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Federal Way High, Barrington run through Gig Harbor, 24-19 | Prep Football
Top-ranked Skyline awaits Federal Way in first state playoff game since 1976
It’s been a long time coming for the Federal Way Eagles football program.
For the first time in 32 years, the Eagles (8-2) will play a game in the state football playoffs, thanks to a 24-19 win over the Gig Harbor Tides Friday night in a Class 4A preliminary round game at Roy Anderson Stadium in Gig Harbor.
“It was a tough game,” senior running back/linebacker Andre Barrington said. “They play hard. But it feels good to finish this game and get a W. We did it.”
The win over seventh-ranked Gig Harbor (8-2) now sets up a first-round matchup with the No. 1 Skyline Spartans at 7 p.m. Friday at Skyline Stadium in Sammamish.
“It’s going to be a good game,” Barrington said.
Barrington was the story against Gig Harbor. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, who has already given a verbal commitment to play at Washington State in the fall, finished with a workmanlike 166 yards on 27 carries and the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard run with 8:33 remaining in the game. He also connected on a 46-yard touchdown pass to Nick Tanielu late in the second quarter.
“(My dad) watched game film and he said I was getting tackled by one person on every play,” Barrington said. “The whole time I was thinking, ‘I can’t get tackled by one person, I can’t get tackled by one person.’ And it helped me out tonight. I’m going to be sore. But it’s going to be a good sore.”
Gig Harbor, the second-place team from the Narrows League, didn’t make it easy on Federal Way. The Tides looked to drive for the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter before a botched snap gave the Eagles the victory on a rain-soaked field.
Down by five points, a premature snap by the Gig Harbor center ricocheted off senior Tanner Davis as he ran in motion in front of quarterback Chet Thompson. Federal Way linebacker JoJo Warner dove on the loose ball and recovered the fumble at the Gig Harbor 17-yard line, securing the win and the Eagles’ first berth in the state playoffs since 1976. The win ended a four-game losing streak in the preliminary round of the playoffs.
“The monkey on my back was getting pretty big,” Federal Way head coach John Meagher said with a smile. “We had been there four times before and hadn’t gotten it done. But tonight there was just a different feeling on the sideline than the other games. We kind of had the deer in the headlights look in those games.”
Federal Way lost to Tahoma in 2000, Bothell in 2002, Gig Harbor in 2006 and Cascade last season. Meagher was the head coach in all four of those games.
“We never quit battling tonight,” Meagher said. “We’ve had a lot of adversity this year and we were the better team tonight.”
Gig Harbor looked like they were going to blow away the Eagles at the start of Friday’s game. After receiving the opening kickoff, the Tides needed just four plays to drive 80 yards. Thompson hit Davis on a 22-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the endzone. Gig Harbor followed with a 33-yard field goal to make it 10-0 early in the first quarter.
“We gave them a couple of big plays,” said Tanielu. “We just stuck together and beat them.”
“We kept our heads up and kept believing in each other,” Barrington said.
Following the early Gig Harbor flurry, the Eagles got on the scoreboard with a career-long 40-yard field goal from junior kicker Kelyn Rowe.
Federal Way then went on an eight-play, 71-yard drive that ended when Tanielu hit junior Alden Campbell on an 11-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 10-10.
After another defensive hold by Federal Way, Barrington showed he could do more than just run with the football when he threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Tanielu to put the Eagles up 17-10 entering halftime.
“He’s kind of a do-it-all kind of guy,” Meagher said. “Bottom line is the guy’s a fantastic athlete and you want to try and put it in your best athlete’s hands and let him do what he does.”
“That was my first catch of the season,” Tanielu said. “Coach knew they would line up different and trusted me enough to throw to me.”
Gig Harbor mustered the only points of the third quarter on a 35-yard field goal to cut the Federal Way lead to 17-13 before Barrington’s 1-yard touchdown run made it 24-13 with just over eight minutes left.
The Tides’ Nico Youngren then took a screen pass from Thompson 50 yards up the sideline seconds later to cut the Eagle lead back to just five points.
“We knew it was going to be a back-and-forth type of game,” Federal Way running back Andre Barrington said. “We came in knowing that we can’t break, even if they were doing well.”
The defensive game plan coming in was to not let Thompson get going, according to Meagher. The senior quarterback was the Tides’ leading rusher entering the game, but finished with just 82 yards on 22 carries.
“We knew that we had to limit him,” Meagher said. “He was their big-play guy and we didn’t want to allow him to start running down hill.”
Offensively, the Federal Way coaching staff was obviously going to lean heavily on Barrington, but they also wanted to limit the possessions the high-powered Gig Harbor offense.
“We wanted to slow the game down,” Meagher said. “We were running the clock down. We also had a lot more two-way players than them. They had a lot of guys playing on one side of the ball only. Our kids were dead at the end of the game.”
Things don’t get any easier for the Eagles. Skyline brings a perfect 10-0 record and the state’s No. 1-ranking into Friday night’s game. The Spartans pounded Graham-Kapowsin in their opening-round game Saturday night, 30-7.
Skyline is led by junior quarterback Jake Heaps. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder is the top-rated recruit in the nation for the class of 2010 and has thrown for over 2,000 yards this season.
Heaps is completing 62 percent of his passes and has 26 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Sophomore Kasen Williams leads the team with 644 yards and seven touchdowns and senior Gino Simone is averaging over 20 yards a catch and has 11 touchdown catches.
Skyline’s rushing attack is led by Joey Evans, who has amassed 580 yards and seven touchdowns.
Although Heaps and Skyline’s offense gets most of the press, the Spartans’ defense has been solid all season long. Skyline has given up just 29 points in 10 games and have pitched five shutouts. Linebacker Jordan Weil has racked up 70 tackles and has two interceptions and four sacks and Anthony DeMatteo has 56 tackles.
“It’s going to be a good game,” Barrington said.
Barrington and the Eagles can look back to March to realize that beating the No. 1-team at a state tournament is possible. In March, the unranked Federal Way boys basketball team, which included Barrington, knocked off No. 1 Franklin Quakers in the opening round of the Class 4A Boys Basketball Championships and rolled on to the state championship game.
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, email@example.com