Washington wide receiver Chico McClatcher (6) catches a pass during the first half of a game against Arizona on Sept. 24, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Washington wide receiver Chico McClatcher (6) catches a pass during the first half of a game against Arizona on Sept. 24, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Former HS teammates McClatcher, Curran star for UW, Montana

By Todd Milles

The News Tribune

SEATTLE — John Meagher gets very confused.

If the longtime Federal Way High School football coach can’t park himself in front of a television on Saturdays to watch college football games, he logs onto his Facebook account instead.

And usually, the slogan pops up: No. 6 for “6.”

Except Meagher isn’t sure which of his former standouts — Chico McClatcher, now at the University of Washington, and Keenan Curran, now at Montana — has scored a touchdown playing wide receiver. Both also wear the No. 6 jersey. In fact, they call themselves the “Sixers.”

“It’s hard to tell sometimes,” Meagher said.

The two former teammates will be on the same field, but on opposite sidelines Saturday as seventh-ranked Huskies host the Grizzlies at Husky Stadium.

“It won’t be too weird,” McClatcher said. “Our defensive backs are aggressive and good, so Keenan is going to have to work at it. I know he has high expectations for making plays.”

These were Federal Way’s top playmakers at the end of a remarkable run of elite success.

In their four years, the Eagles went to the Class 4A state playoffs four times, including making the state semifinas in 2013.

As seniors in 2014, Curran was the undisputed leader at quarterback, a better runner than thrower. And McClatcher was the SPSL South’s most dangerous ball-carrier at tailback, leading the South Sound with 1,837 yards and 26 touchdowns. He scored a school-record 91 touchdowns for his career, including a score in 35 consecutive games.

“Those were some of the funnest times in my life,” Curran said. “Not to say it is a business (in college), but it is a lot more cutthroat at this next level. But back then, every Thursday or Friday, you played for the pure joy of the game, and with him being one of my best friends, it was so much fun to be part of … that unstoppable 1-2 punch.”

And just like that, their paths diverged elsewhere after graduation.

McClatcher not only immediately played for the Huskies as a true freshman, he was moved to receiver. In his first game at Boise State, he caught a 49-yard touchdown pass from Jake Browning.

Now, McClatcher is in his third season as a starter, and has become Browning’s No. 2 option in the passing game behind Dante Pettis.

In 27 games, McClatcher has caught 40 passes for 668 yards. He has added another 284 rushing yards. He has reached the end zone 10 times.

“Chico is just explosive, just like he was in high school,” Meagher said. “I don’t know if there is anybody faster in the game in the first couple of steps.”

Curran originally signed with Air Force as a defensive back coming out of high school, but lasted one year at military prep school.

He transferred to Montana, which also recruited him out of Federal Way.

“I came in for a visit, and (coach) Bob Stitt sat me down and said, ‘We really like you and you are a good athlete, but we want to try you at something new and have you play wide receiver,’” Curran said. “I mean, we are a school that throws it 50 times a game. Our offense is predicated on the pass. I liked what I saw.”

In 2015, Curran played behind, oddly enough, UW transfer Jamaal Jones, a Graham-Kapowsin High School graduate. He played in the final nine games of the season.

When Jones gradauted, not only did Curran take Jones’ spot in the starting lineup, he asked for his jersey number — No. 6.

Last season, Curran broke out in a big way — 40 catches for 601 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns.

“What most impresses me about Keenan is how he has developed into a polished wide receiver,” Meagher said. “I just watch his route-running and his attention to detail … and while he is a tremendous athlete, he just doesn’t rely on that. He works on his craft.”

Last summer, when the two of them were home, McClatcher and Curran occasionally got together for extra work, which meant usually running hills or running routes.

Because he is smaller, McClatcher has taught Curran a few things about footwork getting off the line of scrimmage. And because he is bigger, Curran has shown McClatcher a few tricks of the trade in beating press coverage.

“What Keenan has taught me is to be more physical with my hands,” McClatcher said. “He says, ‘You are strong enough to use the force from your hands to get you where you need to move.’ I use that now.

“This is just all such a blessing. We’ve worked so hard to get where we are at, to compete at a high level. And we are doing this as best friends.”

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