MOSES LAKE — Wa-Hi fell behind Moses Lake four times during the regulation portion of its season-opening football game Friday night at Lions Field.
The Blue Devils also rallied to tie the Chiefs an equal number of times.
But a field goal in overtime proved to be just enough for Moses Lake to eke out a 27-24 triumph.
“I loved our kids’ effort,” Wa-Hi coach Eric Hisaw said. “I thought we played really hard. Our kids were exhausted at the end.
“We battled a really good football team for three hours and didn’t make enough plays to win,” Hisaw said.
The Chiefs took their first lead with 6:11 left in the first quarter on a 17-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Easton Castro to receiver Tyson Karstetter.
Wa-Hi responded on the first play of period two. Quarterback Zach Zehner, who completed 23-of-32 passes for 280 yards, threw the first of his three touchdown passes — a 25-yarder to Gerardo Gomez — at the 11:55 mark.
Brett Moser put Moses Lake in front, 14-7, with a six-point scamper of 33-yards just 3:49 before halftime.
The Chiefs took their seven-point lead to intermission.
Wa-Hi equalized just a minute and change into the third quarter. Zehner connected with Darnell Handcox for an 18-yard score to knot the score at 14-14.
Moses Lake reclaimed a seven-point spread with 4:08 left in the third on a 10-yard rampage by Moser.
Wa-Hi countered at the 1:54 mark of the third. Zehner teamed up with Mitchell Huffman for a 9-yard touchdown toss to even the tally at 21-all.
The team exchanged fourth-quarter field goals. Rehn Reiley gave Moses Lake a three-point edge, 24-21, with a successful kick from 32 yards away with 2:24 remaining.
The Blue Devils commenced their final offensive series of regulation time at their 27-yard line. Zehner completed two passes apiece to Huffman, Handcox and Reid Magnaghi to advance the ball to the Chiefs’ 13 in the waning seconds.
Ethan Gardner, who knocked three PAT kicks through the uprights earlier in the game, kicked a 30-yard field goal as time expired to tie things up and send the contest into overtime.
“I thought Ethan Gardner was awesome,” Hisaw said. “He has pure ice running through his veins. He is a serious weapon and is only going to get better for us as a kicker and a punter.”
Reiley made a 42-yard field goal on Moses Lake’s possession in the extra session and set the stage for a dramatic finish.
Wa-Hi drove inside the Chiefs’ 5 during its offensive series in period five and put up what appeared to be the game-winning touchdown when running back Willie Hayes rushed across the goal line from 3 yards out.
But the score was wiped out because of a holding penalty that pushed the ball back to the 13.
After an illegal procedure infraction moved the line of scrimmage to the 18, Moser ended the game with an interception.
“I was frustrated by the number of times that we hurt ourselves,” Hisaw said. “We just lost this game, we didn’t get beaten. That’s a tough pill to swallow, especially when we played as tough as we did.
“We have to do a better job of staying composed in difficult situations,” Hisaw said. “We lost some composure at times and it hurt us.”
With that said, Hisaw did point to numerous positives afterward.
“We had so many good things happen for us,” Hisaw said. “Only four kids on this team have really played on Friday nights coming into this game. We are young and inexperienced, but they played with a lot of heart and passion.
“Zach Zehner was very impressive,” Hisaw said. “He did a nice job of managing the game and taking care of the ball. He did a very nice job in his first varsity game.”
Handcox and Huffman caught eight passes apiece for 131 and 70 receiving yards, respectively.
“I thought Mitch was a warrior,” Hisaw said. “He made some fantastic catches in traffic, took some huge hits, and never dropped the ball.
“All in all, it was a great game for the people to watch,” Hisaw said. “It had everything you’d want in a great high school football game. I love these kids. Although it’s tough to lose, I love their passion and effort.”
Wa-Hi travels to Richland this Friday for a tussle with the Bombers.
“We will rebound and go forward,” Hisaw said. “There’s no other way to go, and it doesn’t get any easier next week. But these kids will be ready and they’ll come to play.
“I really believe we are good,” Hisaw said. “How good remains to be seen, but we are only going to get better.”
Moses Lake 27, Wa-Hi 24
Wa-Hi 0 7 14 3 0 — 24
Moses Lake 7 7 7 3 3 — 27
Moses Lake — Karstetter 17 pass from Castro (Reiley kick).
Wa-Hi — Gomez 25 pass from Zehner (Gardner kick).
Moses Lake — Moser 33 pass from Castro (Reiley kick).
Wa-Hi — Handcox 18 pass from Zehner (Gardner kick).
Moses Lake — Moser 10 run (Reiley kick).
Wa-Hi — Huffman 9 pass from Zehner (Gardner kick).
Moses Lake — Reiley 32 FG.
Wa-Hi — Gardner 30 FG.
Moses Lake — Reiley 42 FG.
Wa-Hi Moses Lake
First downs 19 18
Rushes/yards 24-72 38-143
Passing yards 280 135
Passes (att-comp-int) 34-23-1 22-11-0
Punts 4-36 4-40.5
Fumbles-lost 3-1 4-1
Penalties-yards 8-65 8-73
RUSHING — Wa-Hi: Hayes 12-45, Coronado 3-11, Zehner 7-11, Gillin 2-5; Moses Lake: Moser 4-40, Lacelle 12-38, Team 1-26, Castro 19-24, Ball 2-15.
PASSING — Wa-Hi: Zehner 23-32-1, 280 yards, 3 TDs, Coronado 0-2-0, 0 yards; Moses Lake: Castro 11-22-0, 135 yards, 2 TDs.
RECEIVING — Wa-Hi: Handcox 8-130-1, Huffman 8-70-1, Magnaghi 4-36, Gomez 3-44-1; Moses Lake: Moser 3-48-1, Sutherland 3-43, Lacelle 3-22, Karstetter 2-22-1.