Borleske Stadium will host a reunion of sorts from opposite ends of the gridiron here on Friday night.
Walla Walla High School football coach Greg Lupfer squares off against the familiar face of Chiawana’s Steve Graff when the Blue Devils host the undefeated Riverhawks for a Mid-Columbia Conference clash starting at 7 p.m.
“He’s my old coach from when I was in high school,” said Lupfer, a Dayton High alumn (Class of 1988). “He was our defensive coordinator, and he was also my biology teacher. I’ve known the guy for many years.”
Needless to say, a lot has happened since Lupfer and Graff parted ways in 1988.
Lupfer went on to play at Walla Walla Community College and then at Portland State before embarking on a long coaching career that saw him bounce as an assistant from Idaho back to Oregon to California to Ohio to Colorado and Texas before returning here to take over the Wa-Hi program.
Graff also left Dayton in 1988, moving to Pasco, where he became the head coach nine years later and won three state titles (1998, 2000, 2003) in 12 seasons.
When Chiawana opened in 2009, it got Graff to coach its football program. He wasted little time building a new perennial powerhouse, and won his fourth state championship five years later.
But Lupfer and Graff have stayed in contact.
“Right when I got the job here,” Lupfer said, “I texted him, ‘There’s a new sheriff in town. You’d better get ready.’
“His first reply,” Lupfer chuckled, “was ‘Who’s this?’”
The Blue Devils can expect to have their hands full Friday.
Chiawana opened this season with a 38-7 victory on the road at Richland — the state champion only two years ago.
Last week, while Wa-Hi lost a 28-25 back-and-forth battle at Hanford, the Riverhawks won their home opener with a shutout of Kennewick (the same team that beat Hanford the previous week).
Since Richland scored its touchdown for an early lead in the season opener, Chiawana has outscored its opposition 75-0.
The Chiawana defense has surrendered the one touchdown, permitting only 52 yards rushing total.
Meanwhile, an unshakable Riverhawks secondary already has seven interceptions.
“They’re a fast football team,” Lupfer said. “They bring a ton of different pressures, and blitzes on the defensive side. They bring it from everywhere. They run well, and they’re extremely well coached. We’ve got to be ready for a physical game with lots of intensity. We have to be tough.”
As for offense, Chiawana quarterback JP Zamora has thrown for 382 yards and five touchdowns on 24-of-51 (.471) passing despite three interceptions.
Tailback Gabe Shilz has rushed for 189 yards and three TDs on 42 carries.
The last two times Wa-Hi and Chiawana have faced off, they’ve played at Edgar Brown Stadium where Riverhawks outscored Blue Devils a combined 95-10.
Chiawana may have also won the last time it came here, in 2016, but Wa-Hi stunned everybody that night by threatening an upset all the way to the end of a 14-12 thriller.
Lupfer said he understands what his 2019 Blue Devils will be up against this week, but they always prepare with their minds set on a win.
“We’re just staying consistent with what we do,” Lupfer said. “Last week’s game was tough, but it just doesn’t matter anymore. We put it to bed. And every week, whether we just won or like we just lost, we’re going to stay with that philosophy.”