WALLA WALLA - A Friday night contest at playoff-bound Eisenhower will provide the Wa-Hi Blue Devil football team with one final opportunity to post a 2011 victory over a Big Nine Conference 4A opponent.
As they have in most of their matchups this season, the winless Blue Devils will enter with a "huge challenge" awaiting them, according to coach Eric Hisaw.
The Cadets are coming off a playoff-clinching win at Richland last Friday night while Wa-Hi fell at Moses Lake, 22-12.
"We should have won," said Hisaw, who was slowed this week after undergoing shoulder surgery on Tuesday. "We didn't play the way we're capable of by any means. We let it slip away."
Wa-Hi contributed to its own demise by turning the ball over four times and committing seven penalties. It also failed on two extra-point attempts.
Though the end of the season is drawing near, daily practices remained spirited this week, according to Hisaw.
"The kids flew around and did good things," Hisaw said. "They were making plays and trying to get better."
Eisenhower enters Friday's game with the Big Nine's top offense. It leads the league in both passing yards (2,536) and points scored (331).
The Cadets are led by quarterback Kolney Cassel, who ranks second in the league in completions (125), passing attempts (217), yards (2,175), total offense (2,131) and touchdown passes (20). He has thrown just five interceptions.
Cassel did not play against Richland, but backup Jason Easter completed 25-of-35 passes for 296 yards and three scores as Ike rallied from an eary two-touchdown deficit.
Other key contributors are running back Trevon Harris and wide receiver Denzel Jones. They rank first and second in the Big Nine in scoring (19 and 18 touchdowns, respectively). Jones leads the league with 65 receptions, 1,232 receiving yards, and 1,596 all-purpose yards. Harris' 873 yards rushing is third best in the conference.
Wa-Hi's Jonah Hoe, who rushed for 239 yards against Moses Lake, leads Big Nine ball carriers with 1,146 yards.
"They run the ball well and have the best quarterback in the league," Hisaw said. "We'll have to play a perfect game (to beat them).
"We need to play them as hard as we can," Hisaw said. "We haven't backed down from a team all year and we're not going to back down from this team either."
The long season has taken a physical toll on the Blue Devils, but Hisaw said his team has responded well.
"We're as banged up as we've been all year," Hisaw said. "That's part of the game.
"The kids are resilient," Hisaw said. "They're excited to be around each other."
Sophomore middle linebacker Stuart Gillin and junior Logan Reardon, a quick guard on offense and a lineman on defense, are anxious to accept the task at hand.
"We're not going to give up," said Gillin, who missed the first half of the season with a fractured left fibula. "We're going to fight to the last minute of the last game for our coaches and our teammates, especially the seniors."
"We need to put a whole game together, not just a half," said Reardon. "We need to come out sharp. We need to come into this game strong. We're not going to lay down and do nothing. We want to win."
Game time is 7:30 on Friday.
"This is a tough league," Hisaw said. "That is what's great about it. You'll always have a chance to see where you're at."