Sports

Prep football 2008 season preview: Federal Way, Thomas Jefferson, Todd Beamer and Decatur

Federal Way Eagles

The Federal Way Eagles hope that their 2007 season was just the start of something special.

Last year’s edition of the Eagles rolled through the rugged South Puget Sound League North Division with an unblemished record and into the postseason for the second year in a row.

Even though Federal Way walked away with its first SPSL title in 31 years, the season still didn’t end the way everybody on the Eagle roster wanted it to end. Federal Way was upset in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs by Cascade High School on their home turf at Federal Way Memorial Stadium. It was the second year in a row that head coach John Meagher led the Eagles into the postseason only to drop their opening game.

Federal Way hopes to make its third-straight appearance in the postseason in 2008, but hopes that appearance lasts a little longer this time around. And things seem like they are stacked in the Eagles’ favor.

Meagher brings back a ton of talent from last year’s SPSL North championship team, including the two best all-around players in the league in seniors Andre Barrington and Andru Pulu.

The two seniors are getting attention from plenty of Division I colleges.

Barrington, a running back/outside linebacker, might be the most gifted athlete in the district and has already verbally committed to play at Washington State University next season, a decision he made Sept. 4. The 6-1, 195-pounder has rushed for over 1,000 yards the last two years at Federal Way, played varsity basketball for the Eagles since his freshman year and ran at the state track meet. Last season, Barrington ran for 1,028 yards and 18 total touchdowns and led Federal Way’s defense in tackles. Barrington will probably play outside linebacker at Washington State.

Pulu is the man in the middle of the Federal Way defense and has the perfect size (6-2, 245) to play linebacker in college. He finished second for the Eagles in tackles behind Barrington. Pulu also was an All-SPSL selection on the offensive line.

Federal Way should be right in the mix for another SPSL North title, along with Kentridge, Auburn and Kentwood. The Eagles will miss plenty of offensive explosiveness after losing All-SPSL North quarterback Justin Southern, along with their top five wide receivers, including Aaron Broussard, Greylin James and Montrel Walton.

“Those are some key losses,” Meagher said.

Despite the losses, the Eagles, along with Barrington and Pulu, have received plenty of attention during the preseason. The News Tribune ranked Federal Way the No. 1 team in the South Puget Sound area and sixth in Washington state. They also listed Barrington and Pulu as first-team, all-state selections. The Seattle Times listed the Eagles as the seventh-ranked Class 4A team in the state and named Pulu a first-team, all-state linebacker.

Helping out Barrington and Pulu this season will be a strong group of seniors, including center Jordan Ramos (5-10, 220), lineman Winston Gatlabayan (6-0, 215), wide receiver/cornerback Nico Curran (6-2, 180), wide receiver/linebacker Gage Davelaar (5-10, 175) and newcomers Jordan Maulolo (6-1, 285) and JoJo Warner (6-0, 200).

Also back are juniors George Williams (6-0, 210), Dashawn Horne (6-1, 210), James Seomaava (6-2, 240) and Robert Shelby (5-10, 170).

Sophomore Nick Tanielu takes over for Southern at quarterback. The 6-0, 200-pounder was one of the Eagles’ better baseball players last year as a freshman after transferring into the district from Alabama. The running game from Barrington and Williams should take a lot of the pressure off Tanielu early in the season.

The Eagles should again be solid on the defensive side of the ball. Last season, Federal Way was one of the best teams in the league against the pass, but struggled trying to stop the run. The Eagles allowed over 2,000 yards rushing in 10 games.

“A big key to our success this season is to stop the run,” Meagher said.

The Eagles opened their season Thursday night against the Auburn Trojans. Federal Way will take on Emerald Ridge next Saturday in a non-league game, before another huge SPSL North Division contest against Kentridge Sept. 19 at Federal Way Memorial Stadium.

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Thomas Jefferson Raiders

The Raiders should make a “100 percent improvement” this season, according to second-year coach Dean Peck.

Last season, the Thomas Jefferson football program finished with a 2-8 record in the rugged South Puget Sound League North Division. Their two wins came over cross-district rival Decatur and Ingraham High School in a non-league contest.

“It is time to change the perception of TJ football,” Peck said.

But that won’t be an easy job. The Raiders have never made it into the state playoffs in the entire history of the school. Peck hopes that changes, starting this year.

Jefferson returns plenty of players from last year’s 2-8 club, including nine starters on offense and seven on the defensive side of the ball.

But the two starters the Raiders lost on offense were big ones — quarterback Taylor Stark and wide receiver Bryant Cameron. The pair were both All-SPSL North Division selections two years in a row. Last season, Stark threw for close to 2,000 yards with 18 touchdowns, and Cameron caught 71 of those passes for 1,018 yards and 14 touchdowns. The 6-foot-5 Cameron is currently playing at Eastern Washington University.

Leading the list of returners are seniors Kama Frank, Joe Satterwhite, Zach Roth and Jun Park, along with junior Trent Pinson.

Frank is a 6-foot-1, 185-pound outside linebacker who was solid at rushing the passer last season, racking up five sacks. Frank will also be taking over quarterbacking duties from Stark.

Satterwhite (6-2/220) and Roth (5-9/200) provide size and quickness on the lines. Park is a speedy and sure-handed wide receiver.

Pinson might be the fastest player in the entire SPSL. The junior running back is hoping to improve the TJ run game, which managed just 1,004 yards last year. Pinson, who finished seventh in the 100 meters and fifth in the 400 at the Star Track state meet last spring, led the way on the football field for TJ in ’07 with 406 yards on 55 carries, an average of 7-plus yards per carry.

“Trent is just super fast,” Peck said of the 5-11, 185-pounder who also gets to use his speed at the cornerback position when the Raiders are on defense. “Once he gets the hang of how to use his weapons, he’ll be hard to stop.”

