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FOOTBALL PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Federal Way at Chiawana

Federal Way junior running back Chico McClatcher finished with three touchdowns during the Eagles
Federal Way junior running back Chico McClatcher finished with three touchdowns during the Eagles' win over Richland Friday in the Class 4A football state quarterfinals. McClatcher has 31 total TDs this season.
— image credit: Casey Olson/The Mirror

What: Federal Way (10-2) vs. Chiawana (11-1)

When: noon, Saturday

Where: Edgar Brown Stadium, Pasco

What’s at stake: A berth into the Class 4A state championship game. The winner of the Federal Way/Chiawana game will play the winner of a game between Camas and Bellarmine Prep on Dec. 7 in the Tacoma Dome. Camas and Bellarmine Prep are playing Saturday inside the Tacoma Dome.

Why Chiawana will win: The Redhawks have been on a huge roll. The second-ranked Pasco school is a perfect 10-0 when playing teams from Washington. Their only loss came to Lake City High School from Idaho, 33-26. But in their 10 wins, the Riverhawks have been dominant. They have scored 40 or more points in all 10 games and have been over 50 in their two state tournament games, wins over Moses Lake and Wenatchee.

Chiawana opened the postseason with a 42-14 win over the Gonzaga Prep Bullpups, then beat Moses Lake, 52-13, in the opening round of the 16-team state tournament and dominated Wenatchee last week, 56-34, in the quarterfinals.

Offensively, the Riverhawks are a little different than Federal Way, in the fact they have a balanced offense led by quarterback Joey Zamora. The Eagles have completed only one pass in their last two games and it was a halfback pass by Chico McClatcher. Zamora has thrown five touchdowns during Chiawana’s three-game postseason run. He was also the first-team, All-Mid-Columbia Conference quarterback this season.

But, it’s been running back Clifton Lozano that has been carrying a bulk of the load for the Riverhawks. Lozano’s stats during Chiawana’s wins over Gonzaga Prep, Moses Lake and Wenatchee have been eye-popping. Lozano has carried the ball 127 times for 701 yards in those three games and has scored six touchdowns.

The Riverhawks’ offense also features playmaker extraordinaire, Deion Singleton. As a junior, Singleton led Tallahasee’s Godby High to the Florida state championship and was a second-team, all-stater in the football rich state. He was recruited by LSU, Kentucky and Tennessee, among others.

He moved to Pasco last summer to live with his older brother. The 6-foot-2, 170-pounder was the Mid-Colubmia Conference Player of the Year after finishing with four 100-plus-yard receiving nights and eight touchdowns.

Defensively, the Riverhawks have a true “thumper” in the middle of their team in 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker Alex Weber. The first-team, all-stater has offers from Cal, Wyoming, Air Force and several Ivy League schools.

Weber is flanked by fellow linebacker Grady Graff, who is the son of head coach Steve Graff. Grady Graff was a first-team, all-conference linebacker. Other first-team defenders for the Riverhawks are senior defensive back Blake Bishop and linemen Mark DeRuyter and Juan Noyola.

The Chiawana defense also knows what it’s like to play against a Division-I level running back, like McClatcher. The Riverhawks have faced Wenatchee’s Isaiah Brandt-Sims twice this season, holding him to a season-low 35 yards in their first meeting. Brandt-Sims has a full-ride to play running back at Stanford.

Why Federal Way will win: The Eagles have fallen behind 14-0 in their last two playoff games and came back to beat Skyline and Richland. But falling behind to Chiawana might not be the recipe for a win. The Riverhawks seem to be a more complete team, with a solid offense, defense and special teams.

It also hurts that Federal Way will be making the four-hour bus ride over the Cascade Mountains to the Tri-Cities to play on Chiawana’s home field at Edgar Brown Stadium. But the Eagles have gotten used to winning on the road during their three-game postseason run. Federal Way beat Edmonds-Woodway and Skyline on their home fields, before taking care of Richland in Federal Way.

Obviously, the Eagles will be leaning heavily on Keenan Curran and Chico McClatcher, who might be the most dynamic duo in the state this season. Both are over 2,000 yards of total offense apiece and both have rushed for over 1,500 yards in 12 games.

McClatcher, a junior, has rushed for 1,542 yards and has scored a grand total of 31 touchdowns this season. He also has 632 yards receiving and has touchdowns on punt, kickoff and interception returns and has thrown two touchdown passes, including one against Richland last week.

McClatcher already has offers from college programs like Washington, Washington State, Utah, UCLA, Boise State and Arizona State.

Curran, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound athlete, has rushed for 1,505 yards and 16 touchdowns from the quarterback position and also has 646 yards passing with six TDs. On the defensive side of the ball, Curran led the SPSL with six interceptions. He was voted the SPSL 4A South Division Defensive Back of the Year this week.

Curran already has scholarship offers from Air Force, Army, Idaho, San Jose State, Wyoming and Yale.

The Eagles have also got a huge boost in their already-potent running attack from senior fullback Eric Ah Fua. The 5-foot-9, 255-pounder has opened up huge holes for McClatcher and Curran by carrying the ball through the middle of the defense.

McClatcher finished up with 246 yards on 25 carries and a TD and Curran had 16 carries for 140 yards and two scores against Richland. Curran finished with 21 carries for 207 yards and two TDs and McClatcher had three touchdowns and 92 yards on the ground.

The Eagles’ running game has gashed Edmonds-Woodway, Skyline and Richland during the postseason. In fact, Federal Way has completed a grand total of three passes during their three playoff games and none have been by Curran, the Eagles’ starting quarterback.

Defensively, the Eagles will need another impressive performance by their from seven to stop the high-powered Chiawana offense.

Federal Way’s defensive line includes guys like Jay-Tee Tiuli (6-3, 295), Robert Savusa (6-2, 265), Eric Ah Fua (5-10, 255) and Manu Fifita (5-11, 265). The linebacking corps, led by juniors Jared Pulu (6-3, 225) and Chris Tuiasosopo (6-2, 235) and sophomore Andrzej Hughes-Murray (6-2, 215) have been flying to the ball in super-aggressive fashion in recent weeks.

CLASS 4A State Playoffs

Federal Way @ Chiawana, noon, Saturday in Pasco

Bellarmine Prep vs. Camas, 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Tacoma Dome

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