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PLAYOFF FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Federal Way hosts rematch with Rogers in state opener
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9
Where: Federal Way Memorial Stadium
What’s at stake: A berth into the quarterfinal round of the 16-team Class 4A State Football Playoffs. The winner of the Federal Way-Rogers game will play the winner of a game between Camas and Arlington. Camas (10-0) won the Greater St. Helen’s League and is currently the third-ranked team in the state behind Skyline (10-0) and Federal Way (10-0). Arlington (5-5) upset unbeaten Kentwood last week in the preliminary round of the state playoffs. The winner of the Camas/Arlington game will host Federal Way or Rogers on Nov. 16 or 17.
How they got here: Second-ranked Federal Way won a surprisingly tough game against Issaquah in a preliminary round game last week, 24-14. The Eagles cruised to its second-straight SPSL South Division championship, finishing unbeaten.
Rogers (6-4) earned the state berth after beating Monroe last week in a defensive slugfest, 14-7. The Rams finished up in fourth place in the SPSL South.
This will be Rogers’ fourth appearance in the state tournament in the last five years. The Rams reached the quarterfinals in 2008 and lost in the opening round in 2009 and ‘10.
Friday night’s game will be a rematch of an SPSL South game on Aug. 31, which the Eagles won easily, 41-14. It was the season-opener for both teams.
“I am not sure,” Federal Way head coach John Meagher said about a rematch with Rogers. “We have never done it before. There won’t be a lot of surprises.”
Rogers’ three other losses on the season came to Graham-Kapowsin, 38-14, Kentwood, 31-23, and Curtis, 41-33. Federal Way beat Graham-Kapowsin and Curtis by a combined score of 97-34.
Why Rogers will win: There’s no doubt that it will be a shocker if the Rams pull off the victory. Federal Way dominated Rogers in their first matchup this season, jumping out to a 41-0 lead before halftime. A bulk of the second half was played with a running clock, which happens when a team is leading by 40 or more points. Both of Rogers’ touchdowns came in the fourth quarter against the Eagles’ non-starters on defense.
But Federal Way is not looking past the Rams, according to Meagher.
“It’s the playoffs, so hopefully the team won’t overlook anybody,” he said. “Or we spend the offseason regretting that decision.”
The Rams, however, were impressive in their win over Monroe on the road. With the score tied at 7-7 late in the third quarter, LaGrant Pegram returned a Monroe punt 95 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
“They are doing much of the same stuff they were doing at the beginning of the year,” Meagher said. “But they are executing better.”
The Rams’ rushing attack was led by senior Andy Nelson during the regular season. Nelson finished with 515 yards and five touchdowns.
Rogers also features a two-quarterback system with junior Grayson Madland and senior Stefan Van Horn. Madland has six touchdown passes on the year and Van Horn has five. Both had two each in the Rams’ 31-29 win over Puyallup in their regular-season finale.
Defensively, the Rams have a lot of big play ability. Damian Jackson finished with three interceptions, including one for a touchdown, and also led the Rams in tackles with 47.5.
On the defensive line, Rogers is led by Gavin Kovacs. The 5-foot-11, 220-pounder was third in the SPSL with 11.5 tackles for a loss, including 5.5 sacks.
Why Federal Way will win: The Eagles will definitely be the most talented team on the field Friday night. Federal Way is loaded all over the field and will have three college recruits back on the field against Rogers.
Running back/returner Chico McClatcher returns after missing the last two games with a sickness and linebacker/fullback Rod Jones and wide receiver Mike Tate have will also play after missing the win over Issaquah last week.
“All three are now cleared to play,” Meagher said. “Chico feels great. He has felt great for awhile, we were just waiting for the doctors to clear him.”
McClatcher, who already has a scholarship offer from the University of Washington as a 10th-grader, finished with 13 touchdowns, including three on punt returns.
Senior running back Zeek McNeal had a huge game last week in the absence of the three offensive weapons. McNeal rushed for a career-best 293 yards against Issaquah and could top the 1,000-yard mark with a solid game against Rogers. McNeal now has 920 yards and 11 touchdowns on just 74 carries.
Meagher is also hoping for a bounce-back game from senior quarterback Evan Elliott. Entering the Issaquah game, Elliot had completed over 70 percent of his passes for 1,195 yards, 20 touchdowns and one interception. Elliott easily had his worse game of the season against Issaquah with two interceptions and a fumble. In total, Federal Way had six turnovers during the win.
Defensively, the Eagles were more than dominant against Issaquah. Aside from an 80-yard run by Jack Gellatly on the first play of the game, Federal Way limited Issaquah to just 58 total yards the rest of the contest. In total, the Eagles forced 10 three-and-outs on 11 total offensive drives by Issaquah.
Federal Way dominated the line of scrimmage with a group that includes Jay-Tee Tiuli (6-3, 295), Winston Havili (6-0, 215), Day-Day Boles-Williams (5-7, 250) and Eric Ah Fua (5-10, 255), along with linebackers Albert Havili (6-2, 235), Jones (6-3, 233) and Marcus Fielder (6-3, 215).
The rest of the defensive backfield features speed galore in D’Londo Tucker, J.J. McNeal, Tate, Keenan Curran and Aaron Persinger, who has six interceptions on the season. In total, the Eagles have 17 interceptions this year.
Class 4A State Football Tournament
Rogers (Puyallup) vs. Federal Way at Federal Way Stadium, 7 p.m.
Lake Stevens at Skyline, 7 p.m.
Roosevelt vs. Jackson at Everett Memorial Stadium, 7 p.m.
Auburn at Eastmont (Wenatchee), 7 p.m.
Bothell vs. Bellarmine Prep at Mount Tahoma Stadium, 1 p.m.
Newport vs. Mead at Albi Stadium (Spokane), 1 p.m.
Union at Gonzaga Prep, 1 p.m.
Arlington vs. Camas at Doc Harris Stadium (Camas), 6 p.m.