Andrzej Hughes-Murray, the Federal Way High School linebacker with eight scholarship offers, wants this year’s team to be known by a different name.
“I feel like we are going to be known as ‘Federal Way High School,’ rather than ‘Chico and Federal Way,’” he said.
No Chico McClatcher, no problem — except for a few minor details concerning how The News Tribune’s 2014-15 All-Area Player of the Year had 1,865 rushing yards, 30 touchdowns, and 2,448 all-purpose yards in the regular season last year. McClatcher, who now plays for the University of Washington, also led the Eagles to a third consecutive trip to the 4A state quarterfinals that season.
Coach John Meagher, entering his 21st season, admits there’s no replacing McClatcher, at least not with one player.
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He expects that lost production to come from a tag-team effort of Hughes-Murray, who will slide into the backfield at fullback, three-sport standout D’Jimon Jones at quarterback and cornerback, a solid crop of receivers in Brian Parker, Bobi Sims and Ben Koler and an explosive running back in Chris Williams.
“Chico is special. You aren’t going to replace a guy like Chico and his skill set,” Meagher said. “At the same time, there are a lot of guys doing other things last year as well. Those guys have to step up this year and do the things they are capable of.”
If last year’s team ran the ball 80 percent of the time and passed 20 percent, this year it will be more like 50-50, if not more passing.
“I just had to hand the ball off,” Jones said. “Now I get to pass.
“We had a lot of playmakers last year, but we didn’t get to use them because we didn’t have to.”
Jones, who was also a key member of Federal Way’s 4A state-champion boys basketball team and placed second in the 4A high jump finals at the state meet as well, spent time at both quarterback and split out at receiver during Friday’s practice at Federal Way Memorial Field. When he was at receiver, junior Gabe Togia stepped in at quarterback.
That allows Meagher to take advantage of either Jones’ athleticism or use him as a decoy.
“That’s my best friend right there,” Parker said. “On and off the field. We are out every morning, every night, we’re throwing the ball around, and we’re making sure we can finish through and not just stop at the (state) quarterfinals this year.
“In my opinion, this year we have a better team than last year.”
That’s also because of Hughes-Murray, who Meagher said had the most impressive camp he’s ever seen from an individual player when the team traveled to Central Washington University this summer.
“I see my senior year being a big year for me,” Hughes-Murray said. “I’ve always wanted to step into that spotlight. I don’t think any moment is too big for me.”
With Hughes-Murray mixed with the rest of a talented returning group, this team might just be known for something other than Chico McClatcher.
The News Tribune will visit 17 high school football practices in the 14 days leading up to the first Football Friday of the season, breaking down some of the teams, players and storylines entering the 2015-16 season.
The tour will include three schools from the 4A Narrows League, four teams from the 4A SPSL, two from the 3A Narrows League, two from the 3A SPSL, one from the 2A Evergreen Conference, two from the 2A SPSL, one from the 1A Evergreen, one from the 1A Nisqually and one from the 2B Pacific.
Teams will be revealed each day, starting with the first day of official practices Wednesday, Aug. 19.
TNT PRESEASON PRACTICE TOUR
Practice preview: South Sound’s four most illustrious 4A schools enter new eras
Aug. 19: Timberline Blazers
Aug. 22: Kentlake Falcons
Aug. 26: Black Hills Wolves
Aug. 28: Yelm Tornados
Aug. 29: Clover Park Warriors
Aug. 31: Mount Tahoma Thunderbirds
Sept. 1: Eatonville Cruisers
Sept. 2: Charles Wright Tarriers
Sept. 3: Sumner Spartans
LEAGUE FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
In-depth look at some of the top storylines, team-by-team breakdown, games to watch and predictions from the 4A Narrows, 4A SPSL, 3A Narrows, 3A SPSL, 2A SPSL, and 1A Nisqually, as well as capsules from other area small-school teams.
State football overview: Dual-threat QBs have Auburn Mountainview, Gig Habor thinking state
Preseason TNT All-State football team: Graham-Kapowsin’s Foster Sarell on of nation’s top 2017 recruits
3A Narrows: Is that Xavier Cooper? Or Wilson’s A.J. Ruffin?
2A Evergreen: Team capsules
1A Nisqually: Team capsules. Story Saturday.
Small schools: Team capsules