WALLA WALLA — One thing was certain heading into Friday’s Class 4A crossover football game between the Mid-Columbia Conference’s Wa-Hi Blue Devils and the Central Valley Bears of the Greater Spokane League.
The winner would end its 2013 season with a winning record of 6-4, while the loser would conclude 5-5.
Blue Devil running back Willie Hayes contributed significantly to the outcome on a night when Wa-Hi honored 10 seniors during a pre-game ceremony.
Hayes, a 5-foot-10, 190-pound junior, rushed 20 times for 138 yards and one touchdown as Wa-Hi built a 19-0 halftime lead and hung on for a 26-14 victory over the Bears.
“I can’t tell you how happy and proud I am,” Wa-Hi coach Eric Hisaw told his team in the locker room afterward. “It’s been an unbelievable year. All 46 of you decided to do it (achieve a winning season) together.”
The Blue Devils wasted little time setting the tone for the evening. Wa-Hi put up the game’s first touchdown — a 22-yard scamper by quarterback Zach Zehner that ended a four-play, 60-yard drive — with 10:22 left in the first quarter.
“We did what we (looked) to do all year and that was start fast,” Wa-Hi running back Stuart Gillin said.
Hayes put the Blue Devils in front 13-0 just 37 seconds into the second quarter on a 31-yard scoring run — the seventh play of a 70-yard march to the Central Valley goal line.
Wide receiver Mitch Huffman recorded Wa-Hi’s final touchdown of the half on a 26-yard dash at the 2:30 mark of period two to make it 19-0.
“It was a counter,” Huffman said. “I came from the slot, Zach did a 360, and handed me the ball. The blocking was superb.”
The Blue Devils gained 222 yards in the first half compared with 115 for the Bears. Wa-Hi netted 141 yards on the ground led by the 71 of Hayes on eight carries.
Central Valley, the pre-season favorite to win the GSL, hurt itself with eight penalties for 95 yards in half one. Five of the infractions were of the 15-yard variety.
The Bears made it a two-score game late in the third quarter when quarterback Adam Chamberlain danced into the end zone from two yards away with 3:24 left. Ryan Rehkow’s point-after kick brought the score to 19-7.
Wa-Hi regained control of the game by traveling 73 yards on its next series. Gillin negotiated the final 14 yards on the sixth snap of the possession and his only carry of the game.
“One touch. One score,” Gillin said. “I’ll take it. The momentum — they had was stifled right there. If we don’t get that (touchdown), it’s a very interesting game.”
Ethan Gardner booted the extra point to provide the Blue Devils with their final point of the contest with only 37.6 seconds remaining in the third.
Central Valley rallied late in the final frame. Chamberlain scored on another two-yard run at the 2:31 mark.
The Bears recovered an onside kick and reached the Wa-Hi 14-yard line before turning the ball over on downs.
Zehner ended up with 66 yards rushing on six carries.
As a team, the Blue Devil ground game totaled 247 yards.
“There were some great holes,” Hayes said. “That was the best line play I’ve seen all year.”
Wa-Hi’s improved play — six wins in their final eight games — was due in part to a consistent level of high play, Hisaw said.
“We beat the teams we should have beaten and played with the best two teams on this side of the state (Kamiakin and Chiawana) for three quarters,” Hisaw said. “The kids showed a belief in the staff and a competitive desire.
“They had a tremendous amount of belief in each other,” he said. “This was a special group of young men.”
“The seniors bought in and the juniors and sophomores bought in,” senior wide receiver and defensive back Darnell Handcox said. “We came together as one, especially during that five-game winning streak.”
“It feels amazing,” senior lineman Nate Sumerlin said. “We wanted to go out with a bang. We weren’t going to lose this game.”
“The corner’s been turned,” Gillin said. “I can’t wait to see what these guys have up their sleeve next year.”
Wa-Hi 26, Central Valley 14
Central Valley 0 0 7 7 — 14
Wa-Hi 6 13 7 0 — 26
Wa-Hi — Zehner 22 run (run failed).
Wa-Hi — Hayes 31 run (Gardner kick).
Wa-Hi — Huffman 26 run (run failed).
CV — Chamberlain 2 run (Rehkow kick).
Wa-Hi — Gillin 14 run (Gardner kick).
CV — Chamberlain 2 run (Rehkow kick).
Central Valley Wa-Hi
First downs 16 19
Rushes/yards 39-131 29-247
Passing yards 182 106
Passes (att-comp-int) 40-17-1 20-8-2
Punts 5-29.8 3-28.7
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 11-120 6-47
RUSHING — CV: Miller 22-82, Chamberlain 14-48-2, Wolrehammer 3-1; Wa-Hi: Hayes 20-138-1, Zehner 6-66-1, Huffman 1-26-1, Gillin 1-14-1, Handcox 1-3.
PASSING — CV: Chamberlain 17-40-1, 182 yards, 0 TDs; Wa-Hi: Zehner 8-20-2, 106 yards, 0 TDs.
RECEIVING — CV: Bowden 4-31, Byus 3-56, Shaber 2-43, Benson 2-17, Wolrehammer 2-14, Miller 1-2; Wa-Hi: Handcox 3-39, Huffman 2-45, Magnaghi 2-16, Gomez 1-6.