Game of the Week: Second-ranked, unbeaten Eagles set for biggest tests of the year

Federal Way senior D’Londo Tucker stiff arms a Spanaway Lake defender during the Eagles’ 42-13 win over the Sentinels Friday night. The unbeaten Eagles play Auburn (6-1) at 7 p.m. Friday night at Auburn
Federal Way senior D’Londo Tucker stiff arms a Spanaway Lake defender during the Eagles’ 42-13 win over the Sentinels Friday night. The unbeaten Eagles play Auburn (6-1) at 7 p.m. Friday night at Auburn's Troy Field.
— image credit: Todd Dearinger/For the Mirror

The second-ranked Federal Way football team hasn’t played a close game all season long.

In fact, the Eagle starters haven’t played a lot of football during the third and fourth quarters this year.

That just comes along with starting the season 7-0, while beating their South Puget Sound League South Division opponents by an average score of 50-16.

Even more stunning is the fact that games haven’t even been that close. In total, Federal Way has outscored its opponents, 285-55, during the first half. In contrast, the Eagles have only tallied 63 points in the third and fourth quarters, compared to 57 by their opponents.

That blowout trend might have run its course and Federal Way should finally be tested. The Eagles’ final two regular season games come against teams that are a combined 12-2 and both are on the road in hostile stadiums. Federal Way travels to Auburn (6-1) Friday night and takes on Curtis (6-1) Oct. 26 in their SPSL regular season finale in University Place.

It’s something that isn’t lost on longtime Federal Way head coach John Meagher.

“We are treating the next two games as preseason playoff games,” he said. “It is great that we are playing two opponents that are going to the playoffs before we get to the postseason, because it will tune up some of the things we need work on without the pressure of the loser-out game.”

Auburn’s only loss this season came to the unbeaten Kentwood Conquerors in their opener. Since then, the Trojans have won six-straight SPSL North contests in impressive fashion.

Offensively, Auburn really got going after scoring just seven points in the loss to Kentwood. The Trojans have scored 28 or more points in their six wins and are being led by quarterback Brier Atkinson, running back Harold Lee and tight end Kevin Shelton.

Atkinson is doing a solid job running Auburn’s complicated “Fly” offense. As a run-first quarterback, Atkinson has rushed for six touchdowns, but he can also throw the ball with three touchdown passes on the year.

Shelton is a 6-foot-3, 240-pound tight end, who has caught three touchdown passes on the season. But Shelton’s impact is more on the defensive side of the ball. He is one of the state’s top recruits as a linebacker/defensive end and should end up at a Pac-12 school. His older brother, Danny, is starring on the defensive line at the University of Washington.

But it’s Lee that is the most dangerous cog in Auburn’s offense. The 5-9, 175-pounder had a huge game during a 42-7 win over Tahoma when he erupted for 333 yards of offense and five touchdowns, which included two interception returns, a kick return, a rushing TD and a touchdown catch. Lee currently has 15 total touchdowns on the season in just seven games.

“He is a good player,” Meagher said. “Good speed and has enough wiggle to make people miss.”

But the second-ranked Eagles also have plenty of guys with good speed and “wiggle” on both sides of the ball.

A bulk of the attention for Federal Way has been focused on dual-threat running backs Chico McClatcher and Zeek McNeal, talented receivers Mike Tate and D’Londo Tucker, bruising lineman Albert Havili and Rod Jones, a powerhouse fullback.

But the most underrated portion of the Eagles’ offense this season has been the passing game, led by quarterback Evan Elliott. The senior, who kind of gets lost in the spectacular play of his ultra-talented teammates, has thrown a grand total of 16 touchdown passes on the season and has yet to throw an interception.

“Evan has had a terrific year throwing the football,” Meagher said.

But running the ball and big plays on special teams and defense have been key to Federal Way’s unbeaten season.

The Eagles have used their big-play ability to score an eye-popping 26 touchdowns in seven games of 30 yards or more. McClatcher is leading the way with 13 total touchdowns and nine over 30 yards, including three punt returns.

About the only thing Meagher can complain about on the offensive side of the ball is the sometimes spotty play of his young line.

“We need to continue to work on executing our offense,” he said. “We have improved over the last couple weeks up front, but our O-Line is an area where we can improve the most.”

The Eagles have already clinched a spot in the postseason and a win over Curtis in their final game will give them the outright SPSL South championship for the second year in a row. The SPSL South Division winner will host the fifth-place team from KingCo League on Nov. 2 in the opening round of the state playoffs.

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