Visit a Federal Way High football practice, and you’ll see coach John Meagher orchestrating a ballet.
Not a ballet in the purest theatrical sense, but his own – one of fast athletes who can take a football, reach high-end speed, meet a defender and pirouette to avoid contact without losing balance.
How fast? Members of the school’s Class 4A runner-up 4x100-meter relay and state-winning 4x400 relay squad all play football.
Yet, ask Meagher which athlete catches his eye the most, without hesitation he cites another track-team member – the school’s best discus thrower.
His name is Albert “Alipate” Havili.
“He is the one guy who strikes fear in our opponents – when they see him running down on a kickoff, or the plays he can make running from sideline to sideline,” Meagher said.
“It’s not about all-out speed, and he is fast for his size but in terms of pure explosiveness, I would say he is close to, if not better than, Andre Barrington (a Federal Way graduate who went to Washington State as a linebacker). He has those kind of hips and that kind of power packed in his core.”
If Meagher sounds a bit rah-rah in praise for his senior linebacker, the last South Puget Sound League South Division coach to face Havili shared a similar sentiment.
“I think he is the real deal,” Graham-Kapowsin coach Eric Kurle said. “They have great team speed, but that kid brings another level (of explosivness). He brings high energy. He ran down some of our plays from the opposite side.
“He is as good as I have seen in this league.”
The things he can do at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds are astounding. He has the toughness of an inside linebacker, the speed to move outside – and the size to line up at defensive end.
And on offense, if an area of weakness exists for a Federal Way team that has already scored 146 points (third-most in 4A), it is on the line. And Havili fills that unit’s most important role at right tackle – the side where most of the run plays go.
The play that Meagher has watched more than a few times this season was a blocked field goal in the second week against Emerald Ridge. The game was also regionally televised.
As the Jaguars lined up for a 32-yard kick late in the first half, Havili squeezed his way through a crease in the line, got his big paw on the kick and even recovered the loose ball.
“No offense to Emerald Ridge, but I saw someone smaller than me trying to block, and I knew I could get past him,” Havili said. “I got on all four (hands and feet), used all the power in my lower body and once I saw the ball flinch, I exploded through there.”
Added Meagher: “He blocks it, rolls through and picks the ball up in one very athletic motion. I told my coaches, ‘Man, we’ve got to find a way to get that off my DVR and on a DVD so college coaches can see that.’ That kind of movement happens with a 180-pound kid.”
In a season of high expectations (the Eagles are ranked No. 3 and already hold the inside track to another SPSL South title) Havili is the two-way, all-league player – and leader - Federal Way can least afford to lose.
“Off the field, he is little bit slug-like in terms of walking around – very slow-paced and he generally shows no emotion. He is a good student, and is never in any trouble,” Meagher said. “On the field, we have to put the reins on him. He wants to own other players, and sometimes those encounters will turn into personal battles.”
He also has a football pedigree: His first cousin is Stanley Havili, the former Southern California standout who is now a rookie fullback with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“People always look at my name and asked, ‘Do you know (Stanley)?’ I just smile and say yes,” Albert Havili said. “I am perfectly fine with that.”email@example.com 253-597-8442 blog.thenewstribune.com/preps/ @ManyHatsMilles