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FOOTBALL: Federal Way's Elliott just fine with flying under the radar
If you were asked to pick out the quarterback of the second-ranked and unbeaten Federal Way High School football team, it’s pretty likely Evan Elliott wouldn’t get a lot of fingers pointed his way.
The senior isn’t what you think of when a coach draws up the perfect quarterback. Elliott is “listed” at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds and isn’t going to outrun a lot of defensive backs or uncork a 65-yard spiral down the middle of the field. In short, he doesn’t possess the “tools” that get college recruiters salivating.
It’s something Elliott could care less about. He just wants to do one thing on the football field — win.
And Elliott and the rest of his Federal Way teammates have been doing plenty of that this season. Federal Way is 9-0 and start their postseason run at 7:30 p.m. against Issaquah Friday night, Nov. 2, at Federal Way Memorial Stadium in the 32-team preliminary round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
“I’m not your prototypical quarterback,” Elliott said. “I’m the blue-collar guy. I just go make plays and play hard.”
But, even after a full regular season of making those plays, Elliott is still being overlooked by plenty of on-lookers. People have a tendency to point to all the dangerous athletes Elliott is surrounded by at the Eagles’ skill positions on the offensive side of the ball.
Federal Way features a pair of breakaway running backs in sophomore Chico McClatcher and senior Zeek McNeal, who both have double-digit touchdowns, a bruising fullback in Rod Jones and a dynamic trio of wide receivers, including college recruits Mike Tate, D’Londo Tucker and Marcel Morris.
They think any quarterback could succeed with the all the college-type players around him. But that’s far from the case, according to longtime Federal Way head coach John Meagher.
“Everybody says that he’s flying under the radar,” he said. “Well, he’s not flying under our radar. He’s surprised us too many times for us to be surprised anymore. He does everything you ask him to do. Your quarterback has to be your No. 1 leader and if he’s not, you’re in trouble.”
Statistically, Elliott is having one of the all-time most efficient seasons for a quarterback in Federal Way history. During the Eagles’ 9-0 regular season, Elliott has accounted for 23 total touchdowns, including 20 through the air, with only one interception.
But even with the eye-popping stats, Elliott is still quick to heap the praise on his talented teammates.
“People always tell me good game and stuff and I tell them, ‘how could I not have a good game? Look at all the guys around me,’” said the humble Elliott. “Those guys get all the attention and that’s perfectly fine with me. I don’t care at all. “
But that doesn’t mean Elliott doesn’t use the lack of attention to fuel his fire on the football field.
“I always look for things to motivate me, to put a chip on my shoulder.”
One of them was being named one of the three captains of the 2012 Eagles, along with cornerback J.J. McNeal and Tate.
“The other two guys are being looked at by colleges and I’m not,” Elliott said. “I asked myself, why are you a captain? I needed to prove to everybody that I was good enough to be named a captain and that kind of ignited my fire. I have always played in the underdog role my whole life.”
That fire was burning very bright last week during the Eagles’ 35-6 win over South Puget Sound League South Division rival Curtis. During the second quarter, Elliott threw his one and only interception of the season.
“He was hot,” Meagher said with a laugh. “He got back to the sidelines and was on fire on the sideline after that interception. He wanted to go the whole season without throwing an interception. He took a lot of pride in the fact. He was hot.”
“I’m always trying to minimize my mistakes and I was proud of the fact that I hadn’t thrown a pick all year,” he said. “I thought I had a good read and the ball felt good coming out of my hand. The kid just made a nice play.”
The interception happened in the second quarter and the Eagles went into halftime nursing just a 14-6 lead against Curtis.
“At the time I was hot, but I went into the locker room at halftime and calmed myself down,” Elliott said. “I just told myself that I had to take it to a whole new level.”
And Elliott did just that, throwing three second-half touchdown passes that led Federal Way to the SPSL South-clinching victory.
But that’s just the way Elliott plays the game of football. He knows that his teammates and the Federal Way staff looks to him when things get tough on the field.
It’s an attitude that isn’t lost on Meagher.
“His best attribute is his leadership,” he said. “He’s unflappable when things don’t go well. He gets things fixed and is another coach on the field.”
Despite taking a lot of snaps as the Eagles’ quarterback during his junior season, it was still unclear if Elliott would even be the starting quarterback this year for the Eagles.
After splitting time with Tucker, a fellow seinor, Elliott didn’t earn the full-time starting quarterback job until fall practice started.
“We made the move after everything was wrapped up during the summer,” Meagher said. “We just knew that Evan was our guy and we can move D’Londo to his more natural position at wide receiver.”
Both Elliott and Tucker have flourished this year. Tucker has developed into one of the top receivers in the area and has several offers from Division-I programs like Eastern Washington, Idaho and Portland State.
“The first day of practice, (the coaches) told Londo to go out to wide receiver and (Tucker) came up to me and told me that this was my team now and that the team knew what I could do. I told him that I would put the ball in his hands and he will make a lot of plays. He has been great about it.”
Elliott and the rest of his Eagle teammates came into this season hoping to build on what happened last year. That’s when Federal Way cruised through the SPSL season unbeaten only to lose to Eastlake in the opening round of the state playoffs on the turf at Federal Way Memorial Stadium.
“It definitely feels differently than last year,” Elliott said. “We really didn’t know we would be that good. We were kind of in shock when we got to the postseason. Now that it’s our senior year, we have learned from that and don’t want that bad taste in our mouth again.”
The Eagles’ 2012 postseason journey kicks off against Issaquah, who finished fifth in the KingCo League with a 5-4 record. Federal Way is hoping the journey ends inside the Tacoma Dome in the state championship game, Nov. 30.
“Obviously, our goal is to take state,” Elliott said. “But we are taking it game by game and knowing we have to take care of our business and make some statements along the way.
“We want to make it to the Dome. The championship is in our reach.”