By Rich Myhre, Everett Herald Writer
EDMONDS -- Edmonds-Woodway battled Federal Way on even terms for much of the game, but when it came to big plays the visiting Eagles were simply too much.
Chico McClatcher, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound junior speedster, had an 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a long punt return to set up another touchdown, and quarterback Keenan Curran had TD runs of 59 and 38 yards to lead Federal Way of the South Puget Sound League to a 37-20 victory over the Warriors in a quad-district football playoff game Friday night at Edmonds District Stadium. Curran finished with 172 yards rushing on just 14 carries.
The loss ended the season for Edmonds-Woodway, which began its schedule with eight straight victories before losing last week to Lake Stevens in the Western Conference 4A championship game, 53-49.
Against Federal Way, "we made a lot of mistakes," Warriors coach John Gradwohl said. "We weren't going to kick the ball to 5 (McClatcher) and then we kicked the ball to 5. We weren't going to punt the ball to 5 and we punted the ball to 5. That was 14 points, and when you lose by 17 and you give them 14, that's (tough).
"But (the Eagles) are a heck of a team," he said. "They have a lot of speed, and we don't have anybody fast enough to catch them."
The game started well for the Warriors, who struck first with a 15-play, 72-yard drive after the opening kickoff. Edmonds-Woodway converted three third-down plays on the march, and senior running back Junior Opoku-Mensah gained the final 5 yards around left end. Place-kicker Ebrima Fatty added the extra point.
But Federal Way knotted the score moments later on a dazzling 84-yard kickoff return by McClatcher. He bobbled the catch, retreated to the 16-yard line to pick up the loose ball, and then shot through a gap in the Warriors' coverage. The last two potential tacklers whiffed as McClatcher sped past on his way to the end zone.
"He's a hell of a player," Gradwohl said.
The Eagles got two more touchdowns in the second period -- a 57-yard punt return by McClatcher to the EW 13 set up the first TD -- for a 20-7 lead in the late moments before halftime.
But a big defensive play by the Warriors gave them a chance to cut the margin at halftime. Defensive back Chantz Justice made an interception in the center of the field and had a long runback, though an illegal block penalty moved Edmonds-Woodway back to its own 47.
The Warriors got two completions by quarterback Davis Giles, including a 33-yarder to tight end Brandon Hohengarten, to reach the Federal Way 9 with time running out. Two running plays moved the ball to the 3 with five seconds remaining, and on third-and-goal Giles rolled left and passed to running back Mac McLachlan for a touchdown and a 20-14 halftime score.
But Federal Way got a third-quarter field goal, and then wrapped two fourth-quarter touchdowns around an Edmonds-Woodway TD, the Warriors' only points in the second half.
"I thought my kids' effort was awesome," Gradwohl said. "They never gave up and I really appreciate that. I think (Federal Way) is a really good team. It's not that we should've beat them, but I think we could've played a better football game. A smarter football game."
Gradwohl called last week's loss to Lake Stevens "a heartbreaker … and I think we had a little bit of a hangover this week."
The Warriors, he went on, "did a lot of good things (this season). But as a team we're disappointed because we expected more out of the season than what we got."
Federal Way, which improved to 8-2, advances to play Skyline next week in a first-round state playoff game. Skyline (9-1) beat up Jefferson Friday night in its postseason opener, 43-13. The Skyline-Federal Way game will be at 7 p.m. at Skyline High School.
The Eagles also travelled to Skyline back in 2008 for a 4A first-round state playoff game with the Spartans winning, 49-6. It was Federal Way's first trip to the state playoffs since 1976.
At Edmonds Stadium
Federal Way 7 13 3 14 -- 37
Edmonds-Woodway 7 7 0 6 -- 20
Edmonds-Woodway--Opoku-Mensah 5 run (Fatty kick)
Federal Way--McClatcher 84 kickoff return (Han kick)
Federal Way--McClatcher 7 run (kick failed)
Federal Way--Penn 26 pass from Jones (Han kick)
Edmonds-Woodway--MacLachlan 3 pass from Giles (Fatty kick)
Federal Way--21 FG Han
Federal Way--Curran 59 run (Han kick)
Edmonds-Woodway--Giles 7 run (run failed)
Federal Way--Curran 38 run (Han kick)