Blue Devils face familiar opening nemesis on gridiron

Hermiston, which heads to Borleske Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday, has defeated Wa-Hi to open the last two football seasons.

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WALLA WALLA - Wa-Hi opens its 2011 football campaign Friday night at Borleske Stadium against a non-league opponent that has been a nemesis the last two seasons.

Hermiston began its 2010 schedule with a 32-17 home triumph over the Blue Devils.

The Bulldogs trekked to Walla Walla to begin the 2009 season and upended Wa-Hi, 27-23.

The previous three meetings were claimed by the Blue Devils - 14-10 in 2008, 35-14 in 2007, and 50-28 in 2006. Wa-Hi's 2008 and 2006 victories were claimed in Hermiston.

Despite the Bulldogs' recent run of good fortune, Wa-Hi coach Eric Hisaw said this week that any thoughts of payback have not filtered into Blue Devil practices.

"No one's brought up revenge," Hisaw said. "The staff is looking at what we need to get done. It's about us and what we're trying to accomplish.

"The staff has been unbelievable," Hisaw said. "They love being around these kids."

The Blue Devils will be "relatively healthy" going into the game and are starting to grasp both offensive and defensive concepts, Hisaw said.

"The kids are starting to get the focused idea of attending to detail," Hisaw said. "They're constantly talking about their assignments. They're starting to plug in, (asking) pertinent questions and starting to think about the next part of the play. I love that part of it. That's when you start to really learn.

"The heat has been tough on them, but it will make them tougher mentally," Hisaw said. "We've told them it's okay to hurt and to keep playing through it. The kids have handled it absolutely tremendously."

One Blue Devil that is anxious to get 2011 started is veteran wide receiver and cornerback Blake Rowley.

"Everybody's working hard," the 5-foot-8, 140-pound senior said. "Our effort is on the need to get things smoother offensively and quicker reads defensively."

Quarterback Dakota Turner will be making his first varsity start on Friday night. The junior, who stands 5-9 and tips the scales at 170 pounds, is both excited and nervous.

"We've been preparing for this all summer," Turner said. "We've been putting in all the hard work. Everything is coming together.

"We've put last year behind us," Turner said of a 2010 season in which the Blue Devils finished tied for sixth in the Big Nine Conference's 4A standings and 2-7 overall. "We have a new offense and a new defense. We're putting in the fine details right now.

"We have a great group of guys out here," Turner said. "We're working our way up together."

Game time is 7:30.

"It will be a heck of an opener to see where we're at," Hisaw said. "It will be a good test for us. (Hermiston will) be ready to play. There's no question about that."

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