WALLA WALLA - As Wa-Hi enters Homecoming Friday, the Blue Devils know there is more on the line than school pride after a loss in their league opener against Wenatchee.
On the other hand is Chiawana (3-0, 1-0), behind its high-octane offense, led by the ground and air attack of 6-foot, 195 pound junior running back Jordan Downing and explosive junior wide receiver Miquiyah Zamora (6-1, 205).
Zamora will also start at defensive back and likely be placed on leading Big Nine receiver junior Moe Handcox (5-10, 160), who has hauled in 20 balls in three games.
"They got a lot of weapons that we have to respect," said Wa-Hi head coach Mike Gobel. "They got an amazing back in Jordan Downing, and no one has been able to slow him down, so that's a major focus defensively. We want to make them beat us with the pass."
In what could be a track meet evening of football, Downing, the Big Nine leader with 666 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns, figures to be a focal point for the Riverhawks. Chiawana ranks second overall in league play with 1,260 total yards, while Wa-Hi (1-2, 0-1) ranks third with 1,160 yards on a league-leading 195 plays from scrimmage.
"We've been putting the guys in the right places," Gobel said. "It's just a matter of them making the plays we need them to make. That was the major difference for us last week."
Quarterbacks Matt Watson (sr., 6-1, 205) for the Blue Devils and Luc Graff (sr., 6-1, 190) of Chiawana also bring gaudy numbers into the contest, ranking second and third in Big Nine play through three weeks.
"I'm focused on watching the game and my reads," said Wa-Hi lineman Simon Quackenbush. "The biggest thing from our perspective is to limit mistakes, but still have the passion that we need to win."
Chiawana, coming off its inaugural 1-6 Big Nine season and playing with seniors for the first time, is led defensively by senior linebacker Nicholas Vincent (6-2, 205), a first team selection on the 2009 Cascade Division's all-star list. However, Vincent and his Riverhawk mates have to contain Handcox - and the two-headed monster of Jonah Hoe (soph., 5-9, 160) and mobile signal caller Watson, the current top dog in Big Nine total offense, who are the only duo in the Big Nine to each top 200 yards thus far.
"We've been coming out, playing extra hard," said linebacker Brett Christina. "Gobel told to focus on the game and not get too caught up in the distractions coming into the game, and I think we've done that. We know this is a big game because we don't want to be in an 0-2 hole since that makes it a difficult road to the playoffs."
Ultimately, the game may come down to the Blue Devils fixing a shaky defense which has allowed more than 400 yards a night in its first three tilts, as opposed to Chiawana, which has only allowed 237.7.
"It's at home, and it's a league game, and it's Homecoming so all that adds up," Gobel said. "This has been a week where we know it's important for our players to have some fun, but they have also very dedicated on the practice field. Hopefully, everything will turn out well on Friday."
Big Nine Conference
Team League W-L Overall W-L
Kamiakin 1-0 3-0
Southridge 1-0 1-2
Eastmont 1-0 1-2
Hanford 1-0 1-2
Kennewick 0-1 2-1
Sunnyside 0-1 1-2
West Valley 0-1 1-2
Pasco 0-1 0-3
Chiawana 1-0 3-0
Davis 1-0 3-0
Wenatchee 1-0 3-0
Richland 0-0 3-0
Eisenhower 0-1 2-1
Walla Walla 0-1 1-2
Moses Lake 0-1 0-3
Sept. 17 Scores
Chiawana 49, Eisenhower 26
Wenatchee 27, Walla Walla 7
Davis 51, Moses Lake 21
Richland 34, Evergreen 17
Southridge 21, Sunnyside 12
Hanford 21, West Valley 12
Kamiakin 44, Pasco 6
Eastmont 13, Kennewick 10
Eastmont at Southridge, 7:30 p.m.
Chiawana at Walla Walla, 7:30 p.m.
Wenatchee at Moses Lake, 7:30 p.m.
Davis at Richland, 7:30 p.m.
Evergreen at Eisenhower, 7:30 p.m.
Sunnyside at West Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Hanford at Pasco, 7:30 p.m.
Kamiakin at Kennewick, 7:30 p.m.