Signing day: Beamer soccer, Federal Way football keep producing college-ready talent

Todd Beamer High School soccer players (from left to right) Holland Crook, Jessica Niewoehner and Mackenzie Hickel sign their national letters of intent Wednesday afternoon at the school. Crook will play at Arizona State, Niewoehner at Oregon State and Hickel at Boise State.  - Casey Olson/The Mirror
Todd Beamer High School soccer players (from left to right) Holland Crook, Jessica Niewoehner and Mackenzie Hickel sign their national letters of intent Wednesday afternoon at the school. Crook will play at Arizona State, Niewoehner at Oregon State and Hickel at Boise State.
— image credit: Casey Olson/The Mirror

The Beamer girls soccer program and the Federal Way High School football team have a lot in common.

Not only have the two programs developed into perennial powerhouses in the South Puget Sound League, as evidenced by the Titans' five-straight postseason appearances and Federal Way's four consecutive playoff berths. But both programs are also producing college-ready athletes on a yearly basis. And this year is no different.

Three student-athletes from both teams inked letters of intent at separate ceremonies Wednesday on national signing day.

Over at Beamer, highly-touted midfielder Holland Crook signed with Arizona State, defender Jessica Niewoehner inked with Oregon State and defender Mackenzie Hickel signed to play at Boise State.

"These girls put this school on the map," said Beamer athletic director Jerry Peterson. "This group of athletes have been remarkable."

The Eagle football players to sign were wide receiver Trenton Pinson (Eastern Washington), defensive lineman James Seuma’ala (Portland State) and defensive back Rian Miller (Eastern Oregon).

Wednesday was a long time coming for Crook, one of the most decorated girls soccer players to ever come out of the Federal Way school district. The midfielder verbally committed to Arizona State during her sophomore season and never wavered. Crook visited the Tempe campus in April 2008 and fell in love with the university and the soccer program.

"I liked the style they play and that was important for me," Crook said. "I really enjoyed it and the girls were awesome."

Crook's soccer resume is something special. She was the SPSL South Player of the Year three times, state player of the year in 2007, All-State three times, the Mirror's Player of the Year three times, The News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year twice and ESPN All-Area in 2008.

In total, Crook totaled 60 goals during her four seasons at Beamer, including nine as a freshman, 19 as a sophomore, 18 as a junior and 14 as a senior.

"Holland is an attacking center mid," Arizona State head coach Kevin Boyd said. "She is absolutely outstanding on the ball. She has got a good shot with both feet. I think she is going to give us another dangerous player coming out of our midfield."

Arizona State finished 9-8-3 last season and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003.

"They are doing alright," Crook said. "They are getting better. I'm really looking forward to working with the coach."

Niewoehner also verbally committed to Oregon State early, during her junior year. The defender developed into one of the fastest and toughest defenders in the SPSL during her career. Niewoehner helped Beamer pitch eight shutouts last season, including a 1-0 win over the Jackson Wolves in the opening round of the Class 4A State Girls Soccer Tournament. Niewoehner also tallied four goals from the backline.

Traits that were attractive to Oregon State.

"I like it because it's home to me," Niewoehner said. "It's the same weather and the people there are really nice."

Niewoehner, a three-time All-SPSL defender, will join former teammate Megan Miller on the Beavers' roster. Miller played her freshman year in Corvallis on a team that advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. The Beavers finished 14-8-1 just a year after winning just four games.

"They have some really nice athletic facilities," she said. "It's going to be a blast."

Hickel had a solid senior season in the midfield for the Titans, just a year after injuring the ACL in her knee. She finished second on the team in scoring with seven goals and seven assists during the fall. Hickel had a pair of multi-goal games, including two gaols and one assist during a 3-0 win over Puyallup on Oct. 22. Hickel’s seven assists were the best on the team.

"It all happened really fast," Hickel said of her recruitment by Boise State. "Boise is such a cool city. There is so much stuff to do and there is lots of energy. The football team is also amazing."

On the football side, Pinson is the most intriguing of the signees because he has such a huge upside and is still learning the ins and outs of the game of football, according to Federal Way coach John Meagher.

"He improved so much just from the start of the season to the end," he said. "And he can get a lot better."

The 5-foot-11 speed burner was ultra-impressive during his first season at Federal Way High School after playing at Jefferson as a junior.

"It feels really good coming in here for just one year," Pinson said Wednesday. "I got my name out there because the odds were really against me. But I made it. This is a great day, but it's not the last you are going to hear of Trenton Pinson."

As a running back, Pinson ran for 1,108 yards and 21 touchdowns during the regular season and was the fastest high school football player in the state of Washington. Last spring, Pinson was the state runner-up in the 100- and 200-meter races and has personal-best times of 10.8 and 21.81.

He averaged 125 yards a game and 7.7 yards a carry during the season and scored 22 total touchdowns. He finished with six 100-plus yard games during the season and his best game came Oct. 29 against his old team, Jefferson. Pinson ran for 177 on just 12 carries and set an SPSL record with seven touchdowns.

Despite his success as a running back, Pinson will most likely start his career at Eastern as a wide receiver. The Eagles play in the Big Sky Conference and have advanced to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs in four of the last six seasons.

"When you talk about speed, he's right up there with the fastest athletes in the state, which will show up this spring when he competes in track and field as a senior," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "He played running back in high school, but he has pass-catching skills that will allow him to move to the receiver position. It adds a special dimension of gaining yards after the catch. Finding this type of player was something we wanted to accomplish in recruiting, and Trenton fits that mold perfectly."

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Seuma’ala was a beast on the defensive line for the Eagles the last three seasons. As a senior, he was named All-SPSL on both sides of the ball and selected as the teams' Defensive Lineman of the Year.

"It's a blessing," Seuma’ala said. "I'm just taking it as a blessing and am ready to play for Portland State."

The Vikings also play in the Big Sky Conference and finished the 2009 season with a 2-9 record.

Miller will continue the tradition of Federal Way graduates moving on to play football at Eastern Oregon. The 5-foot-5, 150-pounder is a two-time member of the Mirror's All-City defensive backfield.

As a senior, he also earned first-team, All-SPSL North honors after picking off two passes for the Eagles. Miller helped Federal Way to be the third-best defense against the pass in the SPSL, allowing just 65 yards a game.

"I really liked the chemistry there," Miller said Wednesday. "It's a small city, but there's lots of things to do on the campus."

Miller will join former Eagle Jordan Maulolo at Eastern Oregon. Rodell Razor and C.J. Green had their Eastern Oregon careers end in the fall. Both were also Federal Way grads.

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