The scene was an unfamiliar one for the Skyline football team.
Players and coaches speaking solemnly on the field, an unsettling sight on the scoreboard in the distance.
After capturing two straight 4A state championships, four since 2007 and reaching the championship game in each of the past five seasons, the Spartans were knocked from the state football tournament before reaching the Tacoma Dome, falling 26-20 to Federal Way in the opening round.
Touchdown runs from senior quarterback Kilton Anderson and running back Chandler Wong, along with a stifling effort from their defensive front, had Skyline up 14-0 at the half, as the Eagles saw a pair of drives end on downs and another finish with a sack of the punter. But after the break, an eight play drive featuring seven runs by quarterback Keenan Curran and running back Chico McClatcher was finished off by Eric Ah Fua on a 19-yard score that got the visitors on the board and spun the momentum.
“They just continued to come after it,” Skyline head coach Mat Taylor said of Federal Way’s offense. “That running back (McClatcher) is special, he is unbelievable.”
The Spartans got inside the Eagles’ 30 on the ensuing drive, using eight plays and a third-down personal foul penalty for a horse-collar tackle to seemingly regain control. But the second Skyline fumble of the night proved costly when Federal Way drove six plays, using a Curran rush from six yards out to make it 14-13 after the extra point was blocked.
Another fumble by the Spartans put Federal Way back in business before Curran was rocked trying to scramble and fumbled it back inside his own territory, setting up a 17-yard touchdown pass from Anderson to Wong that made it 20-13 Skyline after a failed two point conversion.
But after doing his damage in short bursts throughout the night, McClatcher got loose for 41 yards on the first play from scrimmage on the next drive, setting up another scoring run from Curran. After getting the ball back following a punt, McClatcher had his biggest run of the night, darting through the defense for a 67-yard score that proved to be the game-winner.
“The way we had him bottled up in the first half, I thought we were good,” Taylor said. “But he makes plays.”
Skyline’s defense gave its team one last gasp by recovering a fumble inside its own 20 yard line and with just more than two minutes remaining, but after a 13-minute delay because of a power surge that put out the stadium lights, a relentless Federal Way defense came up with the game’s final stop, ending the season for the division and KingCo champion Spartans on a fourth and long play from inside its own territory.
Taylor said for a group that lost the Gatorade National Player of the Year and an All-American in quarterback Max Browne, along with a host of other Division I players and starters from last year, the growth both on the field and in the collective confidence was measurable for the 2013 group, tabbed “Team XVII” within the program as the 17th since the school opened.
“I wanted them to know how proud of them I was,” he said. “They battled, they continued to fight and get better. It just didn’t work out.”
Eastlake beats Union to head to quarterfinals
Even facing a top-10 ranked squad in Union, and without some of its key offensive components due to injuries, the Eastlake football team once again found a way to persevere, winning 34-27 and securing the program’s third trip to the 4A state quarterfinals.
“We’re looking at a different scheme,” head coach Don Bartel said of the injury situation. “Coach (Kyle) Snell laid if all out with a perfect plan and just made it happen.”
Senior running back Drew Lewis put his team on top early before the two traded scores and took a 20-20 tie to the halftime break.
The Wolves took a 34-27 lead late before seemingly securing things with an interception before being forced to punt one final time.
That play ended in a Union fumble and gave the ball back to Eastlake, sending them to a home game against either Cascade or Camas next week.
“We tell our kids, ‘one way, all day, every day,” Bartel said. “It is a lot of fun to watch our kids.”