WALLA WALLA — Pound the ball, pound the ball, and when that works, pound it some more.
That — with maybe a few play-action passes sprinkled in — is what Wa-Hi is going to try to do when it faces Davis in a Big Nine-Mid-Columbia Conference football showdown tonight at 7.
The Pirates, coming off a 49-28 pounding in which they surrendered 362 yards of rushing to Wenatchee, figure to be ripe for the picking by the Blue Devil run game.
“Where they seem to be weak right now seems to be our strong point — running the ball,” Wa-Hi coach Eric Hisaw said at practice Wednesday. “So we’re going to try to enforce that and hang our hat on it.”
Although senior running back Jonah Hoe didn’t have the game he wanted against a physical Richland squad last week, rushing for 131 yards on 24 carries, the Blue Devils figure to lean heavily on his blend of strength and speed again this week against a defensive line Hisaw characterised as talented, but inexperienced.
“They had a really solid freshman team last year, so a lot of these kids are playing up,” Hisaw said of the Pirates. “But gosh, you know their one D-tackle is 300 pounds, and he’s not a bad ball player, and the other one’s 235, so they’re decent but they’re inexperienced.
“They play hard, and sometimes youth doesn’t know that they’re supposed to get beat, so they just go run around like crazy and try to have a lot of fun.”
The Blue Devils may try to line up and bulldoze their way down the field this week — as they have every week thus far this season — but the passing game still figures to play a key role in keeping the Pirates honest.
The Blue Devils scored all 20 of their points against Richland in a third quarter that saw both the running game and passing game operating like a German sports sedan.
Senior quarterback Dakota finished that game 5-for-8 with 89 yards of passing and one touchdown to go with an interception. With Davis likely to key on the Blue Devil runners, Turner should see an open receiver occasionally.
“It was a big deal for us because that run game was so solid,” Hisaw said of the Blue Devils against Richland. “We got it going right in the first part of the third and then play action came off it and it made them stay honest, and that’s a huge compliment.
“So when you’re able to go not quite half-and-half, but be dominant up front and run the ball really, really well, then go back to the air, it’s a huge advantage.”
On defense Wa-Hi faces an offense that averages just 244 total yards of offense — last in the Big Nine — but one that Hisaw said was explosive in space.
“They’re quick and they’re fast, they’re physical,” Hisaw said. “They don’t seem to want to run the ball inside too much, but if they get outside, boy they’re electric. So we’re really trying to keep them in front of us as best we can right now.”
That speed could be a cause for concern for the Blue Devils, who have been killed by big plays on defense as evidenced by their league-worst 380 yards allowed per game.
“We’re trying to simulate the speed and athleticism Davis has, and they’ve got a bunch of it,” Hisaw said. “We’re running a bunch of things to the perimeter to kind of keep things in front of us and keep them at bay, if they can.”
Distributing to those playmakers will be sophomore quarterback Nikhil Lozotte. Lozotte, a sophomore, is listed at receiver for the Pirates but threw for 158 yards and three touchdowns against Wenatchee filling in for injured starter Elias Moctezuma.
Alex Sifuentes, a 5-foot-3, 129-pound senior, figures to get the majority of touches tonight. He split reps with six others against Wenatchee last Friday, but led all backs with 95 yards on 13 carries.
Davis defeated Wa-Hi 41-16 last season in Walla Walla, despite 274 yards of rushing from Hoe.
Despite this being the first trip away from Borleske Stadium this season for the Blue Devils, Hisaw wasn’t concerned about the distance to Yakima.
“We haven’t even talked about it,” Hisaw said. “They’ve been to Davis before for basketball and wrestling and whatever, so I’m not sure that the trip is a daunting task to them, other than that it is a different stadium on a Friday night at 7, so that will be different.”
“We’re going to see how well we get off a bus on a Friday night and see how we do for our first real road test.”