Walla Walla v Kennewick Preview - Union Bulliten

Walla Walla High School’s football team will go after its third straight win Friday, when the Blue Devils host Kennewick in a Mid-Columbia Conference matchup at Borleske Stadium.

The Blue Devils (2-1 overall, 1-0 in the league) entered this season with the ambition to win at least three quarters of their games, and a victory Friday would get them back on track as they begin the middle third of their schedule.

“There’s a very nice sense of confidence right now and a true workman-like attitude,” Wa-Hi coach Eric Hisaw said. “We are focusing on this next three-game stretch, and our goal is to finish it 3-0. But the most important game on the entire schedule is Kennewick.”

Wa-Hi looks to build off a thrilling, 50-48, victory last week at Hanford. The Blue Devils mounted several big leads, but the Falcons threatened to come all the way back until Wa-Hi made a decisive defensive stand in the closing minutes.

“What sticks out in my mind after the win is that we had to truly play 48 minutes to win the game,” Hisaw said. “We didn’t play well for the entire game, but we played every minute and had to really buckle down at key moments to get a win.

“I loved our kids’ attitude and resiliency on the field and sideline.” 

As the season unfolds with a new chapter or episode each week, the Hanford game could very well be remembered as pivotal.

“They never got down or negative,” Hisaw said of his team. “They just kept playing, and you could feel their confidence. We will take a lot from this game in terms of situational pressure we were in. You can’t simulate being ahead by two points, having to play defense from darn near midfield, with 4-6 minutes to play. Nor when you get the ball back after making a fourth-down stand, and having to get a first down to seal the win.

“Our kids were terrific under pressure.”

The Blue Devils suffered a few injuries at Hanford. Senior Miguel Baza and junior Mason Knowles have practiced this week and will be active Friday, but senior lineman Adam Boggs will remain sidelined — a tough loss for Wa-Hi’s inexperienced line.

“(Boggs is) a huge hole to fill,” Hisaw said. “He’s been so great for us on both the offensive and defensive lines.”

The Blue Devils face another big challenge in the well-tested Kennewick team. The Lions started the season by battling Prosser (last year’s Class 2A state champions), crushed Cleveland the following week, and then faced unbeaten Richland, losing the first and third games.

The Lions are prepared.

“Kennewick is coming in at 1-2, but it’s very, very misleading,” Hisaw said. “They lost to Prosser, No. 1-ranked in the 2A, and then Richland, No. 3 ranked in 4A. They are always very physical up front on both sides of the ball, and play extremely hard. They have more youth than they did last year, but they are also very athletic. They are in a different defense than we’ve seen all year as well, and they’ve changed their offense a bit.”

Kennewick quarterback A.J. Templeton has thrown for 361 yards and three touchdowns on 31-of-62 passing. 

Receiver Blake Loftus has totaled 204 yards on 14 catches. 

The Lions’ production thus far may seem paltry compared to the Blue Devils’ high-octane offense, but Hisaw warned that counting Kennewick out will only set the stage for an upset.

“We will have to tackle much better than we did last week, and we have to stop the run better,” Hisaw said. “They will be coming in here after beating us last year, knowing that they can compete with us because they have in the past. 

“If we don’t match or exceed their physicality on Friday night, it will be a long one for us.”

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