It’s been said that one of the most difficult things for a coach to do is to take the game plan his or her team has worked on all week, crumple it up and toss it aside because it just isn’t working.
Difficult or not, Craig Whitney did just that Friday night when his West Valley Eagles weren’t able to move the ball on the ground against Pullman.
“We scrapped it,” he said. “We decided we were just going to have to put it in the air.”
Air it out, the Eagles did. Quarterback Hunter Wright attempted 59 passes, completing 39.
“I may have thrown that many passes in a Pop Warner game,” Wright laughed. “Definitely not since then.”
“I haven’t looked, but that may be the record (for pass attempts in a game),” Whitney said. “It could have been more (attempts) but we had a couple penalties called and that wiped out a play here and there.”
In the end, West Valley came up just short of the win, falling 36-33.
“After the game I thought it really came down to a couple of plays that, if we changed them we’d change the outcome,” Whitney said. “After looking at the film I think it was a few more than that.
“It was just a great high school football game and it was a lot of fun to be part of it. We tip our caps to Pullman.”
Wright threw two touchdown passes to Collin Sather and one each to Ryan Leifer and Connor Whitney, the head coach’s son.
“I have a lot of confidence in my receivers and what they can do,” Wright said. “When I get to the line of scrimmage all I’m really doing is checking where the cornerbacks and whether or not they’re going to blitz. I may have an idea of where I want to go with my throw, but mostly I’m just reading what the defense gives us.”
The Pullman effort is evidence of just how far Wright has come in his development as a quarterback. He saw his first action with the West Valley varsity a year ago, dividing time with the junior varsity.
“When he got here he was 95 pounds,” coach Whitney laughed. “Now he’s 170 pounds and, pound for pound, he’s right there with the strongest guys we have. He’s worked hard to make himself a better player physically. Truth be told, he’s probably one of our better defensive backs but I like to keep him on the sideline when we’re on defense so I can talk to him and help make sure he stays calm.
“That may change. We have a limited number of defensive backs and they run a lot of sprints on offense. We may need to cycle Hunter in there more these next few games to help give them a break and keep them fresh.”
Running a passing attack that can use as many as five wide receivers at one time takes poise, confidence and a disciplined approach to execution.
“When he makes a mistake he’s always on it before I can say anything,” Whitney said. “He runs to the sideline and is already saying ‘I know, I know.’ He understands the offense and he rarely makes the same mistake twice.”
“I threw a couple interceptions (against Pullman) that I’d like to have back,” the senior said. “But my teammates did a great job of picking me up. They got three turnovers for us.”
The Eagles entered last week’s game ranked in the Seattle Times Class 2A football poll, and the loss to the Greyhounds likely knocked them out of the Top 10, but it hardly diminished the team’s prospects.
For starters, the Great Northern League has a habit of making the post-season as difficult as possible for teams. With just five teams in the league (Cheney, Clarkston, East Valley, Pullman and West Valley) every game amounts to a rivalry game instead of just a league encounter, and no one overlooks a league opponent. Ever.
“We’ve moved on,” Whitney said. “It hurts, but we have to play at Cheney this week. We can’t afford to waste time worrying about that last game.”
“I’m still mad about a few plays I wish I’d made, but we’re totally getting ready to face Cheney because that’s always a tough game. We finish (the regular season) at Cheney, at home against East Valley and at Clarkston. We can’t afford to look past anyone.”
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