WALLA WALLA — It took a blue moon and a 21-0 first-half lead, but Big Blue finally got its first win in more than a year Friday night as it held on to beat a rugged Moses Lake squad that rallied for 18-straight second-half points at Borleske Stadium.
It was the first game for the two schools as out-of-conference foes, with Wa-Hi (1-0) hailing from the newly-formed Mid-Columbia Conference, and the Chiefs (0-1) from the remnants of the Columbia Basin Big Nine.
The game was in doubt until a Moses Lake fumble gave Wa-Hi possession with less than two minutes left in the game.
With the Chiefs having burnt all of their timeouts, three knees from quarterback Dakota Turner sealed the victory.
“I think it’s definitely helped us flush everything from last year and everything that was going on,” senior tailback Jonah Hoe said. “Just all of the big clouds over our head and everything, it’s just been lifted and it feels awesome.”
Hoe, who led not only Wa-Hi but the CBBN last season in rushing yards, rushed for 151 yards on 31 touches and a 46-yard touchdown in the victory.
Fullback Zach Gilvey scored another touchdown for the Blue Devils on 12 rushes for 101 yards and tailback Stuart Gillin added 42 yards on six carries. Turner scrambled for a six-yard touch of his own.
“It’s so fun for these kids, this program,” Wa-Hi coach Eric Hisaw said of the win. “They put in so much work in the offseason, it’s just nice for them to finally reap that reward of knowing what it’s like to win. They’ve talked about it, they’ve dreamed about it, they’ve worked about it, they’ve sweated, sacrificed. I’m so happy for these kids and this staff, they did a tremendous job tonight.”
Hoe was his own thunder and lightning in the game, bruising his way to a 4.9-yard-per-rush average while also breaking huge plays.
None were bigger than his 46-yard scoring run with just less than four minutes remaining in the first half to put the Blue Devils up by 21.
After a four-yard rush from Gilvey set Wa-Hi up with a second-and-6 at the Moses Lake 46, Hoe took a handoff and was almost immediately met in the backfield.
But the 5-foot-10, 175-pound back spun out of the tackle and broke several more before breaking away for what ended up being the winning score.
“He’s (Hoe) a really dynamic young man,” Hisaw said. “You can’t catch him in a box, he’s so gosh darn quick. But you add Zach Gilvey, who’s a gosh darn throwback — you know, he’s in that Pittsburgh Stealers era, he’s just a tough, knock-you-out kind of guy — and then you bring in Stu (Gillin), who’s just a slasher and he’s physical. So it’s three kids that you never get the same look at. One guy opens the door for the others, but Jonah sets the tempo for us. He really does.”
Hoe took a good amount of big hits, but only came out of the game briefly.
“I can’t say enough about the guys picking each other up,” Hoe said. “I was hurting out there pretty bad at one point, and they just said, ‘You know, just think about all the time you put in in the summer, and it all comes down to this.’
“I was really impressed with my O-line tonight and how they did,” he continued. “... They were just opening up holes left and right and they just stuck with us the whole time. It was great.”
Turner had 103 yards passing while completing 8-of-13 attempts and rushing for 15 yards. Turner was at his best when rolling out of the pocket and, although the Blue Devils rarely went downfield, he managed to keep the Chiefs honest.
“That speaks volumes of the work he did in the offseason,” Hisaw said of Turner’s performance. “He managed the game very, very well tonight. I was very proud of Dakota. The one pick he threw, it is what it is, but he made great reads, he threw them on time, he had great composure and he didn’t force anything. I thought he played outstanding.”
“It’s big, it’s a confidence booster,” Turner said of the victory. “It helps us forget a little bit of what happened last season, but everyone on the team knows, we still have a long way to go. We still have eight more games left before the season is over.”
When Wa-Hi’s offense began to stall in the second half, Moses Lake’s took off.
The Chiefs scored three times in the second half, including a 97-yard strike from quarterback Justin Simmons to a streaking Brett Moser, and a 55-yard scoring run from speedster Trino Rubio.
Wa-Hi had chances to score in the second half, but was unable to capitalize on several red zone appearances thanks to penalties (including a 15-yarder on Hoe for hurdling a tackler) and turnovers, of which both teams committed four.
“It’s (turnovers) just being live,” Hisaw explained. “It’s someone that’s trying to be nasty at you, trying to pull the ball away. I just can’t replicate that in practice.”
Although Wa-Hi allowed 18 points in the second half, it never allowed Simmons to settle into a rhythm, sacking the quarterback twice for 14 yards, despite turnovers frequently giving Moses Lake a short field.
“I loved the defensive mentality, and the way the kids attacked the ball and tried to get it out — I hope that never changes,” Hisaw said. “But yeah, we need to clean up the offensive part. We’d like to have less than two (turnovers) a game, but you know, that’s football.”
Simmons passed for 179 yards and two touchdowns on 11-of-19 attempts and rushed for 39 yards on 13 carries.
Wa-Hi kicker Dean Atkinson was 3-for-3 in extra-point attempts, which proved to be the winning margin as Moses Lake scored three touches, but failed on two kicks and a 2-point conversion.
“When they had to buckle down, they had a great snap, a great hold ... and Dean was absolutely awesome,” Hisaw said.
Starting receiver Darnell Handcox, who was also expected to contribute heavily as a punt and kick returner and at strong safety, was injured on his first catch of the game and had to be helped off the field.
The Blue Devils host Richland Friday to open MCC play.
Wa-Hi 21, Moses Lake 18
Moses Lake 0 0 12 6 — 18
Team 7 14 0 0 — 21
Wa-Hi — Turner 6 run (Atkinson kick).
Wa-Hi — Gillin 4 run (Atkinson kick)
Wa-Hi — Hoe 46 run (Atkinson kick)
ML — Moser 5 pass from Simmons (kick failed)
ML — Rubino 55 run (pass failed)
ML — Moser 97 pass from Simmons (kick failed)
Moses Lake Wa-Hi
First downs 18 25
Rushes/yards 30-214 57-306
Passing yards 179 103
Passes (att-comp-int) 19-11-1 13-8-1
Punts 2-89 3-93
Fumbles-lost 4-3 3-3
Penalties-yards 9-68 7-67
RUSHING — ML: Simmons 13-39, Rubino 9-152-1, Law 8-23; Wa-Hi: Hoe 31-151-1, Gilvey 12-101, Turner 4-15-1, Gillin 6-42-1, Anderson 1-2, team 3-0.
PASSING — ML: Simmons 11-19-1, 179 yards; Wa-Hi: Turner 8-13-1, 103 yards.
RECEIVING — ML: Sage 1-5, Moser 3-117 2 TD, Ballard 5-49, Coulston 1-8; Wa-Hi: Handcox 1-9, Grandstaff 1-6, Gilmore 1-6, Trapani 2-18, Hoe 1-29, Gillin 1-25, Atkinson 1-10.