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FOOTBALL: Federal Way makes history, blow by Richland and into 4A semifinals
The Federal Way Eagles made history Friday night. For the first time since 1976, the Eagles will play in the state's Final Four.
Federal Way beat the Richland Bombers 41-34 in the Class 4A state quarterfinal football game at Federal Way Memorial Stadium. The win earned the Eagles a semifinal berth against Chiawana at noon at Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco on Saturday. The winner will play for the state championship on Dec. 7 at the Tacoma Dome. Chiawana beat Wenatchee in the quarterfinals Saturday at the Apple Bowl.
"This feels amazing," said senior fullback/linebacker Eric Ah Fua, who had some huge runs up the middle against Richland. "I can't even put into words what's going through my mind right now. It's so amazing. We are making history at Federal Way."
Friday night's loss by Richland (10-2) was the Bombers' first since being blown out in the third week of the season by Chiawana (11-1). Chiawana, a relatively new school from Pasco, downed Wenatchee Saturday on the road, 56-34. It will be the program's first-ever trip to the state semifinals.
Federal Way got three rushing touchdowns from Chico McClatcher during their win over Richland. The junior also threw a touchdown pass and intercepted two passes for the eighth-ranked Eagles. McClatcher finished with 92 yards on 22 carries, including what proved to be a much-needed insurance touchdown in the fourth.
"He's just a special player," said longtime head coach John Meagher. "Just a special talent."
Senior quarterback Keenan Curran also had a huge game for Federal Way, finishing with 21 carries for 207 yards and two TDs.
"Keenan made some great decisions," Meagher said. "He was huge for us."
But just like last week when Federal Way upset second-ranked Skyline, the Eagles struggled early. After falling behind 21-7 early and 28-21 at the half, the Eagles dominated. They forced five turnovers, including four interceptions.
"The least important stat in football is the halftime score," Meagher said. "These kids just battle all the time. They always want to win."
Trailing 14-0 in the first quarter, Federal Way finally got on the scoreboard on a 20-yard run by Curran. After Richland tallied another touchdown, Curran scored for the second time on a 52-yard scramble with McClatcher throwing the decisive block near the goal line to make it 21-14.
It was then, that Federal Way's defense forced Richland to punt for the first time in the game. After the punt, the Eagles knotted the score when McClatcher got outside on a 4-yard sweep with 4:10 left in the half. But it wouldn't stay that way for long.
After a Federal Way punt gave the Bombers possession inside the Eagles' territory, Richland scored on a 14-yard run with just 14.7 seconds left in the first half to take a 28-21 lead into the locker room.
"Coach just told us to keep playing," Ah Fua said of Meagher's halftime speech. "We just needed to do a better job."
The second half was all Federal Way, just like it was last week when the Eagles outscored Skyline, 26-6, during the third and fourth quarters. The Eagles went 57 yards on their first drive of the second half to tie the game at 28-all on McClatcher’s 11-yard touchdown run. Friday, the Eagles' offense started the second half by driving 57 yards, which culminated in an 11-yard touchdown run by McClatcher to tie the game at 28-28.
Curran picked off a Zach Whitby pass on the Bombers' next possession, which set up the halfback pass from McClatcher to sophomore Tyson Penn. The 51-yard play worked to perfection after Curran pitched the ball to McClatcher, who connected with a wide-open Penn with 5:27 left in the third quarter. It was the only Federal Way pass completion of the night. The Eagles didn't complete a pass during the win over Skyline.
Junior Jared Pulu led the impressive performance in the second half by the Federal Way defense. Pulu finished with two sacks, a forced fumble and also knocked down a pass. Whitby threw four interceptions during the Bombers' six second-half possessions.
The Eagles made it 41-28 on McClatcher's third touchdown run with 10:59 left in the fourth quarter and Richland never really threatened after that. The semifinal berth will be the first time the Federal Way program has played in the Final Four since 1976. And that's something that gives the Eagles motivation.
"We just talked about it last night," Meagher said of the 1976 team. "It's always the first time since 1976. There's only one thing left to do from 1976 and that winning it all. So we will see."
The win over Richland was the last game at home for Curran and his fellow seniors. The last time the Eagles played on the turf at Federal Way Memorial Stadium came during a blowout loss to Curtis in the final game of the South Puget Sound League South Division regular season. The Eagles finished third in the division behind Graham-Kapowsin and Curtis.
"Everyone knows that our last game here, we got beat up by Curtis," Curran said. "I made it my destiny to get a win here in my last game. I told my guys before the game that we were going to make history. It's a great feeling."
"We were never going to lose on this field," McClatcher said. "We had the motivation. It's just a great feeling."