The Federal Way Eagles quickly realized on Friday night that repeating as SPSL South champions this season might not be as easy as it was last season.
But like good teams do, the third-ranked Eagles quickly embraced the new reality and started playing like defending champs.
Federal Way overcame an early 15-point deficit and exploded for a 34-point second half in defeating Rogers, 62-42, at Sparks Stadium in the season opener for both teams.
“Their mettle and their manhood is going to be tested this year,” Federal Way coach John Meagher said of his team. “We’re not like we were last year where we had five Division I receivers on the field. In eight of our 11 games last year, our starters were out the second half. This team has to realize what real football is like. Last year just wasn’t realistic.”
While several stars are gone, the Eagles still have star running back Chico McClatcher and playmaking quarterback Keenan Curran. Curran piled up a career-high 274 yards rushing on 18 carries and McClatcher added 102 yards on 11 carries. The duo also hooked up on 53-yard pass-and-catch.
“It was tough because we were down 15 points early... some adversity,” Curran said. “We’ve never been down like that. We just knew we could come back if we keep executing.”
After taking an early 15-0 lead, Rogers quarterback Grayson Madland tossed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Tony Winters with 26 seconds left in the half, ultimately giving the Rams a 29-28 lead at the half.
“We had a lot of wide eyes,” Meagher said of the locker room atmosphere at halftime.
It got worse when Madland hooked up with Kyler Ooley on a 71-yard touchdown on the Rams’ opening possession of the second half, pushing the lead to 36-28. But it was all Federal Way from there on out, as the Eagles scored four straight touchdowns — including Curran’s 60-yard scamper with 6 minutes, 38 seconds left in the game. The star quarterback added another 51-yard touchdown scamper late to cap off a career night.
“We have a commitment to excellence,” Curran said. “That’s on the back of our team shirts. So we knew we had to come out and execute.”
While Federal Way did score two defensive touchdowns, the Eagles also looked sloppy at times, turning the ball over three times in the first half and allowing Rogers to recover a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown when all Federal Way players needed to do was push the ball out, giving up a safety.
“We just have to clean ourselves up,” Meagher said. “We have to believe that we’re going to be able to get through this and continue to fight.”
Madland finished with 305 passing yards and five total touchdowns.