Special teams and a couple of special players proved to be too much for Edmonds-Woodway as visiting Federal Way ended the Warriors’ football season Friday night, leaving with a 37-20 victory. Eagles kick-returner Chico McClatchen (No. 5) gave the visitors great field position and also ran back a first-period kick 84 yards for Federal Way’s first score of the night, “Coming in we said ‘don’t kick to No. 5,’” said E-W coach John Gradwohl. “What’d we do? We kicked it to No. 5.”
The Warriors took the opening kick-off and after a Scott Myricks return to the 13-yard line, methodically moved down the field. In a drive that took over six minutes, E-W used its tried-and-true offensive formula of run, run, run and pass to take the first lead of the game. Running back Junior Opoku-Mensah carried the ball seven times, fulll back Mac McLachlan twice and Giles himself ran once for a 16-yard first down. Also mixed in was a seven-yard pass to Myricks. Opoku-Mensah ran it in from the 5-yard line for the score on the 15th play of the drive. Fourteen seconds later, however, the game was tied as McClatchen took the ensuing kick-off on the 16 and after some initial resistance, bolted down the middle of the field for the equalizing TD.
The Warrior offense quickly found itself back on the field. After getting a couple of first downs on a pair of catch-and-runs by McLachlan, the E-W drive stalled on the Eagles 41. Following a 14-yard punt, Federal Way was back in business as the Eagles began a methodical drive of their own, marching 73 yards in 14 plays, all running , taking over six minutes off the clock. Four different Eagles carried the ball, with McClatchen doing most of the damage including the 7-yard scoring run at the end.
“Our goal was to pound the ball. We have a great full back,” said Eagles quarterback Keenan McCurran, referring to his 255- pound teammate, Eric Ah Fua. The extra point was blocked by E-W’s Connor McCole, keeping the lead at six points.
The Warriors were unable to get a first down on their next possession. Forced to punt, McClatchen struck again for the Eagles, taking the 35-yard punt at his own 38 and returning it 52 yards before being tripped up at the Warrior 10 by McCole. The Eagles were called for a 15-yard holding penalty on their first play and when it looked like the Warriors would push Federal Way back further, the other Eagles’ quarterback D’Jimon Jones managed to escape a ferocious rush and get off a pass toward the Warriors end zone that ended up in Tyson Penn’s hands for a TD.
With just a little over four minutes left in the half, the Warriors failed to get a first down and after giving the ball back to Federal Way, things looked bleak for the home team. Chantz Justice quickly brightened up the mood, intercepting Curran’s pass at mid-field. Justice brought it all the way to Eagles 25, but a confusing set of penalties on both teams nullified the return and E-W would start at its own 40 with just over a minute left in the half. Quarterback Davis Giles masterfully completed a series of passes to three different teammates — Jason Smarr, Brandon Hohengarten and McLachlan. With the ball inside Federal Way’s 10-yard line and the clock ticking, Giles found McLachlan open for the touchdown on what proved to be the last play off the half. With the extra point, the Warriors, in spite of all the Federal Way fireworks, trailed by only six, 20-14.
The second half started with Edmonds-Woodway successfully kicking the ball away from McClatchen, and the Eagles started their drive from their own 30. McClatchen again teamed with Ah Fua on the ground as the Eagles marched steadily down the field to the Warriors’ 25. The Eagles’ next play, a pitch to running back Khalil House, went awry, but Federal Way got the bounce and recovered the fumble, albeit with a eight-yard loss. Federal Way called a timeout and on 4th down, Curran ran a naked reverse for a first down at the Warriors’ 7-yard line. Three successive runs were stopped by Theo Lebesis and following another timeout, the Eagles elected to kick what proved to be a successful 21-yard field goal by Sam Han.
Trailing by 9, the Warriors were unable to get a first down and following a 20-yard punt return by McClatchen, it looked like Federal Way might put the game out of reach. Jones tried to find Penn again, but this time McCole stepped in and intercepted the pass and after a quick referee conference, E-W was given the ball at their own 1-yard line. The Warriors tried a go-route down the sideline to Smarr, but Howse would have none of it, making a highlight reel, one-handed grab for the interception, and the Eagles regained the ball at the E-W 30. “I just super concentrated on the play,” Howse said. “it was my time to shine.” The Warriors’ defense also began to shine, denying the Eagles a score on the next possession.
With the third quarter winding down, and the Warriors still only trailing by 9, E-W began driving, moving the ball out to the Federal Way 47. But following an incomplete third-down pass to Lebesis and a punt, the Eagles got the ball back at their own 21. Four plays later, Curran ran a QB draw and went for 59 yards and a touchdown, increasing the margin to 16. The Warriors didn’t give up, and on their next possession promptly moved the ball 90 yards in seven plays to close the margin to 10. Mid-range passes to Lebesis and Opoku-Mensah and a 36-yard pass to Myricks highlighted the drive, which was finished with a seven-yard run by Giles.
The Warriors tried an on-side kick, but the ball was awarded to the Eagles on the E-W 43 as the attempt didn’t travel the requisite 10 yards. Four plays later, the Warriors were back in business as they forced the Eagles to punt and the kick only went four yards. With close to five minutes left, they took over just short of mid-field. Determined to not let his senior season end quite yet, Giles ran on three of the next four plays, gaining close to 20 yards in the process. With time running short, the Warriors needed to score quickly, so Giles was forced to pass, and was intercepted by Curran. Three plays later, Curran ran 38 yards for what turned out to be the final score of the game. With the outcome assured, the Warriors let leading rusher Opoku-Mensah finish the game with four successive carries, totaling 27 yards. Opoku-Mensah was held to a season-low 93 yards in the game, but ended up with over 1,500 yards on the season.
Eagles coach John Meagher said “coming here, we knew we had to stop the running attack or it was going to be a long night. Also, we knew we had to stop the long passing plays. I think we did both real well.”
E-W coach Gradwohl was philosophical after the loss. “We made a lot of mistakes. We needed to play smarter. They have a lot of speed, and it showed.” The Warriors’ season is over, but there was plenty to celebrate, having gone 8-0 in the regular season and winning the Wesco South. “It’s always sad to see it end, “ added Gradwohl.
Federal Way 7 13 3 14 — 37
Edmonds-Woodway 7 7 0 6 — 20
5:42 Edmonds-Woodway–Opoku-Mensah 5 run (Fatty kick)
5:28 Federal Way–McClatcher 84 kickoff return (Han kick)
7:43 Federal Way–McClatcher 7 run (kick failed)
4:34 Federal Way–Penn 26 pass from Jones (Han kick)
0:00 Edmonds-Woodway–McLachlan 3 pass from Giles (Fatty kick)
7:39 Federal Way–21 FG Han
9:15 Federal Way–Curran 59 run (Han kick)
7:02 Edmonds-Woodway–Giles 7 run (run failed)
1:51 Federal Way–Curran 38 run (Han kick)
Records–Federal Way 8-2, Edmonds-Woodway 8-2
— By Jeff Smarr