PASCO — Led by an offensive explosion from tailback Jonah Hoe, Wa-Hi laid the wood on Pasco Friday night under the lights of Edgar Brown Memorial Stadium.
Hoe broke the Wa-Hi record for rushing yards in a game with 433, tied the school record for touchdowns in a game with five, and pounded out the longest run from scrimmage in school history at 88 yards as the Blue Devils defeated Pasco 45-27 to pick up their first Mid-Columbia Conference victory of the season and their first league road victory since 2009.
The Blue Devils (1-3 MCC, 3-3 overall) looked alternately in control of the match and out of sorts.
Wa-Hi built a quick 21-0 lead then allowed Pasco back in the door before slamming it closed for good with 51-yard touchdown from Hoe with 2:03 left in the fourth to go up 45-21.
“First quarter was really nice,” Wa-Hi coach Eric Hisaw said between bites of post-game pizza. “It was crisp, it was clean assignment football. We took care of business. Second quarter, they kind of felt like we got content, like the game was in the bag and then all the sudden we just couldn’t do anything right and we had a mind switch.”
With Halloween on the horizon, Hisaw had an appropriately macabre analogy for the on-again, off-again performance.
“We’re up 21-6, or 21-14, we have a chance to just put the nail in the coffin, and instead we put a pitchfork in an open coffin and say, ‘Please come out of the grave for us,’” Hisaw said. “That’s part of learning and knowing how to close a deal, but again, in the fourth quarter we did that tonight.”
Hoe’s record-breaking, 88-yard run came just 28 seconds into the game.
Wa-Hi scored again at the 6:51 mark of the first quarter, with Hoe punching the ball in from the 17.
Two drives later and up 14-0, the Blue Devils had a fourth-and-8 at the Pasco 38. Instead of punting with a short field or kicking a long field goal, however, Wa-Hi went to the air.
Senior quarterback Dakota Turner found Darnell Handcox streaking down the far sideline behind the defense for a 38-yard touchdown bomb with 12 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
“We just talked to the kids all week long that we’re going to coach aggressively,” Hisaw said. “We’re going to play-call aggressively on both sides of the ball. We just told the kids that we’re not going to give in to just the easy way out.”
Pasco scored on the ensuing drive, with a 55-yard run from sophomore T.J. Faamausili down to the Wa-Hi 2, setting up a score on the next play.
The score energized the 0-6 Bulldogs and the smattering of fans present and, after limiting the Blue Devils to a 25-yard Dean Atkinson field goal on the following drive, rolled to another score.
A 14-yard pass to senior tailback Luis Murillo and a 15-yard personal foul tacked on to the end of the play set Pasco up with a first-and-10 at the Wa-Hi 11. Five plays and a false start later, Pasco scored on a 3-yard pass to Murillo and converted a 2-point play to pull within 10, 24-14 going into the locker room.
“We held on enough to stay ahead,” Hisaw said. “We didn’t let them take over. I had a bit of emotion in the locker room (at halftime) and then the coaches kind of played the good guys and got it (the team) back up. We just talked at halftime about hey, we’re still up by 10, that’s the bottom line.”
The Bulldogs opened the second half with the ball and rolled from their own 35 down to the Wa-Hi 28 before fumbling a handoff over to the Blue Devils.
A play later, Hoe gallivanted up the middle for a 70-yard touchdown with 9:36 gone.
“Our offensive line was just opening up huge holes,” Hoe said. “There was just so much room to run, and there was a couple of times where I could have just walked through it. It was just unbelievable what they did tonight and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Pasco wasn’t done, however, and on the very next drive Murillo took a screen pass 60 yards for another touchdown to stay within spitting distance at 31-21, Wa-Hi.
The Blue Devils held Pasco’s triple-option offense in check after that, however, and a 30-yard run from Hoe after a Pasco turnover on downs with eight minutes left in the fourth electrified the visitors’ sideline.
Hoe first ran right, and after finding nothing there reversed the field and broke several tackles for the big gainer.
“I actually made a bad cut initially,” Hoe said. “I bounced it outside and I should have cut it inside, and so I just like — oh man. And if you cut back, you have to go, otherwise you just cut back and lose all those yards. I just took off and they didn’t have anybody on the back side.”
The run took Wa-Hi down to the Pasco 24, but it looked like the Blue Devils would be forced into a field goal after petering out at the 18.
Instead, Turner elected to run a trick play the Blue Devils installed the week prior. He feigned confusion and turned to the Wa-Hi sideline as Hoe took a direct snap 18 yards to the house.
“We talked in our staff meeting last Sunday about trying to make the last four weeks of the season fun for the kids too,” Hisaw explained.
“They’re not 22, 23, in college; it’s not a business for them,” he said. “So we kind of put in a couple of gimmicks and that was one of them that we told Dakota, ‘You get one time to be lippy to us and so make the most of it, win an academy award.’
“And boy, he played it off great and came over and he was palms in the air, and it’s probably a one-shot time kind of deal, but it worked really well at the right time for us.”
After a Pasco three-and-out on the next drive, Wa-Hi finally stomped on any Pasco hopes of a comeback with a 51-yard touchdown from Hoe to go up 45-21 with 2:03 to play.
“When you put a lot of guys in the box and you break one crease, there’s no one to catch you,” Hisaw said. “He (Hoe) made some pretty dynamic plays out of what most guys would get dropped for a one- or two-yard gain, and tonight it was kind of part of that deal. He kind of hopped and skipped his way through and then hit the burners.”
Wa-Hi hosts Southridge, tied for second in the MCC, Friday at 7 p.m.