WALLA WALLA - Wenatchee backup quarterback Dillon Sugg completed just one of his first eight pass attempts Friday night in the Panthers' Big Nine Conference 4A football opener with Wa-Hi at Borleske Stadium.
But a pair of fourth-quarter tosses more than made up for it.
Sugg hit Connor Black for a 61-yard pitch and catch that set up a touchdown midway through the period and connected with Carson Grater for a gain of 29 yards that led to another score as the Panthers raised their overall record to 3-0 with a 38-17 triumph.
The loss dropped Wa-Hi to 0-3.
"They're good," Wa-Hi coach Eric Hisaw said of the Panthers. "We're so dang close. The kids are playing so hard. I love them to death. They're trying to do the right thing. This is the best game we've played all year."
Defensive tackle Zach McMakin gave the Blue Devils reason for hope on the game's first play from scrimmage when he pounced on a Wenatchee fumble at the Panthers' 37 yard-line.
Wa-Hi reached the Wenatchee 19, but moved no further.
The Panthers needed only six plays to cover 81 yards and tally the contest's first touchdown at the 8:04 mark of the first quarter. The final 58 yards of the series were gained on passes of 24 and 34 yards from starting quarterback Chris Woodard to wide receiver Isaiah Brandt-Sims.
Wenatchee took advantage of excellent field position on its next possession. Spencer Smith, who rushed 17 times for a game-high 159 yards, capped a 38-yard, five-play march with an 18-yard scoring run with 3:48 on the clock that gave the Panthers a 13-0 lead.
The Blue Devils responded with a march of 55 yards on 11 snaps. Dean Atkinson put Wa-Hi in the scoring column by kicking a 22-yard field goal with 40 seconds left in the quarter.
Brandt-Sims - the reigning Class 4A state champion in the 100- and 200-meter dashes - showcased his speed on the ensuing kickoff, blowing past initial pursuit and racing down the right sideline 72 yards to the Wa-Hi 14.
After a Sugg incompletion, Smith claimed his second score of the night to build the Wenatchee lead to 16, 19-3, with 14 seconds remaining in period one.
Wa-Hi sliced the deficit in half at the 5:53 mark of the second quarter. Jonah Hoe crossed the goal line from 1 yard out to end a 13-play drive in which the Blue Devils negotiated 60 yards - a third of which were gained on two defensive holding penalties. A Hoe rush for the 2-point conversion brought the score to 19-11.
The Blue Devils' defense denied Wenatchee on a couple of red-zone chances in the late stages of the second quarter. Wa-Hi brought one possession to an end at its 8 and the latter on its 5.
Each team booted a field goal in the third quarter. Woodard split the uprights from 26 yards out and Atkinson was successful on a 39-yard try.
Atkinson brought Wa-Hi within five points, 22-17, with a 25-yard field goal at the 10:53 mark of the final frame.
The Blue Devils heightened the enthusiasm of their sideline and fans after recovering a pooch boot on the ensuing kickoff at the Panthers' 41.
But two penalties helped to squelch Wa-Hi's momentum.
The Blue Devils had Wenatchee in a third-and-26 hole at the Panther 35 before Sugg found Black over the middle for the game's longest advance.
"That was a huge play," Hisaw said. "That's life. We need to make plays. We didn't make enough of them. We seem to make the one little mistake at the wrong time."
"He (Black) called that play," Wenatchee coach Scott Devereaux said of the wheel route. "He said the play was there."
Tyler Lyon rushed into the end zone from 4 yards out one snap after the Black reception. Black passed to Woodard for the 2-point conversion to increase the Wenatchee spread to 13, 30-17, with 6:15 to go.
Wa-Hi muffed the kickoff that followed, the Panthers recovered at the Blue Devil 38, and Sugg snuck in from a yard away seven plays later. Woodard added a 2-point conversion run for the final points of the game.
Hoe rushed for 97 yards on 26 carries and teammate Dakota Turner threw for 175 yards in his third start as a varsity quarterback.
"I knew that Jonah was a heck of a running back," Devereaux said. "I thought if we could give up less than four yards a carry, we would win the football game."
The Blue Devils travel to Pasco next Friday to face defending league champion Chiawana.
"The kids were fun to be around tonight," Hisaw said. "We need to keep grinding and hope the kids keep believing because it's going to happen."
Wenatchee 38, Wa-Hi 17
Wenatchee 19 0 3 16 - 38
Wa-Hi 3 8 3 3 - 17
Wenatchee - Brandt-Sims 34 pass from Woodard (run failed).
Wenatchee - Smith 18 run (Woodard kick).
Wa-Hi - Atkinson 22 FG.
Wenatchee - Smith 14 run (pass failed).
Wa-Hi - Hoe 1 run (Hoe run).
Wenatchee - Woodard 26 FG.
Wa-Hi - Atkinson 39 FG.
Wa-Hi - Atkinson 25 FG.
Wenatchee - Lyon 4 run (Woodard pass from Black).
Wenatchee - Sugg 1 run (Woodard run).
First downs 16 17
Rushes/yards 35-204 38-119
Passing yards 178 175
Passes (att-comp-int) 23-7-1 28-13-1
Punts 1-32 4-31
Fumbles-lost 3-2 3-2
Penalties-yards 12-83 8-88
RUSHING - Wenatchee: Smith 17-159, Aguilar 5-39, Lyon 7-15, Woodard 2-10, Team 2-(-9), Sugg 2-(-10); Wa-Hi: Hoe 26-97, Porter 2-20, Turner 5-9, Handcox 2-8, Team 3-(-15).
PASSING - Wenatchee: Woodard 4-12-0, 91 yards, 1 TD, Sugg 3-11-1, 87 yards, 0 TDs; Wa-Hi: Turner 13-28-1, 175 yards 0 TDs.
RECEIVING - Wenatchee: Grater 3-62, Brandt 2-58-1, Black 1-61, Lyon 1-(-3); Wa-Hi: Handcox 7-101, Rowley 4-48, Ferenz 1-15, Jameson 1-11.