PASCO – Federal Way is a run-first team. The Eagles are also a run-second team — and third, and sometimes fourth.
When the ground attack isn’t working, it’s a safe bet that it will be a frustrating day for Federal Way.
So it went Saturday afternoon, as Chiawana halted the Federal Way running game — as well as the Eagles’ season — on a frigid day at Edgar Brown Stadium. The Riverhawks rode a strong defensive effort to a 40-7 win in the 4A state semifinals and the young program’s first ever berth in the title game.
Chiawana, which opened in 2009, will face the winner of Saturday night’s matchup between Camas and Bellarmine Prep.
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“I’m proud of all their efforts,” Federal Way coach John Meagher said. “Today wasn’t our best day; they shut us down offensively. But hey, you know what? I’m proud of the overall effort of the kids, I’m proud of the character they showed all year, the resolve that we’ve had in the playoffs.”
It was that determination that gave the Eagles hope after falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter. In fact, Federal Way had trailed by the same score during its previous two playoff games. Its first postseason game also was a comeback victory.
But in near-freezing temperatures, the Federal Way offense was, well, nearly frozen.
Chico McClatcher fared the best for the Eagles with 55 yards on nine carries, but 44 came on one run. Quarterback Keenan Curran, the second half of the dynamic backfield, gained only 11 yards on eight carries and was tackled for a loss four times.
Federal Way finished with 80 yards on the ground and lost four fumbles. The Eagles converted just one first down before halftime.
The only Federal Way points came when McClatcher returned an interception 53 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.
“They came with a good game plan to stop us, and it’s tough when they key on Chico and he doesn’t have the big game that he usually has,” Curran said. “We just couldn’t get things going, and that’s tough for us, but let’s point out the fact that they’re a good team. They came with a great game plan to stop us and they’re great athletes.”
Meagher tried to jumpstart the offense in the second half by putting sophomore D’Jimon Jones behind center and moving Curran out wide as a receiver. The move resulted in the Eagles’ first completion of the game — a 12-yard fourth-quarter pass to McClatcher — as well as a competent drive, but it ended with a Chiawana goal-line stand.
By that time, though, the game had long been decided.
“It’s a big thing,” said Chiawana head coach Steve Graff of the school’s first trip to the title game. “Those kids worked their tail off in the offseason.”