HERMISTON — Walla Walla drove five of its first six possessions into Hermiston territory, but even after getting close enough to attempt a field goal each of the last two times, the Blue Devils still found themselves trailing 3-0 more than four minutes into the second half in a Mid-Columbia Conference football matchup here on a windy, rainy Friday night.
At halftime, Wa-Hi decided it was done with missed opportunities.
The first Blue Devil drive of the second half featured Jacob Humphrey rushing for 10, 26, 7 and then 16 yards, setting up quarterback Ryan Martuscelli for a short plunge into the end zone and a 6-3 lead with five minutes left in the third quarter.
Wa-Hi was set on a night when it’s defense dominated, and after adding a fourth quarter TD for some insurance, the Blue Devils came away with a 14-3 win.
After back-to-back losses the previous two weeks, the win Friday evened Wa-Hi’s record so far this season at 2-2.
“These kids have no quit in them — zero,” Blue Devils head coach Greg Lupfer said. “That’s one of the hardest things that you need on a football team that you can’t coach. Either you have that toughness to play hard for four quarters, or you don’t. These guys have no quit in them, and they deserve to win. They’re great kids, and I can’t say anything more about it. They’re awesome.”
Humphrey barely missed his third 100-yard game of the season, finishing the night with 98 on 20 carries, though he also legged out his one reception into a 38-yard gain.
The sophomore Wa-Hi tail back scored the insurance TD on a six-yard run, capping an 11-play 74-yard drive with nine minutes left in the game.
Martuscelli helped balance the offense with a season-high 201 yards passing on 12 of 23 attempts without an interception — in fact, after Wa-Hi turnovers had contributed to losses the previous two weeks, the Blue Devils never coughed up the ball here.
Dylan Ashbeck was the top Wa-Hi receiver with five completions for 102 yards, while Hunter Polley had three for 40.
“That’s a good defense,” Lupfer said of Hermiston. “I’m going to tell you that right now. Their defensive line is really good, and I was extremely concerned about their defense going into this game. But our offense did a great job, our coaches did a great job game-planning, and hats off to the players.”
And then there was the Wa-Hi defense.
The only celebrations Hermiston managed before an eager packed throng here at Kennison Field, as well as the SWX television audience, were a halftime fireworks show and that field goal early in the third quarter.
Hermiston had missed an earlier kick in the second quarter, and Wa-Hi forced five punts along with two turnovers. Jackson Owen recovered a fumble, and Polley intercepted a pass.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils made countless tackles behind the line of scrimmage with at least seven sacks — three by Cole Schmidt.
Hermiston remains winless after four games this season.
“Coach (Justin) James did a good job, and the whole staff did a good job of putting together a game plan, but ultimately it’s about the players,” Lupfer said. “They’re the ones that have to do it and perform and execute. And I truly feel like we just played harder than (Hermiston) did. I really do. We just kept on going and kept on going. We have no quit.”
The Blue Devils can shoot for an above .500 record this week as they prepare for their next game at Richland this coming Friday night starting at 7 p.m.
Richland won a state title two years ago, but the 2019 Bombers are 1-2 in the MCC after their 16-14 loss at Pasco on Friday.
Still, as of today, Lupfer has already begun preparing his team for a challenge.
“Every week’s going to be tough,” Lupfer said immediately following Friday’s game. “There’s nothing easy that’s ever going to happen for us. But I’m not thinking about Richland just yet. We’re going to enjoy this. Coaches get to enjoy it until (Saturday) morning at 8 (a.m.). The players get to enjoy it until tomorrow until about one o’clock. And then we put it to bed, and move onto Richland.”
As great as Wa-Hi played defense Friday, it was Hermiston to get on the scoreboard first.
Still, a tremendous Blue Devil stand limited Hermiston to a 3-0 lead.
The two sides went to halftime in a scoreless stalemate, and then as the rain picked up, Hermiston took the third quarter kickoff and drove 58 yards on 11 plays with a first down at the Wa-Hi 10-yard line.
After a pair of short runs, a pass interference penalty against Wa-Hi extended the threat with another third-and-goal at the Blue Devil 3.
But the Blue Devil defense stuffed another Hermiston run for a loss, leaving them to settle for a 21-yard field goal.
The Wa-Hi offense showed its gratitude by taking its ensuing possession all the way, with Martuscelli applying the exclamation point.
“I was a little nervous when (Hermiston) came out and drove the field on us that first series, but you know what? We held them to three points,” Lupfer said. “That’s huge. That’s what defensively you want to do in the red zone (inside the 20-yard line), is hold the team to three points. When we did that it was a win for us.”
Blue Devils 14, Bulldogs 3
Herm — Wagner 21 field goal.
WW — Martuscelli 1 run (Hall kick).
WW — Humphrey 6 run (Hall kick).
RUSHING — WW: Humphrey 20-98, Moore 7-13, Martsucelli 4-0. HERM: Faaeteete 10-72, Wagner 4-8, Walchli 1-10, Schwirse 14-(-14).
PASSING — WW: Martuscelli 12-23-201-0-0, D. Ashbeck 0-1-0-0-0. HERM: Schwirse 19-26-178-0-1.
RECEIVING — WW: D. Ashbeck 5-102, Polley 3-40, Humphrey 1-38, Parish 1-15, Terry 1-4, L. Ashbeck 1-2. HERM: Wagner 5-76, Pitney 4-36, Walchli 4-34, Remmer 4-26, Faaeteete 2-6.