Wa-Hi quarterback Dakota Turner, here handing off to Blue Devil running back Jonah Hoe during the season-opening game against Moses Lake, leads his team against Lewis and Clark in the season finale Friday at Joe Albi Stadium.
Photo by Jeff Horner.
WALLA WALLA — When Wa-Hi visits Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane Friday, it won’t be the game they wanted to play.
The Blue Devils, like any team, wanted to go to the playoffs, but their chances of making the postseason were extinguished two weeks ago with a 35-33 loss to Kamiakin. Had the Blue Devils scored just eight more points between losses to the aforementioned Braves and Chiawana (a 39-35 loss) they might have been making their first trip to the playoffs since 2004.
But that doesn’t mean that they can’t still treat their match with the Greater Spokane League’s Lewis and Clark like a playoff game.
“Like I told the kids,” Wa-Hi coach Eric Hisaw said, “it’s not the playoffs, but you get to go on a road trip, it’s your playoff game. If you want to treat it that way, let’s go. Albi’s a great stadium, it’s a great, great place, so we’re treating it like a playoff, for sure.”
Kickoff is at 6 p.m.
“I know they’re excited about it, it’s just not the game they wanted to play this weekend,” Hisaw said. “But they also know they have a chance to be one of the few kids in the country to get to win the last game you play.”
Standing in the way of that goal will of course be the Tigers (4-5), who run a pistol offense and like to use both quarterback Andrew Black and running back Coleton Fitzgerald in the ground game.
“Their tailback is the best kid in the region,” Hisaw said of Fitzgerald. “He’s a fast kid, he’s a lot like Stuart (Gillin). Fast son of a gun.”
Fitzgerald (6-foot-0, 170 pounds) will at times run as a lead blocker for Black (6-0, 180 pounds) in designed quarterback runs.
“He’s not afraid to put his head down and try to run through you a little bit,” Hisaw said of Black. “He’s a good football player.”
Despite their strength running the ball, the Tigers have the gained just the eighth-most yardage (2,282) amongst their GSL cohort.
On defense the Tigers play a bend-but-don’t-break style of defense, that has largely been successful, holding opponents to the fourth-least yards gained in the league (2,547).
Lewis and Clark runs a 4-4, cover three defense (four down linemen, four linebackers and three defensive backs dropping back into coverage) as its base.
“LC’s always been physical,” Hisaw said. “They’ve always run to the ball well. Their middle (line)backer runs around really well, so it will be a good test for us.”
The Blue Devils will test that defense with a run-heavy offense and a passing attack that has started to show teeth in the past two games.
Jonah Hoe will lead the ground-pounding offense. Hoe recently surpassed a 2004 school record for the most rushing yards gained in a single season with 1,689 to add to the seven other records he currently holds.
And quarterback Dakota Turner and his receiving corps of Dean Atkinson, Darnell Handcox and Jake Grandstaff have proven the Blue Devils are not a one-dimesional attack after Turner passed for 166 yards and four touchdowns against the Riverhawks.
“I don’t think they’ve seen, with the exception of Gonzaga Prep and their wishbone offense, anyone lineup in the I (formation) and come at them like we will,” Hisaw said. “It’s going to be a nice little test, something we haven’t seen before and a different facility.”
The question for the Blue Devils is will their defense be able to stop the run, against which they were second-worst in the Mid-Columbia Conference at 1,970 rushing yards allowed.