Auburn Riverside quarterback D’Andre Stevens looks for an opening against Auburn Mountainview during the first half of their NPSL game Friday night. RACHEL CIAMPI, Auburn Reporter

Auburn Riverside quarterback D’Andre Stevens looks for an opening against Auburn Mountainview during the first half of their NPSL game Friday night. RACHEL CIAMPI, Auburn Reporter

Ravens escape Lions in hard-fought opener, 21-17

Ground game, late interception fuel and seal Auburn Riverside’s victory

For openers, not everything went right for Auburn Riverside.

Too many penalties, missed tackles, blown assignments, a blocked field goal and the inability to pick up a game-clinching first down deep in its own territory.

Somehow, the Ravens managed to survive all that.

Thanks to a last-minute interception, Auburn Riverside held off rival Auburn Mountainview for a 21-17 season-opening North Puget Sound League football win at Auburn Memorial Stadium on Friday night.

“You know what? I’ve got some guys, first-year varsity players who stepped up,” said a relieved and elated Marcus Yzaguirre, who made his head coaching debut with the Ravens after spending the past five seasons as the program’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. “Our kids didn’t give up to the very end, and that’s the most impressive thing.”

This one didn’t come easy. The Lions had a lot to do with that

Dared to pound out 2 yards to convert a fourth down from their own 24-yard line in order to keep the ball and run out the clock, the Ravens came up a yard short with 1:57 left in the game. What’s more, an unsportsmanlike penalty against the Ravens placed the ball on the 13.

But two plays later, senior strong safety Henry Igwala picked off a Drew Davenport pass at the 8, returning it to the 23, where the Ravens were able to drain the clock.

“I was a little bit surprised (they went for it) but, at the same time, they’ve been running the ball really well,” said Lions coach Jared Gervais. “We made a great stop, and, unfortunately, we gave the ball back to them.

“I’m proud of the way the guys played,” he added. “We just have to get better.”

The Ravens, undone by 13 penalties for 123 yards, did just enough between the tackles to get the win.

“We had t0 fight it out,” said Eyvar Robles, the Ravens’ 6-foot-3, 280-pound senior lineman. “Overall, we didn’t stop fighting. We kept on going, kept on pushing until the end.”

Javon Forward and Jayden Solis – Auburn Riverside’s powerful one-two junior running back punch – combined for 227 yards on the ground. Forward ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.

Forward, who also played a key role in the secondary, was willing to do most of the heavy lifting.

“I’ve never carried the ball that much, but it’s fun to have the ball in my hands the whole time,” Forward said. “I just want to do my job. I did it for the team. … It feels great right now.”

With the game tied 7-7, Auburn Mountainview went ahead on a 12-play, 64-yard drive kept alive by upback Carson Klemetsen’s 16-yard run on a fake punt at midfield. Davenport later scored when he broke out of a scrum and busted tackles on a 26-yard run with 8:36 left in the third quarter.

Auburn Riverside responded with an 11-play, 67-yard scoring drive, a grind-it-out march that ended with Forward’s 12-yard run off tackle at 1:56 of the third quarter.

The Lions misplayed the ensuing kickoff return, retrieved the ball and began the drive from their own 10. Two plays later, the Ravens’ D’Andre Stephens intercepted a Davenport throw and returned it to the 18, setting up Forward’s second TD run and a 21-14 lead.

Auburn Mountainview closed the gap to 21-17 on Carlos Huizar’s 25-yard field goal with 8:23 left in the game.

The teams exchanged punts, and the Ravens, pinned down at their own 1, moved to the 24, but the Lions stuffed the run on fourth down, setting up the dramatic ending.

“Every time we play them, they fight us to the end,” Yzaguirre said. “They always play hard, and they’re well coached.”

Davenport, a junior quarterback, connected with a streaking Bill Benjamin on a 46-yard strike for the game’s first touchdown late in the first quarter.

Stephens, a senior quarterback, found a wide-open Justus Legg, a tight end, on an 18-yard pop pass that evened the score with 17.9 seconds left in the half.

The Ravens’ big stars shone when called upon.

“We just rode their backs … our two big horses (Forward and Solis), and Justus Legg gave us something on both sides of the ball,” Yzaguirre said. “Tonight we asked him to play some offense, and he stepped it up and led those guys to the promised land.”

In defeat, Gervais liked what he saw from a young team. Davenport and his receivers moved the ball throughout the game and the defense stood tall at times.

Davenport unofficially completed 18 of 28 passes for 144 yards. Benjamin had nine catches for 106 yards.

“Tough loss to a good team,” Gervais said. “We got better tonight … many of our players were making first varsity starts.

“They’re good,” Gervais said of the Lions’ cross-town rivals. “There’s a reason people are talking about them winning that top division (Mountain). They have good football players, and they played well tonight.

“Playing against a team like that is not easy. I mean, Javon’s one of the best safeties in the state, if not the best. When you have that guy working the middle of the field, it gets a little scary.”

Auburn Mountainview travels to Enumclaw next Friday. Auburn Riverside faces Auburn in a bid to retain the Fugate Trophy as city series season champion. Both games kick off at 7.

The Lions’ Bill Benjamin takes a pass from Drew Davenport and streaks 46 yards for a touchdown, with the Ravens’ Quamie Walkes in pursuit during the first half of their NPSL game Friday night. RACHEL CIAMPI, Auburn Reporter

The Lions’ Bill Benjamin takes a pass from Drew Davenport and streaks 46 yards for a touchdown, with the Ravens’ Quamie Walkes in pursuit during the first half of their NPSL game Friday night. RACHEL CIAMPI, Auburn Reporter

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