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South Sound signing day: Federal Way sends two to Pac-12 football programs

Federal Way High School, which has consistently churned out Division I football players during the past decade, will send two more to the Pac-12.

Alphonzo Tuputala (Washington) and Trey Davis (USC), who are both considered among the top 10 recruits in the state in the 2019 class by 247Sports.com, each signed their National Letters of Intent to continue their football careers Wednesday.

The seniors are the latest in a long line of Division I signees the school has produced since 2009. Eagles coach John Meagher, who just wrapped up his 21st season with the program, said a combination of talent, as well as preparing athletes for success on the field and in the classroom is a big reason Federal Way has sent 11 additional players to Division I programs during that span.

“Even 10 years ago we were putting kids into school, but they were coming back, sometimes a quarter into it, or a year or two into it,” Meagher said. “The access was there, but we weren’t having as much success when they were getting there.

“That’s really changed. Just this last year, we had four or five kids (former Federal Way football players) graduate from college, which is really the goal for everybody involved. That was just in the last school year alone. Watching these kids be able to go play, and then be able to graduate is really exciting.”

Meagher was one of the first to congratulate Tuputala and Davis at a celebration ceremony held in the school’s axillary gym Wednesday morning.

“If you have an opportunity, and it is a dream of yours, it can happen,” he said, addressing a small crowd. “Keep that dream alive. Keep working for it.

“These two young men are shining examples for you to be able to shoot for. … I am proud of Trey Davis and I am proud of Alphonzo Tuputala. Good luck to you guys.”

Tuputala, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound linebacker, is considered the No. 9 player in the state in the 2019 class, and verbally committed to play for the Huskies in June, soon after the program offered. He was also the MVP of the Huskies’ Rising Stars Camp last spring, and the Class 4A NPSL Valley defensive lineman of the year this season.

Tuputala chose UW over offers from Air Force, Idaho, Montana State, Nevada, New Mexico, Portland State, Sacramento State and Utah State.

“It’s a hard process, every recruit would say that, but it’s just a blessing and I’m grateful,” Tuputala said. “Growing up, it was a dream school. … It’s a just a great program up there. Coach (Chris Petersen) and the staff, everyone there, they have the values and characteristics that my family goes by. It’s just a perfect match.”

Meagher said the Huskies were drawn to Tuputala’s size, his lateral quickness and his dynamic personality and leadership skills. Brandon Huffman, the National Recruiting Editor at 247Sports, said Tuputala improved as an all-around defender during the offseason.

“He’s your classic inside backer,” Huffman said. “He’s going to be a guy in the box, filling gaps, getting to the running back, playing close to the line of scrimmage as a linebacker. But, he really spent this offseason working on being a better cover guy. I think that’s something that’s going to keep him on the field. It gives him an opportunity to be a three-down linebacker in college.”

Davis, a 5-11, 190-pound three-star defensive back, is considered the No. 10 recruit in Washington in this year’s class, and had offers from Washington State, Portland State and Sacramento State before choosing USC.

He committed to the Trojans in May, and didn’t waver from his decision despite a push from WSU.

“I love the opportunity,” Davis said of USC. “That’s where I want to be. That’s the place I want to go. I just immediately fell in love. I love everything about the campus, the family (atmosphere) around the campus, and especially how the professors work with their students.”

Davis missed much of his senior season with a knee injury, but Meagher said and his junior season film — he finished with 30 tackles, including eight for losses — speed in coverage, and offseason work, kept programs interested.

“It tells you what kind of athlete he is,” Meagher said. “We were bummed out that his season was cut short due to injury, but he did a good job of staying in contact with USC. They came in from the beginning and said, ‘Hey, we’re still with you.’ I’m just proud of him and excited to see how he can develop.”

Other Federal Way players to commit to Division I programs in the past decade, according to 247Sports, include Andrzej Hughes-Murray (2016, Oregon State), D’Jimon Jones (2016, WSU), Chico McClatcher (2015, UW), Jared Pulu (2015, UW), Keenan Curran (2014, Air Force), Michael Tate (2013, San Jose State), D.J. May (2012, Wyoming), Jordan Pulu (2012, Eastern Washington), Uso Olive (2012, Wyoming), Andrew Barrington (2009, WSU) and Andru Pulu (2009, UW).

WILLINGHAM SIGNS WITH UTAH STATE

Steilacoom’s Jaymason Willingham is on his way to a program known for turning out successful linebackers — including Seahawks veteran Bobby Wagner — after signing with Utah State on Wednesday.

“I’m really excited,” Willingham said. “A lot of emotions.”

Willingham, the 2A SPSL defensive player of the year, and a TNT All-Area and all-state pick, finished his senior campaign with 124 tackles, including 22 for losses and a classification-leading 15 sacks. He also led the Sentinels in rushing, collecting 1,198 yards and 16 touchdowns on 142 carries.

For the Aggies, he’ll stick with his dominant position at linebacker. Huffman said Willingham’s positional versatility makes him an intriguing recruit.

“He can play inside. He can play outside. He can really play any linebacker spot,” Huffman said. “I think that’s important. … Jaymason is a three-down linebacker because of his athleticism.”

Willingham is a 6-3, 215-pound three-star recruit, and considered the No. 11 prospect in Washington in 2019. He’ll join a linebackers group that also includes Olympia graduate David Woodward, who led the Aggies with 134 tackles this season.

“You have some really good defensive coaches who have a history of evaluating (linebackers), and more importantly player development,” Huffman said.

TNT_Stadium_Practice_0005

Wide receiver Xavier Mason, center, helps with passing drills during Stadium High School football practice at Stadium High School in Tacoma, Wash., on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. .

Joshua Bessex [email protected]

BIG SKY SCHOOLS SIGN THREE

Three more 2019 recruits from the South Sound signed with Big Sky schools during the early period. Stadium’s Davion Gaines (Portland State) and Xavier Mason (Sacramento State), and Hazen’s Corbin Walker (Montana) all inked commitments.

Walker, a 6-0, 175-pound three-star recruit, will join the Grizzlies as a defensive back, but is known for his versatility. He was a two-way star at Hazen as a wide receiver (74 catches, 1,155 yards, 10 TDs as a senior) and cornerback (34 tackles, seven pass break-ups, four catches allowed, no TDs allowed).

He was the offensive back of the year in the 4A NPSL Valley, a first-team all-league pick on both sides of the ball, and is considered the No. 35 recruit in the state.

“He’s going to go in as a DB, but he can play receiver in a pinch if they’re running low on numbers on the offensive side of the ball,” Huffman said. “A good two-way player like that, espically in the Big Sky, is crucial because you don’t have the depth that other levels do.”

Gaines, a 6-1, 185-pound three-star recruit is the No. 50 recruit in Washington in this class, and recorded 70 tackles and seven pass break-ups at corner. He was a first-team 3A PCL selection at defensive back. Huffman said Gaines is a “steal” for Portland State.

“Very instinctual corner, good coverage skills, physical, great ball skills. He jumps routes,” Huffman said. “I think he has a chance to be a really good player for them.”

Mason, a 6-0, 190-pound two-star recruit is the No. 52 prospect in the state, and another Huffman considers a great get for an FCS program. He was a first-team 3A PCL pick at wide receiver, finishing with 82 catches for 958 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“With Xavier, you’re getting a guy who, despite not being super huge, is a pretty physical receiver and very polished,” Huffman said. “He gets good separation. He’s really good in the open field. A lot of good yardage after the catch, and a crisp route runner.”



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