Federal Way leaps into first place

The Federal Way football team walked its talk Thursday night at French Field.

Behind a little trickery and a bevy of big plays, the Eagles stung Kentwood 17-13 in a South Puget Sound League North Division showdown between the league’s top two teams.

Quarterback Justin Southern completed 10 of 18 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown, but it was the arm — and not the legs — of running back Andre Barrington that ultimately made the difference.

Trailing 13-10 late in the third quarter, Barrington connected with Southern for a 27-yard touchdown on a halfback pass, leading the Eagles (4-0 in SPSL North play, 5-1 overall) past the Conquerors (3-1, 4-2) in a battle between the division’s last remaining unbeaten teams.

“Our motto is finish and that’s what we did tonight, finish the game,” Southern said. “It’s the biggest game of the year so far.”

The key to what proved to be the game-winning play was simply believing, Barrington said.

“Confidence,” said Barrington, who missed last week’s game with an ankle sprain. “We’ve got confidence in everybody. We can do stuff like that when everybody is working together.”

What Federal Way couldn’t do was stop Kentwood running back Demitrius Bronson, who rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. While Barrington’s touchdown pass to Southern proved to be Federal Way’s biggest play of the game, the difference may have come late in the second quarter, when Bronson left the game with a left ankle sprain. Bronson carried the ball just once in the second half, forcing Kentwood to use its reserves.

Those reserves — Korey Rodriguez and Artise Gauldin — held their own, combining for 110 yards on 27 carries, but lacked Bronson’s game-breaking ability.

“The other kids were running well and (Demitrius) wasn’t feeling 100 percent,” Kentwood coach Rex Norris said. “We have confidence in our other running backs, too.”

Bronson, a University of Washington verbal commit, wanted back in the game.

“I could’ve got back out there,” Bronson said. “I was in (Norris’) ear the whole game, ‘Coach, I am ready, I am ready.’ But, like I said, we have a lot of backs back there and they can hold the job down as well.”

With the win and a relatively soft upcoming schedule, Federal Way moves into the driver’s seat for the league title. But the Eagles still have to get past Decatur, Kentridge and Jefferson, who have a combined 4-11 overall record.

Federal Way hasn’t won a league title since 1976.

“That’s 30 years,” Federal Way coach John Meagher said. “I was probably still wetting the bed. I was 7 years old. It’s been a long time ... but we haven’t won a league championship yet.

“It was a big win. It puts us in good position to do that.”

In a back-and-forth contest, Federal Way took a 3-0 lead with 7:14 remaining in the first quarter on a 37-yard field goal from Kelyn Rowe. Kentwood quickly struck back moments later on a 61-yard touchdown run from Bronson. Bronson took a delayed handoff off the right tackle, then broke across the field and bolted down the left sideline for the score and a 6-3 lead.

Federal Way followed with a 10-play, 79-yard drive capped off with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Southern to Greylin James, giving the Eagles a short-lived 10-6 lead.

Kentwood re-took the lead on its first drive of the second quarter, going 64 yards on nine plays. The Conquerors pushed ahead, 13-10, on a 20-yard touchdown run around the left side from Bronson.

Bronson, however, left the game on Kentwood’s next possession, spraining his left ankle on a third-and-9 play at Federal Way’s 44-yard line with 2:57 remaining in the half.

With Bronson on the sideline, the Federal Way defense went into lockdown mode.

The Conquerors managed just 99 yards of total offense and four first downs in the second half.

“Our kids came out in the second half and did a better job,” Meagher noted. “Of course, No. 30 not running the ball much obviously helped us. But I’d like to think our kids did a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage in the second half.”

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