WALLA WALLA - Wa-Hi's football team is geared up for another crack at breaking into the Big Nine win column Friday as the Blue Devils travel to Richland in an attempt to end a three-game losing streak.
The team's bye week gave Wa-Hi (1-4, 0-3) the chance to focus on working on their slumping offense, while getting healthier before a match up with the physical Bombers (5-1, 2-1).
"We know they're a run team," said Wa-Hi head coach Mike Gobel. "We know they stack the box to try to stop the run too. We've had time to watch film and gear up for what they are going to do."
Senior running back Jake McKinney (6-2, 200) leads Richland's rushing attack, having already amassed 1,007 yards on the ground this season in the team's first six games, while junior back B.K. Robinson has added 247 rushing yards.
"We are focused on stopping the run more than anything," said Wa-Hi senior linebacker and running back Justin Hutcherson. "We got a little rest this weekend, but we really worked hard in practice last week, and we've been doing the same this week."
Richland is fresh off a 31-19 win over Wenatchee to place the Bombers in third place in the Big Nine.
Richland's success is, in large part, due to their league-leading defense, which has only allowed 195.7 yards per game and a mere 3.71 yards per play. Richland also surrends less than 12 points per contest.
"We have spent a lot of our off week working on the offensive line and on our assignments," Gobel said. "I think we have gotten better about our pass protection, and that will be key against Richland."
Richland is quarterbacked by 6-foot, 3-inch senior Colter Quick, who has passed for 462 yards and five touchdowns thus far. but the Bombers do not have a receiver in the top 10 in yardage or receptions.
"We've been focusing on our effort and our techniques to handle a team like Richland," said Wa-Hi senior lineman Gerald Maib. "We've really just been working on being a better team, but beating Richland would be pretty sweet for us because this is my last game against them, and it would be nice to be able to talk a little bit to them when the season is over."
If Richland does stack the box against Wa-Hi, it may give the Blue Devils the chance to focus more on incorporating junior, wide out Moe Handcox, who was passed as the Big Nine's top receiver during the Blue Devils bye week, into the offensive flow.
"We're not coming out here thinking, if they want to stop the run then we have to pass," Gobel said. "The nice thing about a bye week is that it gives you ample time to prepare, but it also gives you time to really take a little look backward and see what you've done and just work on your team."
The Blue Devils are focused on maintaining balance on the offensive side of the ball, which could prove difficult against Richland, but Gobel remains confident.
"We want to be a 50-50 offense as far as how we pick up yardage, even if that doesn't mean that we run and pass an equal number of plays," Gobel said. "Over the last week we have gotten back to that, and I'm very pleased with how we are progressing. Even if the scores in our last few games didn't show it, we're getting better, and that's our main goal."