanford led for the remaining 46 minutes.
"We came out here tonight to play hard no matter what," Shintaffer said. "It was a big night for our seniors, and now it's time for the juniors to take over."
Wa-Hi answered Hanford's opening drive with a 56-yard charge that ate up almost five minutes, but stalled and forced the Blue Devils to settle for a 21-yard Dean Atkinson field goal.
"I don't think we got off the bus ready tonight," Gobel said. "It was a combination of factors. It was a short week, and playing on Thursday is kind of weird. And it being the last game of the year could have also been part of the problem. Being on the road makes things a little tougher, too."
Hanford added to its lead with a field goal from Pete Hanson before the Falcons caught Wa-Hi flat-footed by shifting to the Wildcat formation on a fourth-and-goal to notch a 6-yard touchdown pass from running back Cameron Wagar to Lamar Bowser with 5:27 remaining in the second quarter.
The Falcons added another field goal before the half to make it a 19-3 spread at the intermission, which proved insurmountable for a Wa-Hi squad that struggled to move the ball on the ground for most of the night.
Conversely, the night was also one for the record books for Wagar, whose 151 yards on the ground established him as the top single-season rusher in Hanford history. He posted scoring runs from six yards and one yard out in the second half to put Hanford up 33-3.
However, sophomore Dakota Turner entered the game in the fourth quarter at quarterback and found Handcox for strikes from 25 and 68 yards to cut into the final spread.
"Dakota has been good for us all year when he has had the chance to get out there," Gobel said. "He has really helped out our varsity when we have needed him."
The crossover defeat sends the Blue Devils into the winter, but that doesn't mean Gobel isn't thinking about next year while he reflects on his first year running the show at Wa-Hi.
"There are a lot of positives to look back on with our team," Gobel said. "Our seniors weren't always our biggest play makers, but they were always excellent leaders and put for tremendous effort. We're going to get to work on next year and looking forward to continuing to improve heading forward."
Wa-Hi 3 0 0 14 - 17
Hanford 10 9 7 7 - 33
Han - Shintaffer 3-yard run (Hanson kick).
Wa-Hi - Atkinson 21-yard field goal.
Han - Hanson 33-yard field goal.
Han - Bowser 6-yard pass from Wagar (Kick failed).
Han - Hanson 28-yard field goal.
Han - Wagar 6-yard run (Hanson kick).
Han - Wagar 1-yard run (Hanson kick).
Wa-Hi - Handcox 25-yard pass from Turner (Atkinson kick).
Wa-Hi - Handcox 68-yard pass from Turner (Atkinson kick).
First downs 12 25
Rushes/yards 24-104 44-217
Passing yards 250 198
Passes (att-comp-int) 12-19-1 13-22-0
Punts 1-39 2-63
Fumbles-lost 4-3 0-0
Penalties-yards 5-31 8-74
RUSHING - Wa-Hi: Hoe 13-42, Robertson 9-38, Handcox 1-24; Turner 1-0; Han: Wagar 20-151, Shintaffer 8-21, McClendon 6-11, Devine 5-17, Bowser 4-16, Wilson 1-1.
PASSING - Wa-Hi: Robertson 6-11, Turner 6-8; Han: Shintaffer 12-21, Wagar 1-1.
RECEIVING - Wa-Hi: Eggers 5-52, Handcox 4-166, Hoe 3-32; Han: Snider 3-58, Bowser 3-54, Wager 2-31, McMichael 2-23, Oram 1-17, Lafon 1-8, Jones 1-7.