FOOTBALL: Despite semifinal loss, future looks ultra-bright at Federal Way

Federal Way junior Chico McClatcher breaks a tackle during the Eagles’ 40-7 loss to Chiawana Saturday in the Class 4A state semifinals at Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco. The Final Four appearance was the program’s first since 1976. - Casey Olson/The Mirror
Federal Way junior Chico McClatcher breaks a tackle during the Eagles’ 40-7 loss to Chiawana Saturday in the Class 4A state semifinals at Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco. The Final Four appearance was the program’s first since 1976.
— image credit: Casey Olson/The Mirror

It wasn’t the way the Federal Way Eagles wanted their dream season to end. After traveling across the mountains to the Tri-Cities for the Class 4A state semifinals, the Eagles were beaten up by the Chiawana Riverhawks, 40-7. It was the school’s first appearance in the state’s final four since the 1976 season.

But not everything is bad news for the Federal Way High School football program. Actually, the future looks very bright for the Eagles.

During the last three seasons, the Eagles have progressed one round in the state playoffs. In 2011, Federal Way lost to Eastlake in the opening round, 21-11. Last season, the Eagles beat Rogers in their state opener, 46-28, before losing to Camas in the quarterfinals.

If things hold up like they have been going, Federal Way will play for a state championship next fall, which isn’t a stretch at all. The Eagles should enter the 2013 season as one of the favorites, thanks to the return of several all-league-level players.

Obviously, leading the list of returners for the Eagles will be junior Chico McClatcher. He is one of the top recruits on the West Coast and, when it’s all said and done, will have full-ride, scholarship offers from every major school in the Pac-12, along with other national power programs. McClatcher already has offers from college programs like Washington, Washington State, Utah, UCLA, Boise State and Arizona State.

McClatcher ran for 1,622 yards, had 700 yards receiving and scored a grand total of 32 touchdowns, including a 53-yard interception return for a score against Chiawana.

But Federal Way will also bring back a large portion of their offensive and defensive lines, as well as a very impressive group of linebackers.

The Eagles’ run into the state semifinals was anchored by the return of Jared Pulu and Chris Tuiasosopo on the defensive side of the ball. The two juniors were both dominant at times during the playoffs and are two of the hardest-hitting linebackers in the state.

Pulu, whose older brothers are both playing at Eastern Washington University, suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder during the early part of the season, but chose to rehab the injury so he could make a return in the playoffs.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Pulu should be one of the higher-recruited linebackers in the state next season. He dominated during Federal Way’s quarterfinal win over Richland, collecting two sacks and forcing a fumble during the second half.

Tuiasosopo is a 6-2, 235-pound transfer from Bellflower, Calif., who was coming off knee surgery. He played in the Eagles’ season opener in early September, but was then held out of Federal Way’s lineup until the postseason.

Other defenders who are slated to be back next season are linemen David Tiumalu (6-1, 250), Robert Savusa (6-2, 265) and Manu Fifita (5-11, 265), along with linebackers Andrzej Hughes (6-2, 215) and Charlie Taumoepeau (6-3, 225), and defensive backs James Black III (5-9, 170) and Damaurius Clark (6-0, 180).

Despite the stable of returners for head coach John Meagher, there will still be plenty of holes to fill. The biggest loss for the Eagles will be quarterback/defensive back Keenan Curran, who will go down as one of the better athletes and leaders to play at Federal Way in recent memory.  The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder was named the SPSL South Defensive Back of the Year and will play at a Division-I school in the fall as a safety.

Curran also racked up 1,516 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns on the ground and threw for 646 and six TDs through the air.

Curran’s leadership was on full display following the Eagles’ loss to Chiawana Saturday. The senior addressed the numerous underclassmen on the field at Edgar Brown Memorial Stadium about bringing a state championship to Federal Way.

Also gone will be bruising fullback/linebacker Eric Ah Fua, massive two-way lineman Jay-Tee Tiuli, cornerback Khalil Howse and linemen Steven Crawford and Tyler Burney, among others.

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