WALLA WALLA - It will be another week before the Wa-Hi Blue Devils host Big Nine Conference 4A rival Richland in their final regular-season home game at Borleske Stadium.
But minus the shortened practice sessions - from two hours to 90 minutes - it was business as usual for the Blue and White this week despite the bye prior to the Homecoming contest.
"There was no reason to take days off," Wa-Hi coach Eric Hisaw said. "We had another great film session. The kids are fun to be around. We were better (last) week than we were (the previous) week."
It could be argued that Wa-Hi, 0-3 in league and 0-5 overall, has moved in a positive direction. That despite the fact that the lopsided score of last Friday's loss to Davis - 41-16 - would suggest otherwise. The Blue Devils held a 7-0 lead late in the second quarter before the Pirates tallied three touchdowns in the final four-plus minutes of the period to take control of the game and a 14-point bulge, 21-7, into halftime.
"That's the team we are," Hisaw said of the first 19 minutes of the Davis game. "But we haven't had the ability to turn the corner. We can't make a big play for whatever reason. We need to create our own bounces and we're not doing that right now. The kids know what to do. They need to learn to do things a little better - play smarter and harder."
The bye week has provided opportunities for review, teaching, skill development and installing new wrinkles in both the offensive and defensive blueprints, Hisaw said.
"We need to be better coaches, better teachers," Hisaw said. "The kids are buying in and trying to show us they're coachable. Without skill development, players can't fit into the schematic process of what we're trying to do."
Hisaw's message to those who stray from buying in is simple.
"If you come to practice not thinking you can win the next three games (vs. Richland Oct. 14, at Moses Lake Oct. 21, and at Eisenhower Oct. 28), you need to re-evaluate," Hisaw said.
Among the seniors who will be playing their last home contest next Friday night are tight end Rob Ferenz and offensive guard Joel McClure.
"We played really well against Davis," said Ferenz, who moved to his current assignment after playing offensive right guard last season. "Then we gave up two or three big plays and went flat. But we didn't stop fighting."
McClure said the offensive linemen entered the season with high expectations and are beginning to work well together. That perhaps was reflected by the season-best 392 yards the Blue Devils gained against Davis, which went into the game as the league's third-ranked defense.
Next week's opponent is tough and well-coached, McClure said. But he expressed confidence that the Blue Devils can pick up their first win of 2011.
"We can beat them. There is no doubt in my mind," said McClure, who lines up on the strong side of Wa-Hi's offensive front. "But we can't take any plays off. Everyone has to work. That's how you win games."