WALLA WALLA — It’s a rare occurrence when quick-talking Wa-Hi coach Eric Hisaw is at a loss for words, but that’s what happened Friday night in the locker rooms near Borleske Stadium.
The receivers made catches, the tailbacks broke runs, the defense made stops and the offensive line blocked rushers. But at the center of it all was Wa-Hi’s senior quarterback Dakota Turner, and it was he that knocked the gift for gab right out of his coach.
The 5-foot-10 signal caller engineered three consecutive, unanswered fourth-quarter touchdown drives to bring Wa-Hi almost all the way back from a 35-13 deficit at the beginning of the third quarter, but his efforts weren’t quite enough as the Blue Devils failed to convert a 2-point conversion with time winding down and suffered a 35-33 loss to the league-leading Kamiakin Braves.
“I can’t say enough fantastic things about Dakota tonight, he was absolutely awesome,” Hisaw raved. “He picked the right moment to play the best game of his life.”
Turner, who had passed for 813 yards on a 50-percent completion rate and thrown five touchdowns and an equal number of picks up to Friday night, overcame a 2-of-6 performance in the first half to complete 13-of-22 passes for 204 yards and three touchdowns in the second.
“I’m almost speechless,” Hisaw said. “I’m so happy for him. I know he was hurting with the loss, but he was just absolutely awesome tonight.”
The loss proved especially bitter for Turner and the other Blue Devil seniors, not only because it was the last game of their careers at Borleske, but also because the Mid-Columbia Conference loss, combined with a Chiawana victory over Southridge Friday night, eliminated Wa-Hi (1-5 MCC, 3-5 overall) from playoff contention.
“The seniors are hurting,” Hisaw said of the 20 seniors on his squad. “It’s their last time time playing in this stadium in front of their fans. That second half is as good of football as — darn near as well as we can play.”
With the victory, and Southridge’s loss, Kamiakin (5-1, 6-2) takes sole possession of first place in the MCC standings.
The Blue Devils trailed by as much as 28-7 after the Braves scored on the first drive after halftime, a nine-yard pass from junior quarterback Kylle Roberston to receiver Hunter Schauers capping a nine-play, 74-yard drive.
Wa-Hi answered on the next drive with a 29-yard scoring pass that receiver Darnell Handcox ripped out of the hands of a Kamiakin defender. After a PAT attempt sailed wide for Wa-Hi, the Blue Devils trailed 28-13 with 4:17 left in the third.
Kamiakin’s Robertson, who passed for 143 yards and rushed for 122 more, took a quarterback keeper 58 yards for a 35-13 lead just three plays into the ensuing Braves drive.
“You know, to come out and score one and then have then come right back; we had a chance and then all of the sudden it’s 35-13,” Hisaw said. “But then we get one, and we get one, and they just never quit.”
Wa-Hi narrowed the deficit to 35-20 after Turner hit receiver Paul Gilmore running free down the far sideline for a 31-yard score with 10 seconds gone from the fourth.
The Blue Devils recovered a Kamiakin fumble 48 seconds later at the Braves 27 to set up their next score. Turner hit Handcox, who finished with 90 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches, for a one-yard touchdown to pull to 35-27 with just under eight minutes remaining.
Wa-Hi’s defense held on the ensuing Kamiakin possession, but the Braves managed to run 4:27 off the clock before turning possession over at 3:35 left with a touchback punt.
The Blue Devils took 14 plays to go 80 yards for the almost game tying score, with Turner converting a fourth-and-19 at the Wa-Hi 43 to keep the drive — and Wa-Hi’s playoff hopes — alive.
Jonah Hoe, who finished with 211 yards on 32 carries, carried in a six-yard touchdown to pull within 35-33.
But Turner had no time to throw on the 2-point conversion and was forced to scramble before being brought down while attempting a shovel pass at the 2 with 20 seconds left on the clock.
Wa-Hi attempted an onside kick, but Kamiakin’s Johnny Jansen fell on the ball to seal the Braves’ win.
When the game began it looked as though Kamiakin might put an ugly mark on Wa-Hi’s homecoming celebration, as the Braves thoroughly dominated the opening half and took a 21-7 lead into the break.
Kamiakin scored twice before Wa-Hi could respond, including a 43-yard rush from Umid Ramizov to put the Braves up 14-0 with 3:12 left in the first quarter.
Wa-Hi finally got on the board when Hoe burst through a hole up the middle and simply outran the Kamiakin secondary for a 74-yard touchdown at the 1:43 mark of the first.
The Blue Devils faced the top two teams in the MCC in the past two weeks — Kamiakin and Southridge — and have two losses to show for it by a combined eight points.
Kamiakin entered the showdown with the league’s best passing attack and Wa-Hi the best rushing attack, but the Braves outrushed the Blue Devils 275-244, and Wa-Hi outpassed the Braves 204-143.
“That’s exactly why you play and it’s why you don’t quit,” Hisaw said. “(We have) a really good senior class that just plays.
“The kids believed all night long,” Hisaw said. “We’ve been in holes before, we’ve been in spots up against the wall and facing adversity, and they know how to play through it. They don’t panic, and tonight they just played exceptional.”
Wa-Hi visits Chiawana (3-3, 5-3) Friday at 7 p.m. for the final game of the regular season.
Kamiakin 35, Walla Walla 33
Kamiakin 14 7 14 0 — 35
Wa-Hi 7 0 6 20 — 33
Kam — Janson 3 rush (Shymanski kick)
Kam — Ramizov 43 rush (Shymanski kick)
Wa-Hi — Hoe 74 rush (Atkinson kick)
Kam — Robertson 6 rush (Shymanski kick)
Kam — Shauers 9 pass from Robertson (Shymanski kick)
Wa-Hi — Handcox 29 pass from Turner (kick failed)
Kam — Robertson 58 rush (Shymanski kick)
Wa-Hi — Gilmore 31 pass from Turner (Atkinson kick)
Wa-Hi — Handcox 1 pass from Turner (Atkinson kick)
Wa-Hi — Hoe 7 rush (pass failed)
RUSHING — Kamiakin: Jansen 16-68 TD, Ramizov 11-91 TD, Roberston 11-122 2TDs, Guitierrez 1-(-1); Wa-Hi: Hoe 32-203 2 TD, Gilvey 3-7, Turner 7-34.
PASSING — Kamiakin: Robertson 12-17-0 143 yards TD; Wa-Hi: Turner 13-22-0 204 yards 3 TDs.
RECEIVING — Kamiakin: Jansen 1-8, Fowler 2-19, Larsen 3-48, Shauers 6-68 TD; Wa-Hi: Handcox 7-90 2 TD, Gilmore 3-55 TD, Atkinson 2-41, Grandstaff 1-18.