WALLA WALLA — Sixty-eight and 38.
Wa-Hi coach Eric Hisaw probably didn’t get much sleep Friday night thinking about those numbers.
Two plays — a 68-yard pass from Southridge quarterback Conner Grigg and a 38-yard run from tailback Kadin Diaz — accounted for more than a third of the Suns’ offense and two of their three touchdowns Friday night at Borleske Field, as big plays once again proved the Blue Devils’ undoing in a 20-14 Mid-Columbia Conference loss.
Southridge (4-1 MCC, 5-2) outgained the Blue Devils (1-4, 3-4) 283-245 yards.
“Credit to the quarterback, he made a nice throw,” Hisaw said of Grigg’s touchdown pass to Brenden Kelly. “But that’s the frustrating part — we’re so good for so long and then it’s just a play here or there that we have such a hard time not giving that up. It just hurts.
“I thought we played good defense tonight, I really did,” Hisaw said. “... We had two plays that killed us.”
On defense, the Suns lived up to their billing as the top unit in the MCC, holding the Blue Devils to 149 yards of offense less than their season average of 394 and limiting the MCC’s leading rusher, Jonah Hoe, to just 110 yards on 22 carries and no touchdowns.
Hoe had been averaging just shy of 200 yards a game and leads the league in touchdowns with 14.
“That’s a really, really good defensive football team,” Hisaw said of Southridge. “They are the most physical team we’ve played. They have kids that run around like we haven’t seen in this league yet. They are very, very good on defense.”
Senior quarterback Dakota Turner passed for 80 yards on 7-of-18 passing and completed a 26-yard touchdown strike to Darnell Handcox. Turner also picked up a touchdown on the ground.
Diaz, Southridge’s 5-foot-9, 190-pounder, had a banner night, rushing for 186 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries.
Although Wa-Hi was often able to meet Diaz in Southridge’s backfield, it wasn’t often he went down there as he bruised his way to a 5.2 yards-per-carry average.
“He runs very, very hard; he’s a punisher,” Hisaw said of Diaz. “... Both the (touchdown) runs he had, we have one or two guys that get a hold of him, and we stopped running to the ball as a unit. And he just chooses to work harder than us and (say), ‘I am not going to go down.’ And we just basically quit on the play and he scores.”
Southridge scored on its first possession of the game after Wa-Hi’s opening drive stalled at midfield.
The Suns drove 72 yards in 5 minutes, 23 seconds in 11 plays. Diaz had carries of 15, nine, five and six yards on the drive before breaking a 13-yarder for a touchdown with 2:16 left in the first quarter.
The first half degenerated into a defensive slugfest from there, however, with neither team gaining more than 100 yards in the half.
“We struggled in the first half and that wasn’t just Dakota (Turner),” Hisaw said. “We struggled protecting him, we struggled to run the ball, and so they were able to dictate how we could call plays.”
Grigg, who finished 4-of-10 with 96 yards and a pick to his name, finished the first half with two completions on six attempts and 15 yards.
He went ahead and threw a 68-yard touchdown on the second play after the break.
“We seem to have this thing for making (opposing) quarterbacks look really, really good,” Hisaw said. “We figure if we keep in front he’d throw a pick and he did ... and he just throws a really, really nice ball to the kid (Brenden Kelly) who makes a play.”
Wa-Hi and Southridge traded possessions five times after the long score before the Blue Devils managed to light up the home side of the scoreboard.
Aaron Eggart picked off Grigg with 22 ticks off the clock in the fourth and ran the ball 28 yards down to the Suns 6 to set Wa-Hi up with first-and-goal. The Blue Devils capitalized the very next play when Turner held on to an option sweep for the touchdown.
A Dean Atkinson extra point sailed through the uprights to pull Wa-Hi within six, 13-7.
But Southridge stamped out Big Blue’s momentum with a six-play touchdown drive on the ensuing possession.
Diaz ran 48 yards for the score after busting through a huddle of Blue Devils in the secondary.
“He had two or three guys on him, and two or three guys there (nearby), and ... we didn’t either stay on our feet or run well enough with him,” Hisaw said. “He’s a physical football player and he just played harder than we did.”
Wa-Hi took the ball down 13 points with eight minutes to go in the game, but wasn’t able to escape its side of the field and was forced to punt after Turner was sacked for a loss of three.
The Blue Devils got the ball back with 3:34 remaining after their defense dropped Diaz for a loss on fourth-and-short.
Forced to go to the air, Turner completed 4-of-7 passes and scrambled for 14 yards on a fourth-and-9 to give the Blue Devils life. He capped the drive with a 26-yard strike to Darnell Handcox, who beat the Suns’ three deep safeties to find himself open in the end zone.
“He did a good job keeping his eyes downfield and looking for his primary or secondary, and then not forcing the ball anywhere,” Hisaw said of his senior quarterback. “He did a really nice job tonight of keeping the ball in our hands tonight, absolutely.”
With 1:34 left and still trailing by six, 20-14, the Blue Devils went for the onside kick, which Southridge recovered to seal the victory.
The Blue Devils host Kamiakin (4-1 and tied with Southridge for first place) Friday and face a must-win game against Chiawana on Oct. 26, in Pasco.
Southridge 20, Wa-Hi 14
Southridge 7 0 6 7 — 20
Wa-Hi 0 0 0 14 — 14
Sou — Diaz 13 run (Mertens kick)
Sou — Kelly 68 pass from Grigg (kick failed)
Wa-Hi — Turner 6 run (Atkinson kick)
Sou — Diaz 48 run (Mertens kick)
Wa-Hi — Handcox 26 pass from Turner (Atkinson kick)
First downs 11 18
Rushes/yards 39-187 37-165
Passing yards 96 80
Passes (att-comp-int) 10-4-1 18-7-0
Punts 4-137 8-270.4
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-yards 4-40 5-47
RUSHING — Southridge: Diaz 36-186 2 TDs, M. Ealy-Thomas 1-4, Grigg 1 (-3); Wa-Hi: Hoe 22-110, Gillin 1-14, Turner 12-28 TD, Gilvey 2-13.
PASSING — Southridge: Grigg 4-10-1 96 yards TD; Wa-Hi: Turner 7-18 80 TD.
RECEIVING — Southridge: Kelly 3-95 TD, Diaz 1-1; Wa-Hi: Handcox 4-47 TD, Gilvey 1-21, Gilmore 1-14, Hoe 1-(-2).