WALLA WALLA — Despite the Blue Devils picking up their first win in Eric Hisaw’s tenure last week, the Wa-Hi head coach thought they could have done better.
The Blue Devils will be missing WR/DB Darnell Handcox and DT Jeremy Larson in tonight’s game. Handcox dislocated his knee after his first reception against the Chiefs and will be out at least a month. Larson suffered a concussion and will sit for at least a game.
The Blue Devils have the No. 1 offense after the first week of MCC play after picking up 409 yards of total offense against Moses Lake. But the 393 yards Wa-Hi surrendered were the worst in the league.
Running back Jonah Hoe has the second-most rushing yards (151) in the conference and the most all-purpose yards (226). He averaged 8 yards a carry against Moses Lake, second only to teammate Zach Gilvey, who had an 8.4 yard-per-carry average while picking up 101 yards.
“It’s a game, in my opinion, we should have won 35-7,” said second-year coach Hisaw, whose team defeated Moses Lake 21-18 last Friday. “They never really stopped us. They may have slowed us down, but, you know, we fumbled on their 3 (yard line), we fumbled coming out and moving the ball on the (Wa-Hi) 34, and it’s just an issue of us not doing a good enough job taking care enough of (the ball) on our own.”
So how to prevent more turnovers against Mid-Columbia Conference foe Richland (0-1), who is likely to be more physical during tonight’s 7 p.m. match?
“That’s been a really big emphasis this week,” Hisaw said. “We gave out Powerades for kids that stripped balls against our offense. At any time — going back to the huddle, during the play, after the play, back to the huddle.
“Just talked about physicality, physicality, physicality,” Hisaw said. “It’s going to be one of these games coming up Friday, where I think the toughest team wins.”
Two plays after Wa-Hi (1-0) fumbled on the 3 in the fourth quarter, Moses Lake burned the Blue Devils for a 97-yard touchdown pass, which is part of why the Blue Devils are also installing a new look on defense designed to stop the long bomb.
“We didn’t play it (the long pass) very well at all,” Hisaw said, “and it’s a situation you never want to have happen, but it’s the game of life and football, and it happened.”
The Bombers bring a look similar to Moses Lake, with a mobile quarterback in 5-foot-10 junior Zach Whitby and a balanced offense.
But it is an offense that will likely need to be jump-started after a 9-7 loss to Southridge last week that saw Richland held to just 85 yards on 44 plays. Richland’s only score came on a pick-six in the fourth quarter.
Whitby passed for 1,122 yards at a 64.6 percent completion rate last season as a sophomore — including a 271-yard effort against Wa-Hi — but was just 8-for-21 with 60 yards passing against Southridge.
The Bombers’ rushing game was equally ineffectual, as the leading rusher, Mason Baird, accumulated just 26 yards on 10 tries.
The domination by Southridge should provide a good blueprint for the Blue Devil defense to follow.
“Southridge is really physical up front in their front seven,” Hisaw said. “They do a great job of penetrating and taking away things that you want to do in the ground game.
“They kept the quarterback (from scrambling), they contained him really well, and they basically just didn’t let them do anything they wanted to do,” Hisaw said. “It was good for us to see that speed on the outside (against Moses Lake) and hopefully (we can) contain that kind of thing, because if we can contain him (Whitby), it’s going to be a huge, huge help for us.”
On the offensive side, Wa-Hi looks to go to the running well again, with a triple-threat in the backfield of Jonah Hoe, Stuart Gillin and Zach Gilvey that accumulated 306 yards of rushing against Moses Lake.
“I like the way the kids played, we’ve just got to take care of the ball,” Hisaw said. “And if we can do that, I think we can move the ball on them. I think we’re doing really well up front, and I think that bodes well for us.”
The Bombers limited opponents to 306 yards of total offense per game last season— good for No. 2 in the league — and continued that stinginess against Southridge, holding the Suns to 277 yards in the loss.
“It’s a game that I told the kids I think we need to win,” Hisaw said of tonight’s game. “And I expect us to. I think we’re good enough, they’ve (the Blue Devils) just got to believe in it.”