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FOOTBALL: Chico is the man for sixth-ranked Eagles
Labels are for soup cans, not for football players like Chico McClatcher.
The dynamic Federal Way High School junior doesn’t really care what position is listed next to his name on the pre-game program. McClatcher’s sole attention on the football field is to make plays — and the 5-foot-8, 175-pounder is making plenty of them for the Eagles.
“I’m just a play-maker,” McClatcher said with a wry smile. “I’m just an athlete that makes plays out there.”
McClatcher isn’t just any kind of playmaker. He is the ultimate big-play playmaker. McClatcher can reach full speed on his first step, which is a rare trait for a football player. He is a threat to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball, no matter where he is on the field.
“There are times where I catch myself sitting back and watching Chico and being in awe,” said longtime Federal Way head coach John Meagher. “Last week, he made one guy miss him, made another guy fall down, then leapt over him with a Donkey Kong jump, and when he landed, he spun away in another direction. I took my headset off and just said, ‘Wow.’ We are obviously blessed to have him on the team.”
To illustrate McClatcher’s ability to make defenders miss, all you have to do is review his statistics for the 4-1, sixth-ranked Eagles. This year, McClatcher has 610 yards rushing, 298 yards receiving, 264 yards in kickoff returns, 133 yards in punt returns — and has also thrown a 52-yard touchdown pass.
In all, McClatcher has accounted for 1,357 yards of total yardage in just five games, which averages out to an amazing 291 yards a game. He has accounted for 12 total touchdowns, with nine of them being 50 yards or more.
Federal Way senior teammate Keenan Curran, a Division-I football recruit himself, gave McClatcher the ultimate compliment earlier this season when he called him the best he’s ever seen.
And that’s saying something. Curran has been associated with the Federal Way High School football program since he started as a ball boy at 7 years old. In short, Curran has seen plenty of talent roll across the turf at Federal Way Memorial Stadium in the past 11 years.
“He’s the best athlete I’ve ever seen,” Curran said. “He has put on some weight and he’s even more explosive than last year. I didn’t think that was possible. He’s just an amazing athlete.”
McClatcher burst onto the high school scene as a raw, 150-pound freshman running back.
He finished with 350 yards rushing and three touchdowns as a ninth-grader. It was evident from the start that he was different.
“I really tried to slow-play him as much as I could, but that was impossible,” Meagher said. “We saw his quickness and his ability to make people miss.”
Meagher even had a long conversation with McClatcher at the beginning of turnouts his ninth-grade season about the coach’s philosophy for playing freshmen on the Eagles’ varsity squad.
“I told him not to get too high of hopes to be a varsity guy,” Meagher said. “I told him the only situation he would play is if he was going to help varsity. Obviously, we saw that he was too special to have him playing on the freshmen team. Plus, it wasn’t fair for the freshmen he was playing against.”
As a sophomore, McClatcher scored 17 touchdowns. He finished with 615 yards on just 62 carries at running back, including six touchdown runs. He also caught 11 passes for 337 yards, including seven for touchdowns. McClatcher also brought back four punts for scores, averaging 31 yards per return.
Now, as a junior, McClatcher is a chiseled 175 pounds who runs around tacklers with his legit 4.4, 40-yard speed, and can also run through a tackle.
“Part of it is just the physical maturity going from a 14-year-old kid to a 17-year-old,” Meagher said. “But he also works very hard and has gotten stronger. He was already physically gifted with great balance and quickness. Now, he’s the total package.”
College coaches from all corners of the United States have noticed McClatcher’s big-play ability.
By the time he graduates from Federal Way in the spring of 2015, McClatcher will be one of the highest-recruited athletes in the history of the school. And that’s saying quite a bit. Federal Way has produced professional basketball players Donny Marshall (UConn) and Michael Dickerson (Arizona) and pro football receiver Lake Dawson (Notre Dame). In the last two years alone, seven Federal Way football players have inked full-ride scholarships to play in college. But none have garnered the national attention that McClatcher has received.
Currently, McClatcher has seven full-ride offers from Arizona State, Boise State, Portland State, UCLA, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, with many more expected to come.
“Today, I’m going to hand him 30 to 40 letters from schools all over the country,” said Meagher, who has coached at Federal Way for the past 17 years. “I’m talking SEC and Big-10 schools. He is really the first national recruit that we’ve had.”
According to Scout.com, a recruiting website, McClatcher is the 28th-ranked running back in the nation for the Class of 2015, and is a four-star recruit.
“I’m kind of laying low on the recruiting right now,” McClatcher said. “I will start concentrating on it later this year.”
But that doesn’t mean McClatcher isn’t taking in all the pitches from the college coaches from around the country. In fact, he will be on the sidelines tomorrow at the Washington-Oregon game at Husky Stadium.
“I will be on the UW sideline, but I will be watching both teams,” he said.
Don’t expect a decision on where he will play in college any time soon. McClatcher said that he will be taking his five “official” visits to schools following his junior football season, and said a commitment will likely be made during his senior year.
“It’s going to be huge,” McClatcher said about his decision. “The whole recruiting process is kind of cool. I’ve been getting a lot of attention from colleges.”
McClatcher’s attention is firmly focused on taking Federal Way High School football to a place where the program has never been in its rich history — a state championship.
Last season, after rolling to 11 wins in a row and the second-ranking in the state, Federal Way was beaten up by Camas in the Class 4A quarterfinals. And this year, after entering the season as the third-ranked team in the state, the Eagles lost to Graham-Kapowsin, 39-21, in the third week. It was Federal Way’s first South Puget Sound League South Division loss since the 2010 season, and something that could have derailed the Eagles’ quest for a state title.
McClatcher has seen the loss as a coming-together moment for the relatively young and inexperienced Eagles.
“That loss helped our team come back stronger,” McClatcher said. “We made a lot of mistakes and we have learned from that. There are a lot of guys that this is their first year on the varsity and they are working through it. We are getting a lot better. We had a lot of talent last year. But this year is kind of different.”