Updated Friday, November 16, 2012 at 10:01 PM
FEDERAL WAY – The football goes up and the din goes down. Any time Chico McClatcher readies to field a punt, it’s good cause for a hush in the stadium.
“When the ball’s in the air on a punt, there’s kind of a collective breath-holding,” Federal Way coach John Meagher said.
McClatcher, a sophomore, is enjoying a breathtaking season for the second-ranked Eagles (11-0), who play No..3 Camas (11-0) in the Class 4A state quarterfinals Saturday in Camas.
McClatcher averages more than 30 yards per return and has taken four back for touchdowns. His 80-yard TD return in last Friday’s 46-28 victory over Rogers of Puyallup helped propel Federal Way to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1996.
He also has six rushing scores, five TD receptions and averages nearly 150 all-purpose yards. Those totals likely would be higher if he hadn’t missed two games with an illness.
McClatcher (5 feet 7, 165 pounds) says he gets the biggest rush from punt returns.
“I just like to get the ball in open space and just make something happen,” he said.
McClatcher’s talents were evident when he became a varsity regular as a freshman – a rarity at Federal Way – and rushed for more than 170 yards in a game.
When Root Sports broadcast the Eagles’ second game this season against Emerald Ridge, McClatcher was dubbed the “Blue Mamba,” a spin on the Black Mamba tag of Oregon’s DeAnthony Thomas.
McClatcher comes from athletic parents. His father, Robert Chico McClatcher, was a standout basketball player at Foss High School in Tacoma. His mother, Kam Warner, was an elite hurdler and long jumper at Washington and played professional women’s football until retiring this year.
McClatcher, who said he tries to fashion his game after Reggie Bush, already has scholarship offers from Washington and Portland State.
Meagher said the best is yet to come as McClatcher bets bigger and stronger and more fundamentally sound.
“As that growth continues, it’s going to be pretty amazing watching him develop,” he said. “He’s got all these natural talents and skills, but when he hones in on some of those fundamentals at the tailback position, watch out.”
Trojans ‘back on top’ at Auburn
Auburn went 4-6 last year and missed the playoffs for the first time in nine years. But the Trojans’ losses were by a total of 32 points, including five by one score or less.
This year, with the motto “back on top,” they are 9-2 going into Saturday’s 4A quarterfinal against Mead.
“Auburn football has the tradition over the past 10 years of being one of the better teams in the state,” coach Gordon Elliott said. “We kind of lost that, and this group really wanted to get that back.”
Part of the resurgence can be attributed to Harold Lee, a thrilling playmaker who missed nearly all last season with an injury. Lee has rushing and receiving TDs, and has scored on interception, punt and kickoff returns. Elliott said some of Lee’s big plays could have been the difference last year.
But the key to Auburn’s success, Elliott said, is diversity. In a 41-38 win against Olympia in the round of 32, five Trojans scored touchdowns.
“The story for us has been our guys have just stepped up,” Elliott said.
Mount Si has big arm in Mitchell
Early this season, junior quarterback Nick Mitchell was the biggest question mark for Mount Si. The Wildcats returned experienced players just about everywhere else.
Mitchell has put those doubts to rest, passing for 28 touchdowns and nearly 2,000 yards on his way to being named first-team All-KingCo 3A/2A.
“Put it this way: I don’t want to bend a hyperbole here, but if you took all the NFL quarterbacks in the league, he would not have the weakest arm,” said former NFL quarterback Hugh Millen, who works with Mitchell. “I’m talking all 96 quarterbacks in the league. He would not be the weakest arm of 96.”
Millen said Mitchell, the younger brother of Oregon State offensive lineman Josh Mitchell, still needs to work on footwork and decision-making.
Mitchell has passed for 414 yards and nine touchdowns in his last two games, despite leaving early in both. He has teamed with receiver Trent Riley to form one of the state’s best passing tandems. Riley, the KingCo 3A/2A offensive player of the year, has a school-record 25 TD catches this season, including six in his last two games.
The challenge falls on Kennedy to stop Mount Si’s offense. The teams met in Week 1, with Mount Si winning 30-0. But the Lancers have rallied to win nine straight.
M-P’s run game to be tested
Marysville-Pilchuck running backs Austin Joyner and Kacey Walker have combined for more than 3,200 yards this season, surprising even coach Brandon Carson.
“Going into the season, we thought we could be really good at running the ball,” Carson admitted. “But I didn’t think we’d be this good.”
The 10th-ranked Tomahawks will get their toughest defensive test this season when they play No. 3 Eastside Catholic in a 3A quarterfinal game Saturday night. The Crusaders have allowed just 34 points in their last three games. They intercepted three passes and forced a fumble against Kelso last week.
• Bellevue’s 37-game winning streak is tied for seventh longest in state history. The record is 49, by eight-man Lacrosse-Washtucna from 2002-06.
• Mount Si has scored 70 second-quarter points in its past two games.
• Bellevue’s 28 points against Ferndale were the Wolverines’ fewest this season, but they posted their fourth shutout (and second straight).
• Skyline’s offense gets most of the attention, but the Spartans have allowed just 24 points in their last four games, including two shutouts.
Times staff reporter Jayson Jenks contributed to this report.
Chico McClatcher averages nearly 150 all-purpose yards, but says he gets the biggest kick out of punt returns.
Harold Lee has been a playmaker for Auburn.
Nick Mitchell has 28 TD passes for Mount Si.