Walla Walla High School’s football team kept its own defense embattled against a widespread Hanford attack, and the Blue Devils paid for it.
Wa-Hi gained enough yardage for a first down only four times as 10 of 14 drives resulted in punts — six of them after the minimum three plays.
And the Blue Devils ended up rushing for a total of 13 yards on 24 carries.
Hanford quarterback Garrett Horner took advantage of the repeated opportunities and connected with four different receivers for touchdowns.
He gained 253 yards on 17-of-29 passing with only one interception, teammate Jared DeVine ran for another 128 yards and two TDs on 22 carries, and the Falcons dealt Wa-Hi a 41-6 loss at Borleske Stadium on a warm Friday night.
“Honestly, they were just better up front than us on both sides of the ball,” Blue Devils coach Eric Hisaw said. “We couldn’t run the ball tonight, we couldn’t stop their run. And when you can’t stop the run and you can’t run, it’s a long night. And that’s the bottom line.
“We got beat by a better team tonight,” he continued. “We played hard. We just got beat by a better team tonight, plain and simple.”
The Blue Devils look to bounce back this Friday at perennial powerhouse Chiawana, which needed a last-second field goal to edge Kennewick for a 27-26 win on Thursday.
“We’re gonna keep working and grinding,” Hisaw said. “It’s only game two. We are 1-1 right now, so the world’s not coming to an end. We’re just gonna go, get back to work.
“That’s the only way to do things,” he added. “We’re gonna go attack the crap out of Chiawana next week. Our only focus is us looking to get better and going to play them.”
With almost no running game against Hanford, Wa-Hi eventually left its offense up to sophomore quarterback Ryan Martuscelli — starting in place of senior Keldan Swant, out of action due to a shoulder sprain he suffered midway through their season-opening win at Southridge.
The 5-foot-7 Martuscelli finished 14-of-21 passing for 121 yards and a touchdown with one interception.
Dylan Ashbeck caught six passes for 91 yards.
“I thought Ryan played really well tonight,” Hisaw said of his QB.
The first time Wa-Hi could move the chains for a first down happened on a Martuscelli-Ashbeck connection for 31 yards to midfield with Hanford already up, 21-0, and only about two minutes left before halftime.
But Martuscelli and Ashbeck soon followed with gains of seven and 36 yards, the latter getting them to the Hanford 5.
A tackle behind the line of scrimmage pushed Wa-Hi back to the Hanford 9, but from there, Martuscelli got to 6-foot-7 senior Jared McAlvey in the end zone with about 18 seconds left.
Hanford would make a threat in those final seconds, creeping to within the Wa-Hi 22, but a defensive stand gave the Blue Devils some more momentum into the break.
The Wa-Hi rally seemed to carry over, as McAlvey picked off a Horner pass to the Blue Devil 22 less than a minute into the third quarter, but they then went three-and-out.
The ensuing Hanford drive ended on a failed fourth-down bid, but the very next play resulted in a Falcon interception at the Blue Devil 31, and Horner soon hit receiver Blake VanderTop with a 28-yard scoring pass to make it a 27-6 game.
About five minutes still remained in the third quarter, and Hanford added touchdowns on its next two drives to finish off Wa-Hi.
“We couldn’t stay on the field on offense,” Hisaw said. “We had like six straight three-and-outs, I think. You can’t win a ball game doing that. Our defense actually played pretty well — first half, only giving up 21 — on a short field all night.
“We just got beat-up up front on both sides,” he added. “Not a lack of effort, we’ve just got to get better.”