Gig Harbor awaits defense-minded Eagles in postseason

Federal Way sophomore quarterback Nick Tanielu will lead the Eagles into the postseason for the third-straight year at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Roy Anderson Stadium in Gig Harbor against Gig Harbor.   - Casey Olson/The Mirror
Federal Way sophomore quarterback Nick Tanielu will lead the Eagles into the postseason for the third-straight year at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Roy Anderson Stadium in Gig Harbor against Gig Harbor.
— image credit: Casey Olson/The Mirror

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7

Where: Roy Anderson Stadium at Peninsula High School

What’s at stake: A berth into the first round of the 16-team Class 4A State Football Playoffs. The winner of the Federal Way-Gig Harbor game will play the winner of a game between Skyline and the winner of a pigtail game between Bellarmine Prep/Graham-Kapowsin. Skyline (9-0) is currently the No. 1-ranked team in the state and 14th in the nation. They are led by junior quarterback Jake Heaps, who is the No. 1-ranked recruit in the class of 2010. Bellarmine Prep (5-4) finished fourth in the Narrows League and Graham-Kapowsin (6-3) finished fourth in the SPSL South. The two teams played Tuesday night with the winner traveling to Skyline.

How they got here: Federal Way finished third in the SPSL North Division with a 7-2 record. Their two losses came to the two teams that finished above them in the North — Auburn and Kentwood. This will be the Eagles’ third-straight appearance in the postseason. Last year, Federal Way won its first SPSL division title since 1976 by rolling through the North with a perfect 7-0 record. The Eagles were upset by Cascade in a state-tournament qualifying game.

Gig Harbor (8-1) earned the No. 2 seed from the Narrows League behind unbeaten Olympia. Gig Harbor’s only loss of the season came in its opener against Olympia, 21-7. The Tides are currently the seventh-ranked team in the state and are on an eight-game winning streak.

Gig Harbor has played in the Class 4A tournament twice in the last three years. The Tides lost to Oak Harbor in the opening round in 2005 and lost to Pasco in the first round in 2006. The 47-14 loss to Pasco came a week after beating Federal Way in a state tournament qualifying game.

Federal Way has only two appearances in the state playoffs. The Eagles played in back-to-back tournaments in 1975 and 1976.

Why Gig Harbor will win: The Tides aren’t the normal “spread offense” team — meaning they don’t throw a lot out of their set offense. The Tides will run the ball, then run the ball again.

Gig Harbor has made its living this season on the ground. The Tides consistently total over 300 yards rushing a game and get their yards from several different players.

The Tides are led by senior quarterback Chet Thompson, who is set to play baseball next year at the University of Portland. Thompson has accounted for 24 touchdowns during the season either on the ground or through the air.

The Tides also count on senior running backs Jeff Filmer and Nico Youngren. Filmer has five touchdowns on the season and Youngren has eight touchdowns, including three touchdown catches.

But the Gig Harbor defense has also been pretty much untouchable during their eight-game winning streak. In their last five games, the Tides have given up a total of eight points, which all came during a 42-8 win over Mount Tahoma.

Gig Harbor has pitched a total of four shutouts during the season, including a 63-0 win over Shelton in their final game of the regular season Oct. 30.

The Tides have outscored their opponents 332-63 and have won their last five games by a combined total of 243 to 8.

Why Federal Way will win: The Eagles just have to keep doing what they’’ve been doing on the defensive side of the ball.

The Eagle defense has carried the team all season long, especially late this year. Federal Way has given up double-digit points only three times during the season and has allowed only 79 points in nine games (8.8 a game). The Eagles will obviously have to limit the running game by Gig Harbor and they have the talent on the defensive side of the ball to do that.

Federal Way is led on defense by senior linebacker Andre Barrington, as well as George Williams, Winston Gatlabayan, Damon Hardy and Rian Miller. But the Eagles will be playing without all-state middle linebacker Andru Pulu. The senior, who has given a verbal commitment to the University of Washington, tore an MCL in his knee two weeks ago.

The Eagle offense is led by a plethora of dynamic skill position players, including senior running back Andre Barrington. Barrington has had a monster season for Federal Way, rushing for 934 yards in only seven games. The Washington State University recruit missed the first two games of the season with a knee injury suffered in the preseason.

Barrington, 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, is averaging an impressive 8.8 yards a carry and has ran for over 200 yards in each of the Eagles’ last two games, including 215 on just 14 carries against Jefferson Friday night. He has 11 total touchdowns on the year.

The Eagles offense has also got a solid performance from first-year starting quarterback Nick Tanielu, as well as fullback George Williams and receivers Rian Miller, Daytrez Sterling and Nico Curran. Tanielu has accounted for eight touchdowns (six passing, two rushing). Williams has eight touchdowns on the ground and Miller has caught three touchdown passes.

Sports editor Casey Olson:

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