Federal Way High’s football team huddled around coach John Meagher, steam rising from their heads and beneath shoulder pads on a chilly Saturday evening, as he addressed them on the field for the final time this season.
“These kids played their hearts out tonight,” Meagher said. “They shouldn’t hang their heads for one second. I’m deeply proud of them.”
The fifth-ranked Eagles lost for the first time, falling 21-11 to No. 4 Eastlake in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs. The Wolves (10-1) will host No. 8 Lake Stevens in the quarterfinals.
Despite two college-bound players sitting out with injuries, Federal Way held the high-scoring Wolves well below their usual output – Eastlake entered the contest averaging 39 points per game. Portland State-commit Uso Olive, a 6-foot, 305-pound senior nosetackle, was nursing a torn meniscus and middle linebacker Jordan Pulu, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound senior orally committee to Washington State, was on crutches with a broken ankle.
With the heart of its defense sidelined, Federal Way’s speed kept the Wolves from breaking big gains around the end, and the Eagles were stout enough inside to hold Eastlake from grinding out long drives. The Wolves finished with just 137 rushing yards on 43 carries.
The difference was just a few key plays.
“We made some mistakes, we played OK,” senior D.J. May said. “We didn’t play the best defense we’ve ever played. They took advantage of our mistakes.”
Eastlake took a 7-3 lead on a bizarre play early in the second quarter. Facing third-and-goal at the 10, Ryan Lewis hauled in a screen pass and carried a couple Federal Way defenders on his back as he trudged toward the goal line. He lateralled the ball to receiver Brian Quick at the 1 and he walked into the end zone.
“Ryan got stood up a bit on the tackle, they didn’t blow the play dead and our kids were smart enough to make something happen,” Wolves coach Gene Dales said.
Federal Way had a chance to score in the final seconds of the first half, but linebacker Sean MacDonald intercepted Evan Elliott’s pass at the goal line, preserving Eastlake’s 7-3 lead at halftime.
Jeremy Stavig’s interception set up the Wolves’ second score, an 11-yard touchdown catch by fullback Daniel Grotjahn with 4:25 remaining in the third quarter. Lewis, who ran for 106 yards on 27 carries, sealed Eastlake’s third quarterfinals appearance when he scored on a two-yard plunge with 27 seconds left in the game.
The final offensive play of Federal Way’s season was a touchdown. D’Londo Tucker threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Chico McClatcher and Tucker ran in the two-point conversion.
May, who received a scholarship offer from Idaho on Friday, was bottled up, finishing with 32 yards on 15 rushes. As he walked off Federal Way Memorial Field, he reflected on his final game.
“You just hope that you gave it your all,” he said. “Especially us seniors, hope you left all you got on the field.”