Postseason preview: Eagles must stop Cascade’s Wing T

By CASEY OLSON, The Mirror

When: 7 p.m. today, Nov. 3

Where: Federal Way Memorial Stadium

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-Cascade game will play the winner of a game between Bethel and Eastlake. Bethel (7-2) finished as the third-place team from the South Puget Sound League South Division and Eastlake (7-1) was the No. 2 seed from the KingCo Conference. Federal Way or Cascade will host the game on Nov. 9 or 10.

How they got here: Federal Way won its first SPSL division title since 1976 by rolling through the North with a perfect 7-0 record. Their only loss this season came in a non-leaguer to playoff-bound Graham-Kapowsin (7-2) in the second week of the season, 27-18. The Eagles also beat eventual SPSL South champion Rogers (8-1) in both teams’ season opener.

Cascade (Everett) earned the No. 3 seed from the Wesco North League behind defending state champion Oak Harbor (9-0) and second-place Snohomish (8-1). Cascade’s three losses came to Snohomish (27-14), Lake Stevens (28-19) and Oak Harbor (21-7).

Cascade has a rich football tradition and has made 15 appearances in the state playoffs since 1973. The Bruins won the 1991 state championship by beating Puyallup and quarterback Damon Huard in the title game, 14-7. Cascade has lost seven times in the state semifinals, including a 28-7 loss to Woodinville two years ago.

Federal Way has only two appearances in the state playoffs. The Eagles played in back-to-back tournaments in 1975 and ‘76.

Why Cascade will win: The Bruins pride themselves on being a physical team on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, and Federal Way has had a little trouble with that type of team this season.

There’s no question what Cascade’s Wing T offense is going to try and do — run the ball, run the ball and then run the ball some more. The Bruins have lined up for a total of 416 offensive plays this season and 371 of them have been runs. Cascade has gained 2,042 yards on the ground for an average of 227 yards a game.

“They are a standard Wing T team,” said FW head coach John Meagher. “They don’t throw the ball much, but they haven’t needed to.”

The Bruins are led by punishing fullback Lorne Bridgford. The 6-foot, 185-pounder has gained 1,253 yards on 195 carries and scored 13 touchdowns. Senior halfback Julian Willis (5-10, 175) is second on the team with 569 yards and seven touchdowns.

Cascade is led by junior quarterback Aaron Frye, who has only completed 22 passes for 399 yards this season. That averages out to 2.6 completions for 66 yards a game. Willis leads the Bruins in receiving with only six catches.

Besides running the football on offense, Cascade also features a solid defensive unit. The Bruins are allowing only nine points a game and have pitched four shutouts. Cascade gave up 76 of those points in its three losses.

The Bruins have given up only 1,333 yards of total offense all season (148 yards a game), including 931 yards rushing and 402 yards passing. Cascade has intercepted 12 passes and recovered five fumbles.

Why Federal Way will win: The Eagles just have to keep doing what they’ve been doing. There’s no doubt that Federal Way has a big-time advantage in terms of athleticism and needs to exploit its speed and big-play ability.

The Eagle offense is led by a plethora of dynamic skill position players, including senior quarterback Justin Southern. Southern has had a monster season for Federal Way, throwing for 1,753 yards and 15 touchdowns, while only throwing one interception. He also caught a touchdown pass and rushed for five more.

Southern’s main targets have been senior wideouts Aaron Broussard and Greylin James. Broussard, who at 6-5 is a tough matchup for smaller defensive backs, has 22 catches for 610 yards and two touchdowns. James has caught 23 passes for 361 yards and four touchdowns. Another senior, Montrel Walton, has caught 15 passes for 361 yards and one touchdown.

And when Southern isn’t throwing the ball around, he is handing it to one of the most talented running backs in the state. Junior Andre Barrington ran for 917 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught seven passes for 153 yards and two TDs.

The Eagles have played solid defense all season, giving up just over 19 points a game. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. During Federal Way’s seven-game winning streak, a lot of the points the Eagles have given up have been in garbage time late in the games.

The high-octane Eagle offense has built up huge first-half leads, allowing head coach John Meagher to rest a lot of his starters in the second half. Federal Way has outscored its opponents 174-81 in the first half this season and only 105-95 in the third and fourth quarters.

But the Eagle defense, led by middle linebacker Andre Pulu, Barrington, Southern and outside linebacker George Williams, has shown the inability, at times, of stopping the run. Federal Way has given up more than 200 yards to three different running backs during games this season and that run defense will get a big test tonight against Cascade.

“We are as healthy as we’ve been all season,” Meagher said. “We are ready to rock and roll. They are a good team, but it’s the playoffs and everybody is good.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: