Eric Hisaw sees the speed.
He sees his kids’ confidence.
So the Walla Walla High School football coach makes no bones about the fact he believes his team can make the state playoffs this season.
“The kids’ goal is to make the playoffs,” said Hisaw, whose team opens the season at home at Borleske Stadium on Friday night against Skyview of Vancouver. “They believe they are good enough. They know how close they were last year, and really believe they deserved to be in the round of 16 last year at the end of the season. We were playing great football, and they want to be the team that gets back into the playoffs.”
To do that, it’ll be Hisaw’s job to not overwork his players — a tendancy for programs that use a lot of two-way starters.
And in Walla Walla, no less than seven players are pegged to start on both sides of the ball as the season opens.
“You’re always going to have kids play on both sides of the ball, and that's fine,” said Hisaw. “But we had to play so many last year both ways. I’d really like to be able to cut that down if we can.”
To do that, some of his reserve Blue Devils will have to step things up.
But he also likes what he’s seen with those starters: a lot of them have speed.
“I think our team speed has really improved,” Hisaw said. “We had 20 kids break 5.0 (seconds) in the 40-yard dash when we tested, and 10 kids were under 4.75 (seconds). Last year we had about 10 kids that could run that fast.”
Last year’s team was 6-4 and just missed a postseason berth in the Mid-Columbia Conference, with eventual state champion Chiawana and quarterfinalist Richland earning the conference’s two postseason berths.
But some of those Wa-Hi kids with speed also are coming back with experience.
Running backs Noah Porter (510 yards rushing) and Willie Hayes (440) are back.
So are receivers Mitchell Huffman (32 catches, 315 yards), Reid Magnaghi (24 for 297) and Gerardo Gomez (16 for 222).
“Last year was our first year in the pistol on offense and our 3-4 defense,” said Hisaw. “We’ve been able to add more to each scheme and be more diverse. Our kids have a much better understanding of their roles and our schemes, so we won’t need to be so simple. We are going to be able to throw more looks and schemes at our opponents.”