Auburn Riverside often grinds it out on the football field but occasionally stings opponents with a little flair.
Pushed to the finish by crosstown rival Auburn on Friday night, the Ravens used muscle and speed to produce enough big plays to stay unbeaten on the young season.
D’Andre Stevens, a two-year understudy who earned the starting quarterback job as a senior, emerged with two long touchdown passes and junior running back Javon Forward ran for 175 yards and three TDs to lead the Ravens to a wild 34-32 North Puget Sound League victory at Auburn Memorial Field.
Auburn Riverside (2-0) waded through a pile of its own penalties, overcame three turnovers and spotty tackling to hold off Auburn (0-2) and retain the Fugate Trophy as city series champion. The Ravens defeated Auburn Mountainview in their Aug. 31 season opener, 21-17.
“They weren’t pretty but somehow we came out with the win,” said Ravens coach Marcus Yzaguirre. “Our kids believed. Hat’s off to them. They fought and they fought and they fought.
“We still have to clean some things up, but it’s always hard (playing) two rival games right out of the gate.”
All told, the teams combined for 18 penalties for 195 yards in the three-plus-hour affair. The Ravens were whistled 12 times for 125 yards of infractions.
For Auburn and its first-year head coach Aaron Chantler, it was another close, difficult loss. The Trojans gave up a late, go-ahead touchdown in a 19-17 loss to Tahoma on opening night a week ago.
The Trojans moved the ball throughout the game, matching big plays with the Ravens, but they had trouble finishing drives. Instead of touchdowns, they had to settle for field goals – converting two Aadam Nasheed kicks but had one blocked and another flutter short – to add to their frustration.
“We had our opportunities,” Chantler said. “We tell the kids every week, ‘You play hard, at the end of the game you’re going to be there. That’s all we are asking of you to do. … But the ball doesn’t always bounce your way.’ ”
The tough loss spoiled Calvin Liulamaga’s stellar, all-around performance. Auburn’s senior quarterback ran for two touchdowns, including a 63-yarder, threw for one score and returned a punt 64 yards for another.
“I tried to do whatever I could for my team,” Liulamaga said. “I wouldn’t want to play for any other group of guys.”
Auburn Riverside took its first lead of the game, 14-10, on Forward’s 28-yard TD run, set up by Stevens’ 42-yard completion to Quamie Walkes, with 10:32 left in the second quarter.
Auburn then drove to the Auburn Riverside 8, where it was stopped on a fourth-and-4 run.
Five plays later, Stevens connected with Walkes on a 75-yard TD and a 21-10 lead.
The Trojans marched to the Ravens’ 23 on their next possession, but Nasheed’s 40-yard field goal attempt came up short.
Auburn, however, closed the gap to 21-16 on Liulamaga’s 23-yard TD pass over the middle to Connor Howat with 20 seconds left in the half.
Forward’s 21-yard, zigzag TD run restored the Ravens’ lead to 27-16 early in the third quarter.
After Nasheed’s 22-yard field goal closed the gap to 27-19, the Ravens coughed up the ball at their own 42. Auburn cashed in five plays later on Liulamaga’s 1-yard scoring smash with 11 seconds left in the third quarter. But Eyvar Robles and Lucas James dumped Liulamaga for a loss on the potential, game-tying 2-point conversion try.
Forward’s third TD run of the night, an off-tackle blast that he bounced to the outside from 19 yards away, gave the Ravens a 34-25 lead with 9:49 left to play.
Auburn moved the ball to Auburn Riverside’s 17 on its next drive, but Nasheed’s 35-yard field goal attempt was blocked with 5:47 left to play.
A Ravens’ fumble at the 4:21 mark gave the Trojans a late shot at the end zone, but they came up a foot short on a fourth-and-2 play from the Auburn Riverside 5 with 2:02 to play.
After a chop-block penalty negated Forward’s 95-yard TD dash, the Ravens were forced to punt, and Liulamaga returned it 64 yards for a TD with 25 seconds left.
The Trojans’ ensuing, onside kick travelled only 4 yards, and the Ravens were able to run out the clock.
In victory, the Ravens discovered more about themselves. They opened up the playbook, with Stevens scrambling and hitting deep passes to Walkes and Jarrece Garner, and James adding another running dimension on sweeps.
Stevens completed 6 of 10 passes for 214 yards.
“I have some great receivers. They can get down the field for me. They can do incredible things,” Stevens said. “It’s only my second game (as a starting quarterback). … I get kinda nervous coming out here, but I know I’ve got my team. They got my back.”
Yzaguirre added: “He’s a versatile quarterback … he was behind Tiano (Malietufa) for three years, so he really never got his shot. … It’s his show. He’s learning every day … he’s leading the team.”
The Ravens travel to play Thomas Jefferson at Federal Way Stadium on Thursday.
In defeat, Auburn will try to pick up the pieces. The Trojans host Kent-Meridian next Friday in the Taylor Trophy game,
“I know the kids are bummed out and wished they were 2-0,” Chantler said. “But I’m proud of the way our kids fought. We have some things to work on. For us, our key word is going to be consistency. We’ve got to be consistent, especially on offense. The guys are still learning the system … and learning how to consistently do their jobs on defense and special teams. We’re going to be just fine.”