WALLA WALLA — Ethan Gardner booted a 23-yard field goal with 5:19 left in the first quarter on Friday night to give Wa-Hi a 3-0 lead over Chiawana in Mid-Columbia Conference football action at Borleske Stadium.
The league-leading Riverhawks retaliated with the final 27 points of the first half — including 21 in the second quarter — and rolled to a conference-championship clinching 47-16 victory.
Chiawana completed its rampage through the Mid-Columbia with a 7-0 record and takes an 8-1 overall mark into the postseason.
The Blue Devils ended the league schedule 4-3 and are now 5-4 overall heading into a home crossover game next Friday with Central Valley of Spokane. The contest, to be played at Borleske Stadium, will kick off at 7 p.m.
Gardner’s 3-point kick occurred three snaps after a 45-yard pass from quarterback Zach Zehner to wide receiver Reid Magnaghi gave Wa-Hi a first down at the Riverhawks’ 11-yard line.
“We had a really good first quarter,” Wa-Hi coach Eric Hisaw said. “We’ve had a tough time all year with the first-quarter blues.”
But the Blue Devils’ momentum was short lived. Chiawana’s Dre Dorton returned the ensuing kickoff 61 yards to the Wa-Hi 20. Running back Austin Urlacher, who tallied three touchdowns on the night, rushed across the goal line on the next play from scrimmage to give the Riverhawks a 6-3 edge.
“We had him (Dorton) pinned in (on the near sideline) and he made a great play,” Hisaw said of Dorton’s return. “They love to run counter and they put it down our throat (on the Urlacher touchdown).”
Late in the first quarter, and with his team facing third-and-2 at the Chiawana 42, Zehner launched a deep pass down the middle of the field that defensive back Isaiah Richie intercepted at the 5.
The Riverhawks claimed a 13-3 lead 95 yards and 11 plays later. Clifton Lozano, who gained a game-high 98 yards rushing, scampered the final 10 yards for the score at the 8:46 mark of the second quarter.
On their next possession, the Blue Devils drove from their 28 to the Chiawana 3. But after rushing attempts that lost four and nine yards, Wa-Hi was looking at third-and-goal from the 16.
Dorton squelched Wa-Hi’s drive with his second pick of the night, a leaping effort at the 1.
The Riverhawks needed just seven plays to cover 99 yards and take a 20-3 advantage. Quarterback Joey Zamora, who completed 19-of-26 passes for 288 yards, fired a 27-yard strike to Dorton with 1:19 left in period two.
“That was a huge series,” Hisaw said. “That was tough on us. They made great plays. Kudos for the way they executed that drive.”
Chiawana’s defense recorded a three-and-out after the ensuing kickoff and started its final series of the half on the Wa-Hi 49 after a 16-yard Blue Devil punt. Zamora drove his team down the field on seven snaps and hit Christian Penny with a five-yard touchdown pass as time expired to give the Riverhawks a 27-3 lead going into halftime.
“The last six minutes (of the second quarter) were tough on us,” Hisaw said. “That’s what championship teams do. They have great skill kids. They are tough to match up against.”
Chiawana scored on its first three possessions of the third quarter on touchdown runs of 32 and four yards by Urlacher, and a 20-yard Zamora-to-Penny dime.
Wa-Hi countered with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns — a four-yard toss from Zehner to Magnaghi and a 23-yard dash by Willie Hayes.
The Blue Devils’ latter score happened two plays after Nick Fuller recovered a muffed punt at the Riverhawks’ 23.
“We told the kids at halftime that we still have 24 minutes to play,” Hisaw said. “The kids took it to heart. I give the kids credit for continuing to fight.”
Magnaghi led Wa-Hi receivers with seven catches for 81 yards. Hayes ended the evening with 84 yards rushing on 11 carries.
Wa-Hi played without wide receiver and defensive back Darnell Handcox (mild concussion) and right tackle Joe Yenney (rotator cuff) due to injury. Linebackers Stuart Gillin and Forrest Swant were “not 100 percent” on Friday, Hisaw said, and Noah Porter suffered a knee injury early in the second quarter.
Hisaw expects his team to be at full strength, minus Yenney, for the Central Valley game.
“It’ll be nice to have the last game at home,” Hisaw said. “It would be nice to see the stadium packed with blue and white. It would be sweet to finish 6-4 in front of our home crowd.”
Chiawana 47, Wa-Hi 16
Chiawana 6 21 20 0 — 47
Wa-Hi 3 0 13 0 — 16
Wa-Hi — Gardner 23 FG.
Chia — Urlacher 20 run (kick failed).
Chia — Lozano 10 run (Winn kick).
Chia — Dorton 27 pass from Zamora (Winn kick).
Chia — Penny 5 pass from Zamora (Winn kick).
Chia — Urlacher 32 run (kick failed).
Wa-Hi — Magnaghi 4 pass from Zehner (Gardner kick).
Chia — Penny 20 pass from Zamora (Winn kick).
Wa-Hi — Hayes 23 run (kick failed).
Chia — Urlacher 4 run (Winn kick).
First downs 23 17
Rushes/yards 29-206 30-129
Passing yards 301 209
Passes (att-comp-int) 29-22-0 32-17-2
Punts 2-37.5 4-32.7
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 6-50 2-15
RUSHING — Chia: Lozano 12-98-1, Urlacher 10-91-2, Zamora 2-14, Graff 1-1, Ramos 3-0, Murrillo 1-2; Wa-Hi: Hayes 11-84-1, Crump 4-25, Gillin 3-9, Porter 3-6, Zehner 9-5.
PASSING — Chia: Zamora 19-26-0, 288 yards, 3 TDs, Graff 2-2-0, 5 yards, 0 TDs, Dorton 1-1-0, 8 yards, 0 TDs; Wa-Hi: Zehner 17-32-2, 209 yards, 1 TD.
RECEIVING — Chia: Dorton 7-98-1, Singleton 5-119, Bishop 3-23, Penny 2-25-1, Ruiz 2-21, Wilson 2-5, Richie 1-10; Wa-Hi: Magnaghi 7-89-1, Gomez 4-69, Coronado 3-22, Huffman 2-30, Hayes 1-7.