SIDELINES: Federal Way can make football history in 2012

Zeek McNeal and the Federal Way Eagles blew out the Rogers Rams in their season opener, 41-14, at Federal Way Memorial Stadium. McNeal scored a pair of first-half touchdowns on runs of 31 and 68 yards. - Mirror file photo
Zeek McNeal and the Federal Way Eagles blew out the Rogers Rams in their season opener, 41-14, at Federal Way Memorial Stadium. McNeal scored a pair of first-half touchdowns on runs of 31 and 68 yards.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

Could the 2012 edition of Federal Way High School football team do something historic this season?

After the first four weeks of the season, it sure looks like something special could be on the horizon.

The Eagles have the look of a state-title contender after rolling out to a perfect 4-0 start with blowout wins over four solid South Puget Sound League South Division teams.

These wins have created a buzz around Federal Way and the state. It's a buzz that hasn't really been around the district in nearly 40 years.

You see, state title contending football teams in Federal Way have been few and far between. Federal Way High School is the only football program in the city to ever play in a state tournament. The Eagles have done it only three times since the school was originally built in 1938, when leather helmets were the uniform of choice.

The first two state appearances came in the mid-1970s, during the heyday of Federal Way High School football.

In total, the Eagles finished 22-3 during a two-year stretch from 1975 to 1976, and sent more than a dozen players into the college football ranks. The 1975 and 19‘76 seasons were also the last time any Federal Way School District football teams have qualified for the state playoffs.

The fall of 1976 was the definition of a Norman Rockwell painting for the Federal Way High School football team. The city definitely had "“Friday Night Lights"” syndrome when it came to the Eagles.

Ads littered the Federal Way News, wishing the Eagles good luck in the state playoffs. The team’'s starting lineup was printed each week and the players were treated like kings at businesses around the city. Six packed school buses followed the Federal Way team up Interstate 5 to Seattle'’s Memorial Stadium before the state championship game against Snohomish in 1976.

Let's hope this year's edition of the Eagles has that same support from the community because the similarities between the two eras are pretty substantial. You know what they say: "History repeats itself."

Like their 1970s counterparts, Federal Way also rolled into the state playoffs a season ago after finishing unbeaten in the SPSL South. The Eagles eventually lost in the opening round to Eastlake, much like the 1975 team did in the state quarterfinals.

But, like the 1976 team, last year's squad gained a lot of much-needed experience playing in big games, and features a senior-laden roster. The 2011 and 2012 teams will also have double-digit players extend their football careers into college.

The Eagles appear to have few weaknesses when inspecting their roster.

Federal Way easily features the best defense in the SPSL, led by a pair of punishing, huge middle linebackers in Rod Jones and Albert Havili. Both are listed at 6-foot-3, 235-pounds and clog the running lanes.

The linebacking corps is backed by a lighting-quick secondary, led by D'Londo Tucker. Federal Way hasn't even had the services of another first-team, All-SPSL South cornerback. Senior J.J. McNeal broke his collarbone during a summer camp at Central Washington University.

Offensively, the Eagles haven't had any problems driving up and down the field and scoring points in bunches during their first four games. Through the first four games of the season, Federal Way averaged nearly 48 points a game, including 62 during a win over Graham-Kapowsin in the third week and a 45-16 whipping of Bethel last week.

The Eagles have already scored a ridiculous 16 touchdowns this season of 30 yards or more. Even more ridiculous, is the fact that six different players have scored those touchdowns. Senior Zeek McNeal and sophomore Chico McClatcher both have three each and Tucker has a pair.

The Eagles are also getting tons of respect and recognition around the state. Federal Way is currently ranked third in most of the Class 4A polls after starting the year with three blowout wins. Federal Way's win over Emerald Ridge in the second week was even broadcast regionally on Root Sports.

Obviously, there is still a lot of football to be played this year. So let's just sit back and enjoy the ride. It could be an historic one for high school football in Federal Way.


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