WALLA WALLA - Wa-Hi may be 0-2 in the early stages of the 2011 high school football season, but you wouldn't have known it if you had been on the Walla Walla High School campus this week for any of the team's practice sessions leading up to Friday's Big Nine Conference Class 4A opener with 2-0 Wenatchee at Borleske Stadium.
"We had a great practice Monday," said Wa-Hi coach Eric Hisaw, whose team is coming off a 42-22 loss to Southridge last Friday night in Kennewick. "These kids are so resilient. I wish I knew why. Maybe it's just in their DNA. The kids are trying like crazy to get things done. It's going to happen for us.
"Against Southridge, we were four or five plays away from a closer game," Hisaw said. "Southridge is a good football team. They are explosive, tough and well coached."
Two of Hisaw's starters - senior Blake Rowley and junior Paul Trapani - are focused on the Panthers and determined to put the immediate past behind them.
"We're excited for league play and playing at home," said Rowley, a wide receiver and defensive back. "We need to come out more prepared and with more passion than we've had the past couple of weeks. Our goal is to play four quarters of consistent football."
"We have a good chance this Friday," Trapani, a starting strong-side linebacker, said. "We're trying to get back to working on and keeping up our endurance, and playing all four quarters as hard as we possibly can. We're itching for that first win.
"We're putting our heart and soul into it," Trapani said. "Guys are stepping up, trying to be leaders, and affecting the team positively."
On the injury front, offensive lineman and middle linebacker Logan Reardon will return to the starting lineup this week after missing the Southridge game with a high ankle sprain - a misfortune he suffered late in the fourth quarter of the Blue Devils' season opener with Hermiston. Reardon will move from strong guard to quick tackle when Wa-Hi is on offense, Hisaw said.
Running back and linebacker Stuart Gillen, sidelined by a tibia fracture in late August, "may be a week away" from suiting up for game action, Hisaw said.
Wenatchee defeated Southridge (18-17) and Eastmont (40-19) in its first two games.
In the latest conquest, running back Spencer Smith gained 147 yards on just eight carries and scored two touchdowns.
Quarterback Dillon Sugg completed 7-of-14 passes for 125 yards and two scores against Eastmont. Six-foot-6 receiver Connor Black registered five receptions for 79 yards and Isaiah Brandt-Sims, the reigning state track champion in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes, received two tosses for 46 yards.
Each receiver tallied a touchdown.
"They are in a great rhythm right now," Hisaw said. "They have kids you have to account for."
The Panthers run a 3-4 defense that has been effective the first two weeks. Both Southridge and Eastmont averaged less than three yards per rushing attempt.
"They do a good job of keeping things in front of them," Hisaw said. "They don't give anything away."
Game time Friday night is 7:30.
"Wenatchee is good," Rowley said. "They have talented players, are disciplined, and know how to win. But I believe if we play our best, we'll be able to beat them."
"The kids have a good mindset," Hisaw said. "They've done a good job of putting (the 0-2 start) behind them and looking forward to the task at hand."