WALLA WALLA — Wa-Hi sophomore running back Noah Porter did not give the impression of an athlete that expected no, or minimal, varsity playing time this season during the Blue Devils’ football encounter with Davis on Friday night at Borleske Stadium.
Porter rushed 24 times for 222 yards and one touchdown as Wa-Hi rallied from an 18-7 halftime deficit to post its first win of 2013 — a 28-18, home-opening triumph over the Pirates.
“This is building my confidence a lot,” the 6-foot, 170-pound Porter said. “I’m glad I’ve (gotten) the opportunity.”
Porter showed signs of his capabilities a week earlier when he ran for 46 yards including 40 on eight carries in the second half — in the Blue Devils’ 21-6 loss at Richland.
His opportunity resulted from an ankle injury suffered in that contest by his “good friend,” Porter said, Willie Hayes.
“He’s a pretty special kid,” Wa-Hi coach Eric Hisaw said of Porter. “He was spectacular. He has a lot of confidence. He is a competitor. You can’t coach that part.”
Both teams suffered fumbles on their initial possessions of the game and punted on their second chances with the ball.
Davis drove from its 39-yard line to the Wa-Hi 5 on its third series, only to surrender the ball on a fumble.
The Blue Devils took advantage and recorded the game’s first touchdown after negotiating 82 yards in six plays. A 61-yard scamper by Porter and a 10-yard scoring run around the left end by quarterback Zach Zehner occurred on the latter two snaps.
Ethan Gardner’s PAT kick made it 7-0 with 3:07 left in the first quarter.
Davis responded quickly and took an 8-7 edge at the 1:29 mark of period one on a 7-yard touchdown throw from quarterback Nikhil Lizotte to wide receiver Jacob Mortensen, and a 2-point conversion run by Jose Negrete.
The Pirates threatened to extend their lead on their next possession, but were denied on a goal-line interception by Wa-Hi’s Darnell Handcox early in the second quarter.
Davis stretched its lead with 3:31 remaining in the frame when Lizotte teamed up with Max Jones for a six-point pitch and catch from the Blue Devil 7.
Kicker Jesse Nickens booted the extra point and added a 28-yard field goal on the final play of the half to give the Pirates an 11-point, 18-7 lead at intermission.
Davis gained 314 yards in the first half compared to 185 for Wa-Hi.
The Blue Devils created a one-score game with a touchdown on their second series of the second half, a 16-yard scoring throw from Zehner to Handcox in the deep right corner of the end zone with 2:18 left in the third quarter.
The score held at 18-13 after a failed 2-point conversion pass.
Wa-Hi’s next drive proved to be the game winner. The Blue Devils retook the lead after a touchdown drive of 38 yards on nine plays. Porter crashed into the end zone from the Davis 2 with eight minutes showing on the clock.
Zehner hit Gerardo Gomez with a 2-point conversion aerial to give Wa-Hi a three-point edge, 21-18.
After a Davis punt, Wa-Hi marched 74 yards in eight plays for its final touchdown of the game. Following seven consecutive running plays, including six by Porter that netted 57 yards, the Blue Devils faced fourth-and-1 on the Pirates’ 8.
With Davis expecting another rush, Wa-Hi crossed them up. Zehner took the center snap, rolled right, and fired a short, six-point strike in the flat to running back Stuart Gillin with 1:34 to go.
“We held it (the play) in our back pocket,” Hisaw said. “(Offensive coordinator) Pat (Graham) made a great call.”
“We eventually found our groove and kept pushing,” Porter said. “Our offensive line tried their hardest and created a lot of holes for me. I’m very proud of that.”
While the Blue Devil offense prospered after halftime, their defense held the Pirates to 84 yards and four first downs.
“(Defensive coordinator) Jim Smith did a fantastic job,” Hisaw said. “We got the kids in better spots, tackled better, and played like every play was the play of the game. They fought every play and it paid off for them.”
Wa-Hi looks to make it two in a row next Friday night when it travels to Richland to face Hanford. Game time is 7 p.m. at Fran Rish Stadium.
Wa-Hi 28, Davis 18
Davis 8 10 0 0 — 18
Wa-Hi 7 0 6 15 — 28
Wa-Hi — Zehner 10 run (Gardner kick).
Davis — Mortensen 7 pass from Lizotte (Negrete run).
Davis — Jones 7 pass from Lizotte (Nickens kick).
Davis — Nickens 28 FG.
Wa-Hi — Handcox 16 pass from Zehner (pas failed).
Wa-Hi — Porter 2 run (Gomez pass from Zehner).
Wa-Hi — Gillen 8 pass from Zehner (Gardner kick).
First downs 15 17
Rushes/yards 29-141 36-263
Passing yards 257 109
Passes (att-comp-int) 25-16-1 19-12-1
Punts 5-34 4-28.5
Fumbles-lost 3-2 2-2
Penalties-yards 10-74 4-30
RUSHING — Davis: Lewis 15-77, Lizotte 5-41, Saiz 7-26, Sanders 1-0, Team 1-(-3); Wa-Hi: Porter 24-222, Zehner 10-27, Gillin 1-20, Team 1-(-6).
PASSING — Davis: Lizotte 16-25-1, 257 yards, 2 TDs; Wa-Hi: Zehner 12-19-1, 109 yards, 2 TDs.
RECEIVING — Davis: Sanders 4-76, Walker 3-61, Jones 3-43-1, Lewis 3-31, Briscoe 2-39, Mortensen 1-7-1; Wa-Hi: Handcox 4-38-1, Gillin 3-25-1, Porter 2-25, Huffman 2-14, Gomez 1-7.