Linebacking duo key for offensive-minded Eagles

todd.milles@thenewstribune.comNovember 30, 2013 

Over and over, Federal Way High School football coach John Meagher watched Chiawana’s powerful rushing attack on film this week.

The Mid-Columbia Conference champion features a one-back offense that commits to a variety of run plays.

“Against Wenatchee (in the Class 4A state quarterfinals),” Meagher said, “they ran counter (plays) left six plays in a row. If they find something, they keep going to it.”

The Eagles (10-2) packed the charter bus Friday and headed east to the Tri-Cities in

preparation of their state semifinal showdown against Chiawana (11-1) at noon Saturday at Edgar Brown Memorial Stadium in Pasco.

Meagher was sure not to leave without arguably his two most important players for this matchup.

Sure, quarterback Keenan Curran and tailback Chico McClatcher will receive plenty of attention on offense. But the Eagles need to match the Riverhawks’ physicality, and Meagher feels a whole lot better having outside linebackers Jared Pulu and Chris Tuiasosopo back on the field.

It’s the shot in the arm this defense has certainly benefited from in the playoffs.

“It’s been a real nice gift,” Meagher said.

That’s because Meagher has spent much of the season uncertain those two juniors would return from injuries.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Pulu was the biggest worry. He suffered a labrum tear early in the fall and was thought to be lost for the season.

“I didn’t think there was any way he would play again,” Meagher said.

But once told by doctors he could not do further damage, Pulu chose to rehabilitate the injury and strengthen the area around the shoulder joint.

It was early in the Eagles’ district playoff football game against Edmonds-Woodway that Meagher and his coaching staff saw Pulu put to the test. As a running back went by him, he reached back to drag the ballcarrier down.

“Everyone was like, ‘Is that the bad arm?’ ” Meagher said. “He was fine. Clearly the shoulder is OK.”

In Federal Way’s 41-34 state quarterfinal victory over Richland, Pulu dominated the second half. He had two sacks, forced a fumble and knocked down a pass. The Eagles forced five second-half turnovers.

“It’s that leadership, drive and determination,” Meagher said. “He brings life to the defense by the way he plays.”

Tuiasosopo was a 6-2, 235-pound transfer from California who was coming off knee surgery. He played in the Eagles’ season opener, but it was clear he was not healthy. He, too, was held out until the postseason.

“He’s a real thumper and a real physical presence on the team,” Meagher said. “He cleans people’s clocks.”

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@thenewstribune.com @ManyHatsMilles

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