Walla Walla High School’s football team seemed to be in complete control with a 20-9 lead over Kamiakin, especially when the Blue Devils took possession on another interception (already their fourth of the night) less than two minutes before halftime in front of a big homecoming crowd here at Borleske Stadium on Friday.
The latest pick put Wa-Hi at its own 2-yard line, and soon a safety opened the door for three unanswered touchdowns by an explosive Kamiakin offense in the third quarter.
Wa-Hi had a brief chance to get back later in the third when Ryan Moore raced 52 yards to pay dirt off a short reception, but Kamiakin held on to hand the Blue Devils a 37-27 loss in the Mid-Columbia Conference.
Six-foot, 215-pound running back Tuna Altahir powered the Kamiakin takeover, and he finished the night with three touchdowns — two of them on the ground while rushing for 224 yards on 30 carries.
“(Kamiakin) came out and they ran their counter play out of their trips formation, and we had a hard time stopping it,” Blue Devils coach Greg Lupfer said. “But really, I’m going to tell you, it wasn’t what they did. It was what we did. That’s the bottom line. We made some mistakes.”
The Blue Devils (3-3 in the MCC) took the ball to the end zone on their first two possessions of the night, but though they would get 13 more drives started, only one produced another TD.
Two of the Wa-Hi offensives instead ended with Kamiakin scoring safeties, the Blue Devils punted six times and turned the ball over on downs twice, there was also an interception, as well as the end of the first half and the game.
Wa-Hi quarterback Ryan Martuscelli threw for 172 yards and two TDs on 13-of-31 passing with one INT.
Hunter Polley was good for 38 yards on four receptions, Logan Ashbeck (three for 33), and Anthony Parish (3-25).
But meanwhile, Kamiakin limited the Blue Devils to 41 yards rushing.
“Our offense played well in the first half,” Lupfer said. “We did exactly what we wanted to do. I think we just sputtered in the second half. I think we out-thought ourselves. That’s on me. This whole loss is on me. It’s not on anybody else.”
The Blue Devils have little time to dwell on the loss as they next play on Thursday at Kennewick in an MCC clash starting at 7 p.m.
“We have a short week, so we have a lot of preparation to get taken care of,” Lupfer said.
Until Kamiakin managed to take over in the third quarter, Blue Devil fans had a lot to cheer about at homecoming.
Kamiakin came in averaging 458.2 yards of total offense, but Wa-Hi’s defense stole the show (literally) early on.
Dylan Ashbeck recorded the first of four Wa-Hi interceptions, picking off a Kamiakin pass to the Blue Devil 40 on their third play of the game.
Jakob Humphrey then carried the Blue Devils to the end zone on a series of runs, the last a two-yard crash over the goal line for a 7-0 lead with barely three minutes gone.
Before Kamiakin could take a moment to get mad, the Blue Devils had Sergio Gomez recover an onside kick at the Kamiakin 37.
Five plays later, Wa-Hi quarterback Ryan Martuscelli hit Joe Terry on a 20-yard scoring pass to make it a 13-0 game.
The ensuing Kamiakin drive resulted in another Dylan Ashbeck interception, but this time at the Blue Devil 8.
Wa-Hi had to punt three plays later, and the snap sailed out of the end zone, getting Kamiakin on the scoreboard for the first time with 2:30 left in the first quarter.
Kamiakin took advantage of a short field on the safety punt, scoring its first TD to make it 13-9 game as the first quarter ended, but the Blue Devil soon came up with another defensive gem.
It was still a 13-9 game after a rash of punts when the two sides traded interceptions.
Kamiakin went first, picking off Martuscelli on first down from his own 21 and returning it to the Wa-Hi 14 with 6:36 to go before halftime.
But the very next play saw Logan Ashbeck snatch a Kamiakin toss to just outside the Wa-Hi 10 and race all the way for six and a 20-9 lead.
“Nobody gave us a chance against (Kamiakin),” Lupfer said. “It shows you what type of kids we have. We don’t have guys that are 6-(foot)-6. We don’t have guys that can jump out of the gym. We have a bunch of tough football players. That’s what we have.”
But another safety trimmed the Wa-Hi lead to 20-11 at halftime, and Kamiakin came out of the break charging.
Wa-Hi received the second-half kickoff, only a penalty placed them at their own 11, and a punt just three plays later went out of bounds at their 27.
Kamiakin then handed the ball off to Altahir for a TD, getting to within 20-18 and barely a minute gone.
Another Wa-Hi three-and-out gave Kamiakin possession at its 34.
A pass-interference penalty against Wa-Hi with an incompletion on third down-and-five placed the ball at the Blue Devil 32, and then a long TD pass put Kamiakin on top for good with 6:26 left in the third quarter.
The Blue Devils soon had to punt again, and Kamiakin began to pull away with another TD.
“We come out in the second half on offense, and we go three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out,” Lupfer said. “You can’t do that. Our whole thing is we have to control the ball. That’s it. We have to control the ball. We have to control the clock. If we don’t do that, we’ve got problems. We didn’t do that in the second half.
“The first half, we did a great job of it,” Lupfer said. “I think we might have out-thought ourselves a little bit at halftime. But it is what it is. We’re going to learn from it.”
Braves 37, Blue Devils 27
WW — Humphrey 2 run (Hall kick).
WW — Terry 20 pass from Martuscelli (pass failed).
Kam — safety.
Kam — Altahir 2 pass from Mercado (Staniszewski kick).
WW — L. Ashbeck 88 interception return (Hall kick).
Kam — safety.
Kam — Altahir 27 run (Munn kick)
Kam — Downard 32 pass from Mercado (run failed).
Kam — Altahir 13 run (Munn kick).
WW — Moore 52 pass from Martuscelli (Hall kick).
Kam — Mercado 1 run (kick missed).
RUSHING — Kam: Altahir 30-224, Salgado 1-7, Rutz 1-4, Downard 1-3, Mercado 6-(-34). WW: Humphrey 13-42, Moore 7-26, Martuscelli 2-(-8).
PASSING — Kam: Mercado 15-29-187-2-4. WW: Martuscelli 13-31-172-2-1.
RECEIVING — Kam: Downard 7-71, Rutz 3-70, Jones 3-42, Altahir 1-2, Swaney 1-2. WW: Polley 4-38, L. Ashbeck 3-33, Parish 3-25, Moore 1-52, Terry 1-20, D. Ashbeck 1-4.