Rested Blue Devils need homecoming win against Richland

Wa-Hi may tweak its starting lineups as the Blue Devils look for a spark against Richland.

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WALLA WALLA - Wa-Hi and Richland have one thing in common heading into their Big Nine Conference 4A football game Friday night at Borleske Stadium.

The two sides need a win in the worst way. Wa-Hi, to at least break into the victory column, and Richland, to keep its hopes for the postseason alive.

The Blue Devils, 0-3 in league and 0-5 overall, should enter the contest - which is both their Homecoming and final regular-season home game - well rested after a bye.

Richland comes to town with momentum after a 24-0 victory over Wenatchee last week, a triumph that raised its marks to 1-2 and 4-2.

"We got some good work done and gave the kids Friday off," Wa-Hi coach Eric Hisaw said of the bye week. "They did everything that was asked of them. We got healthy and had a good practice on Monday.

"We've got guys competing for spots," Hisaw said. "Competition is a good thing. We've made the kids more attentive to detail. They have done a nice job getting back to work."

There is no doubt in the head Blue Devils' mind that his team should have a winning record at this point in the season.

"I told the kids we should be 3-2," Hisaw said. "We should have beaten Hermiston, Wenatchee and Davis. People may disagree, but that's my honest opinion."

It is possible that Wa-Hi's starting lineups on offense and defense could be tweaked this week, according to Hisaw, though he would not elaborate.

"We want to see if we can create a spark," Hisaw said. "The kids are rallying around one another. We're trying to get our best kids on the field and make the most of it."

Richland sports the league's top defense. The Bombers are first in rushing yards allowed (598) and third defending the pass (1,006 yards). Offensively, Richland is fifth overall - No. 2 in rushing (1,031 yards) and fourth when passing (1,015 yards).

Bomber running backs B.K. Robinson and Cameron Simpson are fifth and sixth in the league, respectively, in the rushing department. Robinson, who ranks fifth in the Big Nine with 50 points scored and seventh in all-purpose yards (621), has run for 496 yards and Simpson 432. Both runners have carried the ball 80 times.

Receiver Elijah Gardaya leads Richland with 28 receptions, good for 451 yards and a pair of scores. Colter Quick, who has played quarterback for much of the year, has accounted for 841 yards of total offense.

Quarterback Zach Whitby completed 15-of-20 pass for 192 yards against Wenatchee.

"They're doing a good job of controlling the clock, so opponents are not getting as many snaps," Hisaw said. "They like to run the ball. Their backs are physical. Their offense is similar to (ours). They'll line up in an off-set I or in trips (with three receivers flanked to one side).

"On defense, they are strong, physical and hostile," Hisaw said. "It's going to be a good challenge for us - our rushing offense against their rushing defense."

Two of the Wa-Hi seniors suiting up Friday for their final home encounter are fullback and linebacker Matt Wickham, and Matt Rothstrom, a quick guard on offense and defensive end.

"I didn't even think about that," Wickham said of his last game at Borleske Stadium. "It's going to hit me afterward. Everyone's working a lot harder. We're coming together a lot better."

"We're feeling good about this week," Rothstrom said. "I'm confident in our abilities offensively and defensively, and (doing) our jobs at every level. We've got to end on a strong note."

Hisaw agrees.

"I hope (the seniors) get caught up in the emotion the right way," Hisaw said. "It's always a special day."

Game time is 7:30.

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