The Walla Walla High School football program will open the 2019 season with a new coach in Greg Lupfer.
He replaces Eric Hisaw, who stepped down after the 2018 season after seven seasons at the helm. But Lupfer is no stranger to the area.
He’s a graduate of nearby Dayton High and played football at Walla Walla Community College.
Lupfer said this spring he wanted to come back home, and he’s been with the Blue Devils since March.
He likes what he’s seen so far.
“It’s going really well,” he said. “The kids are buying into the expectations of the program. They’re working hard and paying attention.”
5 things to know about the Walla Walla Blue Devils:
1. New coach has quite the resume.
After playing for WWCC, Lupfer finished his college playing career at Portland State University.
Since then, he’s coached in five different college programs over 20-plus years: Portland State, Boise State, Colorado State, Toledo University and Cal Poly.
He also spent some time as an assistant at a large Texas high school.
2. Senior class is small, but filled with leaders.
This Wa-Hi team will be young. There are 27 sophomores on the varsity roster, and just eight seniors.
But Lupfer said the seniors will be the guys everyone looks up to.
“Our strength is our leadership and work ethic,” Lupfer said.
That group will include WR-DB Dylan Ashbeck, a three-sport standout; running back Ryan Moore; WR-DB Anthony Parish; DB-WR Hunter Polley (“He’s our emotional leader, he likes to talk.”); OL-LB Cole Schmidt, who was second-team Mid-Columbia Conference last season at defensive lineman; and speedy WR-DB Josiah Wik, who was an honorable mention special teams player in 2018.
3. Who is the quarterback?
Its been a battle all camp between junior Ryan Martuscelli and sophomore Dash Sirmon.
The team was having a scrimmage on Saturday, and Lupfer and his staff were going to pick one of them afterward to start against Southridge in the Blue Devils’ opener next Friday.
Martuscelli saw some playing time last season, throwing for 315 yards as a backup.
Sirmon was a WIAA Class 4A state qualifier in the javelin this spring, and he won his age group title in the same event in July at the AAU National Championships in Sacramento.
Whoever wins the job should expect to manage the offense.
“Offensively, we’re making sure we control the ball, and thus control the clock. We have to take care of the football,” said Lupfer.
Wa-Hi also has Seamus Hall, a second-team MCC selection last season at kicker, returning.
4. Watch out for Ashbeck and Wik.
Both played well last season for the Blue Devils.
Ashbeck — who is a standout basketball and baseball player too — caught 39 passes last season for 465 yards and four touchdowns.
Wik rushed for 509 yards last season and was a breakaway threat on kick returns.
“We have some experienced players on offense,” Lupfer said. “When people prepare for Wa-Hi, they’re going to have to work.”
5. Defense will be aggressive.
“Defensively, we’ll get after you,” said Lupfer. “We’ll bring pressure. Find your weak link on offense and attack it.”
But he admits it’s a process. The Blue Devils were 2-8 last season.
“To improve, we’ve got to get the overall scheme of what we’re trying to do,” said Lupfer. “We’re throwing a lot at them, and there are question marks in certain areas. In the end, we’re putting the best 11 players on the field. And I’ll be happy if these kids have a good time playing football at Wa-Hi.”