Logan Ashbeck raced across the goal line on a 16-yard scoring pass from Ryan Martuscelli, and kicker Seamus Hall converted the extra point, to give Walla Walla High School’s football team a 7-0 lead over powerhouse Chiawana midway through the first quarter of their Mid-Columbia Conference matchup here at Borleske Stadium on Friday night.
The only other points against Chiawana this year up to that moment had come two weeks earlier by Richland in the first quarter of their season-opener. The Riverhawks shutout Kennewick last week.
Wa-Hi would later become the first team to score twice against Chiawana when Hunter Polley scooped up a Riverhawks fumble at their 36-yard line and returned it to the end zone midway through the fourth quarter.
In between the Blue Devil touchdowns, however, Chiawana scored six unanswered on its way to handing Wa-Hi its second straight loss with a 41-13 pounding.
“You know, we played a really good football team,” Blue Devils coach Greg Lupfer said. “The way we started, I was like, ‘Whoa, ok. We’re functioning on all cylinders.’ But they do a really good job on defense. There’s a reason why Kennewick and Richland (combined) only scored seven points.”
A week after losing a 28-25 back-and-forth battle at Hanford, the Blue Devils (1-2 record) struggled to do much after their early touchdown pass against Chiawana.
The Blue Devils finished with 45 yards of total offense, compared to the Riverhawks’ 343.
Jakob Humphrey followed back-to-back 100-yard rushing games for Wa-Hi with only 23 on 17 carries against Chiawana.
Martuscelli and Dash Sirmon, together, threw for only 29 yards on 5-of-17 passing.
“It’s a tough defense to prepare for, no doubt about it,” Lupfer said. “They bring pressure from all over the place. It’s kind of a double-flex package, and they do a good job with it. It’s extremely hard on an offense to be able to execute.
“We had to be able to put in a pistol package with our quarterback,” Lupfer said. “Everything we’ve done has been our quarterback taking snaps from under center, so that was different. We tried to do some different things. Some of it was good, some of it was not.”
Lupfer was more upset by how some of his Blue Devils behaved as the game grew lopsided.
“My biggest disappointment is the penalties,” Lupfer said. “I just talked to the team about it. I’m not going to run a program that mouths off, plays dirty. We’re just not going to be that type of program. Our guys understand that. I think they got so frustrated tonight, our players did, and they acted in a way that is unacceptable with how we’re going to conduct this program.”
The Blue Devils look to bounce back this coming Friday when they travel to Hermiston for another MCC showdown starting at 7 p.m.
In the meantime, the Blue Devils can lick their wounds from the spikes of Gabe Schliz.
The Chiawana running back trampled over Wa-Hi’s defense for 129 yards and four touchdowns on 15 carries.
By the end of the first quarter, Schliz already had 103 yards and two TDs on only nine carries.
“Obviously we have to tackle better,” Lupfer said. “Way too many missed tackles. I told them at halftime, ‘We’re playing not to lose; we need to play to win.’ When you play not to lose, you play hesitant. You try not to make mistakes, and you try to do everything perfect. You’ve just got to go out and play.”
Not only did Chiawana take over the game on the heels of that early Wa-Hi touchdown, but Blue Devil turnovers helped action get out of control.
Chiawana took its first lead at 14-7 with just 28 seconds left in the first quarter on a nine-yard Schliz run, but the Blue Devils then fumbled the ball on their first snap from scrimmage at their own 25-yard line, and the same Riverhawk tailback plowed his way back to the end zone from eight yards out only four plays later.
Chiawana then upped its lead to 28-7 with more than six minutes remaining in the first half when another Blue Devil fumble, this time on second down at the Wa-Hi 22, led to the fifth straight Riverhawks TD.
“When we can’t take a center snap and we’re fumbling, that’s not good football,” Lupfer said. “We can’t do that.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we will get it fixed,” Lupfer said. “We’re going to play our tails off next weekend.
“Nothing’s changing. We’ll watch video (Saturday), meet with the players, put the thing to rest, and move on.”
Chiawana had a 34-7 lead and took possession at the Wa-Hi 34-yard line with 3:33 left before halftime, but the Blue Devil defense managed to hold its ground for the first time since back when the game was scoreless.
Less than 30 seconds remained with the Riverhawks going for it on fourth down-and-11, but they fell short.
“That last series of the first half, that’s the way we play defense,” Lupfer said. “We ran to the ball well, we tackled well, but we’ve got to put the whole thing together.
“We’ve got some guys that are injured — which is not an excuse — but the bottom line is this whole loss is on me,” Lupfer said. “It’s not on the kids. We didn’t do a good enough job coaching them, and we didn’t do a good enough job preparing them. That is my fault, nobody else’s.”
Riverhawks 41, Blue Devils 13
Wa-Hi — L. Ashbeck 16 pass from Martuscelli (Hall kick).
Chia — Schliz 7 run (Dawes kick).
Chia — Schliz 9 run (Dawes kick).
Chia — Schliz 8 run (Dawes kick).
Chia — Young 27 pass from Zamora (Dawes kick).
Chia — Breier 15 pass from Zamora (kick blocked).
Chia — Schliz 3 run (Dawes kick).
Wa-Hi — Polley 36 fumble return (kick failed).
RUSHING — Chia: Schliz 15-129, Cook 10-41, Zamora 2-18, Mendez 1-8, Buggs 1-2. Wa-Hi: Humphrey 17-23, Sirmon 1-10.
PASSING — Chia: Zamora 10-18-148-2-0, Mendez 0-0-0-0-0. Wa-Hi: Martuscelli 5-15-29-1-0, Sirmon 0-2-0-0-0.
RECEIVING — Chia: Young 5-68, Breier 2-68, Lee 1-7, Alvarez 1-5, Cook 1-2. Wa-Hi: Wik 3-10, L. Ashbeck 1-16, Humphrey 1-3.