Darren McKay won’t call it a rivalry.
The winner between his Todd Beamer High School football team and Federal Way on Friday at Federal Way Memorial Stadium clinches the 4A South Puget Sound League Northwest title. Beamer has the best scoring defense in 4A. Federal Way has the eighth-best scoring offense and easily the best in the SPSL.
And the Federal Way city championship is on the line.
McKay’s issue, though, is this: His Titans have never beaten Federal Way in football since the school opened in 2003.
“I’ve always kind of had this thing that until you beat somebody, I don’t know if you can say you are rivals,” McKay said. “Until the other team knows (it can be beaten), I just don’t think you can say it’s a true rivalry.”
When Eagles coach John Meagher was told of McKay’s stance, he scheduled a conversation.
“I’ll be sure to check in with Darren before the game to let him know — this is definitely a rivalry,” Meagher said. “It’s a rivalry for us, for sure.”
One more thing is for sure – there’s more on the line for both teams than ever before.
Beamer (6-1, 3-0 SPSL Northwest) has clinched a winning record and postseason berth for the first time in school history.
What’s surprising is how. The Titans’ only loss this season was Week 1 against Rogers, falling 28-21. That remains Rogers’ only win.
Since giving up those four touchdowns to the Rams, the Titans have shut out four of their past six opponents and have allowed only 13 points.
What happened against Rogers remains a mystery even to McKay, although he believes losing 2013 leading rusher Brody Martinez to a season-ending knee injury before the game played a factor.
“We were probably playing some kids who weren’t ready yet,” McKay said. “But we are a completely different-looking team than who we were Week 1.”
But that defense also hasn’t had to defend Chico McClatcher yet.
McClatcher, who set a league single-game record of 397 rushing yards earlier this season against Decatur, is one of the most dangerous player the SPSL has ever seen.
Like Beamer, Federal Way’s season started poorly. The Eagles, who were missing six linebackers because of injuries, were 0-2 after losses to Union and Camas, and it carried over Week 3 against Tahoma ... for one quarter.
Federal Way (5-2, 3-0) then scored 37 in the second period, led by 41 at halftime, got five total touchdowns from McClatcher, and have been rolling ever since.
Federal Way averages almost 40 points per game, while McClatcher is second in the SPSL with 99 carries for 1,193 yards. He averages 12.1 yards per carry.
“There’s no getting around the fact that we have Chico McClatcher. But we’ve got certain plays where we intentionally use Chico as a decoy because — we know,” chuckled Meagher, indicating that he can tell by now that defenses single out his electric running back.
“Sometimes Chico will line up in the wrong spot, but once he moves, you’ll see the entire defense shift. But you just have to. You have to go into a game with a plan on how to stop No. 5. You can’t ignore him. You can’t try to stop him like you would anybody else because that will bite you.”
Don’t worry about telling McKay twice.
“You have to know where he is on the field,” McKay said. “That’s the biggest thing.”
But Beamer won’t stray too far from what has made it so staunch on defense. And that is keeping it simple, not getting too extravagant with blitz packages and letting its four-man front — Chris Fa’amalele, Iokepa Sharpe, Jordan Jennings and freshman Lucky Liulama — do its thing.
“But we’ll have to tweak things a little bit for what we’re going to see this week and all the things that Chico is really good at. And the threat of their running quarterback (D’jimon Jones) is a concern, too,” McKay said. “And we can’t kick the ball to Chico, either. I want no part of contributing to him getting extra touches.”
But if this dominant defense can solve the riddle of containing McClatcher and the rest of Federal Way’s overwhelming offense, Beamer might finally have itself a rivalry.
“It’s just about getting that signature win,” McKay said. “That first signature win.”