WALLA WALLA — Stop the run, stop the run, stop the run — don’t bite on the play-fake.
That’s second-ranked Waitsburg-Prescott’s mantra heading into Saturday’s game against perennial powerhouse Reardan (8-2) in the quarterfinals of the Class 2B state football playoffs, coach Jeff Bartlow said.
The play-action pass bit W-P (10-1) several times in what was an otherwise rousing 54-26 victory over Oroville in the opening round of the playoffs, and it’s something the coach hopes to curtail against the Indians.
“We’ve just got to be smart and look at the down and distance,” Bartlow said. “That’s what hurt us last week. When it was third-and-12 and we bit on the play-fake, that was hard for us.”
Reardan runs the wishbone offense and, with two tight ends in its base formation, will again test W-P’s defense with a powerful running game.
“It’s just really smash-mouth football,” Bartlow said. “We’ve played them three times in the playoffs since I’ve been here and it’s the same offense even with different coaches — aggressive, physical football.
“We’re going to have to stop the run or we’ll be in trouble, no question.”
Reardan might be thinking the same thing about W-P’s potent spread offense.
Do-it-all back Dalton Estes and strong-armed QB Stirling Eastman lead a cast that accumulated 514 yards of offense in the first round, split almost evenly between rushing and passing yards.
Eastman passed for 259 yards and two scores on 11-of-11 passing while also rushing six times for 56 yards and another score.
Estes ran for three scores and 149 yards on eight carries despite being hampered by an ankle injury.
Senior James Tompkins, a sprinter in the spring, averages an absurd 33 yards-per-catch this season. And last Friday was no different as he caught four passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.
Chance Leroue, W-P’s sophomore tight end/outside receiver/offensive lineman/halfback — pretty much everything but quarterback — caught two balls for 60 yards and another score.
Roy Ebong, the fourth head of what has become a Lerneaen Hydra in Waitsburg, caught three passes for 44 yards.
Tompkins, a slender 5-foot-7 141-pound back, didn’t truly emerge in the offense until W-P’s play-in game against Springdale when he caught four passes for 205 yards and four touchdowns.
“For us to be effective we’ve got to be able to run the ball and get a guy over 100 yards and throw the ball to three or four guys,” Bartlow said. “James has been really helpful in that. Our goal is to continue to throw high percentage balls to guys who can catch them, and now we have four of them.”
Estes is still recovering from his sprained ankle but is participating in practice and will see the field again against Reardan.
With Oroville bringing constant pressure, W-P’s offensive line was another bright spot in last weekend’s win.
Despite the Hornets frequently stacking the box with six or seven defenders, Eastman rarely felt pressure and the run game went unchecked.
“That was important because it seems like one or two players always have trouble,” Barlow said of his offensive line, which returned just two starters this season. “But the last couple weeks we’ve just been gelling offensively.”
During W-P’s drive to winning the 2011 state championship, players and coaches said they felt focused and confident heading into each game. They were in the zone. This year, Bartlow said, is no different.
“We’ve got the confidence — that feeling is the same,” Bartlow said. “We had a different team, the matchups were different, but we’ve got some of the same results.
“There’s no doubt, the kids are excited.”
And despite winning a state championship just last season, Bartlow said his players just as hungry to play in this year’s title game.
“Having been there, knowing how much fun it is to win a state championship, we’re hungry,” Bartlow said. “The kids have the same goals (as last season), but it is still one game at a time, no doubt about it.”
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Spokane’s West Valley High School.