Part of getting the hang of it, Pinson said, is in keeping with Jefferson’s renewed emphasis on all-out, all the time.

“It may have been happening last year,” he said. “But now, it’s a lot higher importance than it was before. We’re setting a higher goal.”

That’ll be especially important in the revamped North Division, which welcomes back familiar foes Auburn and Auburn Riverside after their two-year stint at the Class 3A level. The Trojans went to the state playoffs both years, and the Ravens made it to the regional round twice in a row.

“It’s going to be pretty tough, but it’s nothing that we’re not used to,” Pinson said. “Our schedule is pretty tough every year. It’s just a bigger test.”

“I think we’ll be a lot better than last year because our defense is a lot better,” Peck said. “We lost Taylor and Bryant. But for the most part, the rest of the team is back.”

Peck got a couple of solid newcomers during the offseason when wide receiver/defensive backs Joe Mungai and Kenny Brown transferred into the program after Christian Faith High School dropped its football program.

“We need to work on our run defense, but both our offense and defense are looking crisp,” Frank said. “It’s just a matter of perfecting everything.”

The Raiders opened their season last night at home against Tahoma and hit the road next Saturday against the Kentridge Chargers.

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Todd Beamer Titans

Things could not have started out any better last year for the Todd Beamer Titans football team. The Titans exploded out of the gate with a pair of impressive victories over cross-town rivals Thomas Jefferson and Decatur. Beamer racked up a total of 80 points during a 49-14 blowout of the Raiders and a 31-21 win over the Gators.

But the 2-0 start was as good as it would get for the Titans. Beamer dropped its next eight games to end the season, including all seven of their SPSL South contests.

Scoring points wasn’t the problem a season ago for the Titans. Beamer’s offense racked up 23 points a game. It was holding their opponents out of the endzone on defense. The porous Titan defense allowed an amazing 349 points in 10 games and close to 4,000 total yards. Beamer allowed 34 or more points in all seven of its SPSL South Division contests, including 43 against Rogers, 40 against Graham-Kapowsin and 48 against Emerald Ridge.

And the Titans aren’t returning a lot of experience from a season ago on the defensive side of the ball. Abe, who also acts as the defensive coordinator, brings back only four starters and lost his three best defenders to the college football ranks.

Gone are Evan Cook, Lamardray Fuller and Josh Waller, who were all first-team, All-SPSL South selections in 2007. Cook, a 6-4, 275-pounder, was the SPSL South defensive lineman of the year and is currently on a full-ride scholarship at Eastern Washington University. Fuller, a linebacker, and Waller, a cornerback, are both playing at Central Washington.

Abe is hoping to make up for the threesome’s big plays with sophomore linebacker Nick Faulaau and senior defensive linemen, Jae Ahn and John Kemman.

The Titans will also not have a whole lot of experience back on the offensive side of the ball. Beamer graduated 10 of 11 starters, including Fuller and Waller. The pair were dominant on offense last season for the Titans. Fuller was a two-time All-SPSL South first-teamer and finished fourth in the SPSL in rushing yards with 1,229 and 11 touchdowns. His best game came in Beamer’s opener against Jefferson, when he ran for a school-record 307 yards.

Waller proved to be one of the most elusive receivers in the SPSL after catching 33 passes for 692 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 21 yards a catch. He also ran back two kickoffs for touchdowns.

The Titans will be running a new offense this season. Offensive coordinator Nick Birklid installed a new split-back offense, which will be run by senior quarterback AJ Joiner. Beamer will also be counting on wide receiver Travis Koch, along with Kemman (line) and Faulaau (running back).

Rogers and Puyallup look like the class of the SPSL South Division again this year, with Graham-Kapowsin and Curtis also strong.

The Titans play their first three games on the road against Spanaway Lake, Graham-Kapowson and Auburn Riverside, before their home opener Sept. 26 against Puyallup.

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Decatur Gators

The Gators will be better in 2008.

Under the direction of first-year coach Leon Hatch, Decatur finished last season without a win in the rugged SPSL North Division and were outscored by their opponents 289-122 in 10 games. The Gators actually won their opening game of the year, 28-13, in a non-leaguer against Class 3A White River before losing nine in a row to end the season.

Decatur will need to be a lot more consistent from an offensive standpoint this year to win games in their new nine-team division — the SPSL South. The Gators move back into the South Division this year after playing the past two in the SPSL North. Changing divisions will reunite Decatur with district rival Todd Beamer High School.

Last season, the Gators tallied 82 of their 122 points in just three games in 2007, including 28 against White River, 21 in a loss to Beamer and 33 in a loss to Federal Way. And Decatur will have to do it this season without running back Chase King.

King accounted for seven touchdowns last season and rushed for 1,174 yards in just 10 games. The solid season earned King a full-ride scholarship to Eastern Washington University.

But the Gators actually do have a lot of experience returning, including senior quarterback Cam Schilling. The 6-foot-5, 200-pounder comes back for his second year starting as Decatur’s quarterback. Schilling accounted for four touchdowns last year — three through the air and one run. Also back on the offensive side of the ball are wide receivers John Duncan and Conner McFaul, tight end Parker Herbert, running backs Treisaun McCurry-Payne and Jooney Jung and linemen Tevyn Tillman, Keith Arns and Darren Faber.

Duncan led the Gators with two touchdown catches a season ago and McFaul tallied 16 catches for 277 yards. Tillman (6-1/250), who won the Class 4A heavyweight wrestling title last year, Arns (6-5/260) and Faber (5-11/210) look solid on offensive line.

The defense should also be improved for the Gators, with most of the offensive starters also playing on the defensive side of the ball. Herbert returns at linebacker, where he was Decatur’s leading tackler and finished with seven tackles for losses.

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