Prep football preview: Federal Way looking for fifth-straight playoff berth; Beamer, TJ, Decatur hope to improve

Federal Way High School senior Nick Tanielu returns for his third year as the Eagles’ starting quarterback. Last year, Tanielu was named the first-team, All-SPSL North quarterback for a team that finished 8-3 overall and lost in the state playoffs. - Casey Olson/The Mirror
Federal Way High School senior Nick Tanielu returns for his third year as the Eagles’ starting quarterback. Last year, Tanielu was named the first-team, All-SPSL North quarterback for a team that finished 8-3 overall and lost in the state playoffs.
— image credit: Casey Olson/The Mirror

The Federal Way Eagles and their head coach, John Meagher, have become pretty accustomed to playing in the postseason. The Eagle football team has advanced into the playoffs four years in a row and this year’s edition is hoping to make it five straight.

Meagher brings back seven starters from last year’s team that finished 7-2 in the South Puget Sound League North Division, which was good for a tie for second place behind Auburn. The Eagles downed Gig Harbor in a preliminary round game, before losing to Skyview from Vancouver in the opening round of the Class 4A state playoffs.

But Federal Way will see a bunch of new faces this season. The Eagles will play the next two years in the SPSL South Division after being switched from the North following the 2010 spring season.

And the schedule makers in the South didn’t do Federal Way any favors. The Eagles open the 2010 season at home Friday night against the talented Graham-Kapowsin Eagles. Curtis enters the season as the favorite in the South Division after finishing unbeaten in the league last year. Rogers and Bethel also bring back plenty of talent.

“Playing all new opponents is going to be a potential concern,” Meagher said.

But Meagher will have plenty of experience at football’s most important position. Leading the list of returners is All-SPSL first-team quarterback Nick Tanielu.

The 6-foot, 185-pound senior enters his third year as the Eagles’ starter and finished second in the SPSL North in passing yards with 1,130 during the regular season last year. Tanielu completed 51 percent of his passes and finished with six touchdowns. He also ran the ball for 225 yards and five touchdowns and also started as a defensive back for the Eagles’ defense.

“He is a special athlete,” Meagher said.

Also helping Tanielu is the return of five offensive linemen who saw time last season. Back are seniors Paul Parker (6-3, 250), Junior Tuiaana (6-0, 280) and Pasi Taumaopau (6-0, 230), along with juniors Jordan Pulu (6-2, 230) and Uso Olive (6-0, 275). Pulu, Olive and Taumaopau also return as defensive starters, along with senior linebacker Stanley Matau.

Beamer Titans

The Todd Beamer Titans made some great strides last year under first-year head coach David Sundheim. The young coach infused plenty of excitement into the program and the players rewarded him by finishing 4-6 overall in the SPSL South.

This came after the Titans put together a 20-game losing streak, including an 0-10 season in 2008. Beamer is hoping to improve again this season.

Beamer opens up its 2010 season Saturday at Federal Way Memorial Stadium against the Emerald Ridge Jaguars.

The Titans bring back several talented players, including seniors TJ Esekielu and Nicky Fualaau. Esekielu might be the Titans’ best athlete and is scheduled to open the season as the starter at quarterback. The 5-11, 190-pounder will run Beamer’s spread offense and can threaten a defense with both his legs and arm. Esekielu will also start at cornerback on defense.

Faulaau was a two-way, All-SPSL South selection a season ago at running back and linebacker, but will move to tight end on offense this year.

Also returning for the Titans are junior defensive lineman Marly Liulama, who led the SPSL in tackles for a loss last season and wide receiver/cornerback Dominique Maxie, who will be one of the fastest players in the SPSL.

Sundheim lists the Titans’ strengths as team speed, depth and big and strong fronts on the offensive and defensive lines. He lists the team’s weakness as experience.

Jefferson Raiders

The Thomas Jefferson Raiders struggled last season in the SPSL North Division, finishing 1-9 overall. But head coach Dean Peck hopes to build on last year and he will have plenty of help. The Raiders return plenty of talent on both sides of the ball.

“We were a very young team last year and are returning most of our offense and a lot of key players on defense, who will now have some great experience playing young last year,” Peck said.

The Raiders open their season at home against the Tahoma Bears Thursday night at Federal Way Memorial Stadium.

Leading the list of returners is quarterback KW Williams. The 6-1, 185-pounder started the entire 2009 season. Williams will have plenty of targets to throw the ball to, including wide receivers Jadon Sand and Dylan Cooper and tight end Phillip Haywood. Keegan Giles and Ian Tougher will occupy the two backfield positions and the Raiders will also feature five returning offensive lineman who all weigh 225 or more.

Jefferson should also be much improved on the defensive side of the ball. The Raiders will be led by junior linebacker Tim Luafatasaga (6-3, 245) and junior defensive lineman Jefferson Aumua (6-4, 295). Aumua had 10.5 tackles for a loss, including a pair of sacks. He finished the year with 28 tackles.

Jefferson will be the lone Federal Way school to play in the SPSL North this season, which looks to have a lot of parity after defending league champion Auburn. The Trojans enter the season as the second-ranked team in the state and have won the last three SPSL North titles.

Decatur Gators

Like most teams, the Decatur Gators are hoping to improve on last season. In 2009, the Gators finished 3-7 overall in the SPSL South Division.

But Decatur will attempt to improve against teams it has never played before. After decades competing in the South Puget Sound League’s highest enrollment bracket, the Gators will play 2010 as a Class 3A school.

Decatur will kick off its foray into Class 3A Thursday night with a non-league contest against Kennedy Catholic at Highline Stadium in Burien. Year in and year out, Kennedy has been a perennial power in the 3A classification. Decatur also takes on Bremerton, Yelm and Lincoln in non-league games before opening their SPSL 3A schedule on Oct. 1 at Enumclaw.

The SPSL 3A Division also includes Auburn Mountainview, Bonney Lake, Peninsula and Lakes high schools.

Head coach Leon Hatch, who is entering his third year at the helm of the Gator program, lost several solid players from a season ago and will be counting on a multitude of newcomers. Gone are quarterback Alex Bykovskiy, running back/linebacker Clark Colvin, wide receiver/cornerback Tyrone Faulkner, running back/safety Jordan Flowers and linebacker/tight end Matt Turner.

But the Gators do bring back a very imposing presence on both sides of the line in senior Brandon Siliga. The 6-4, 295-pounder is on several preseason All-State teams as an offensive and defensive lineman.

The Gators hope they can sustain their play for the entire season this year. Things started out impressively for the Gators last season. Decatur pounded Emerald Ridge in their opener, 31-12, and then downed Puyallup, 18-13, to begin the season 2-0. But the Gators dropped their next seven games in row before ending the season with a 24-17 win over Jefferson to finish 3-7 overall.

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