By JOSH SUMAN
Goliath, must fall.
Those were the words Federal Way senior quarterback Keenan Curran saw in a Facebook post from friend and former quarterback Evan Elliot. They were also the words he bellowed to teammates, coaches and friends who had came onto the field at Skyline High School after the Eagles beat the two-time defending 4A state champion Spartans 26-20 to earn a spot in next week's quarterfinals.
"I have to give huge props to our offensive line," Curran said. "And Eric Ah Fua, he had an awesome game."
Ah Fua got his team on the board with a 19-yard run midway through the third quarter to pull within a score after falling behind 14-0 at halftime, and the Eagles forced two fumbles, took the ball away on downs and held on for the final stop to secure a win head coach John Meagher said was no fluke.
"It's great, it's not an upset," he said. "We felt like we were the better team coming into the game, and we just proved it tonight."
Next up for the Eagles is a home game against the Richland Bombers at 7 p.m. at Federal Way Memorial Stadium Friday night in the Class 4A State Football quarterfinals. Richland beat up Skyview last weekend in the Tri-Cities, 21-9. The Federal Way-Richland winner will take on the winner of a game between Wenatchee and Chiawana. The semifinal game will be in Eastern Washington.
Rushing touchdowns from Skyline quarterback Kilton Anderson and running back Chandler Wong had the home team feeling every bit the part of prohibitive state title contender, before a barrage of offense from junior running back Chico McClatcher and Curran sent the Spartans home before the state championship game for the first time since 2006.
McClatcher was held mostly in check in the first half, as Federal Way saw two drives stall on downs in Skyline territory and another end in a sack on an attempted punt that set up the Spartans' second score.
But after the break the tide quickly shifted as Curran directed an eight-play drive, all runs, which took nearly four minutes off the clock and ended in Ah Fua's touchdown.
"They just stayed after it," Skyline head coach Mat Taylor said of the Eagles' offense. "That running back (McClatcher) is a special player."
A horse-collar penalty extended a 10-play Skyline drive before the Federal Way defense forced a fumble and six plays later it was Curran from six yards out, bringing his team to within one after a blocked extra point.
The defense took the ball back on the ensuing drive, but Curran lost a fumble of his own two plays later to setup an Anderson touchdown pass to Wong that gave Skyline a 20-13 lead.
Despite the early deficit and uphill battle throughout, McClatcher said the offense remained upbeat and confident and that belief paid off in the fourth quarter.
The junior speedster broke loose for the first time on a 41-yard run down to the Skyline 19 that set up another Curran score and after the defense forced a punt, went 67-yards slicing through the defense for what would prove the game-winning touchdown.
"I just want to thank my offensive line," McClatcher said. "They played great all game. I just had to find a hole and run."
Another turnover on downs seemed to put the Eagles in position to run out the clock after Curran broke free for a 39-yard gain to the Skyline 17 with only two minutes left and the Spartans down to their final timeout.
But a fumble in the backfield gave Anderson and the Skyline offense one final chance before a pair of penalties and relentless pressure led to a failed fourth down conversion that sealed the game, and sent the Eagles to the state quarterfinals for the fourth time in school history and second year in a row.
"Our offense stayed after it," Meagher said. "In the second half, we started hitting the big plays and we have guys that can break it."
The win puts Federal Way in next week's quarterfinals against Richland, which beat Skyview 21-9 in another first round game and extends the prep careers of a senior class that is the first in school history to reach the state playoffs three years in a row.
"We get another week of practice," Curran said. "And, another week of being together with my brothers."