Editor’s note: Next Friday, a closer look at Auburn and Auburn Mountainview as the new prep football season kicks off.
A familiar voice and undeniable talent should keep Auburn Riverside very much in contention in the realigned North Puget Sound League football race this fall.
Change has come, but expectations remain high for the Ravens.
Marcus Yzaguirre, the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach for the past five seasons, got the call in May to succeed his good friend and longtime colleague, Bryant Thomas, as head coach.
Thomas resigned in April to take the job at Kamiak.
As far as the players are concerned, it’s business as usual for a program used to winning. Auburn Riverside was stout a season ago, capturing a share of the NPSL Olympic Division co-championship with an 8-2 record before falling to Camas in the district playoffs.
The challenge now is producing an encore with “Coach Izzy” at the helm. Players say it has been a smooth transition this summer.
“There’s not much of a difference. He had a big role last year, too. He’s a great coach,” said senior Justus Legg, the Ravens’ 6-foot-4, 245-pound, blue-chip defensive lineman. “We’ll follow his lead.
“We lost some seniors but we had some young guys who started last year, guys who played. They know how to pick up that role,” Legg said. “It’s going to be fun this year. We have a lot of young guys and a lot of young talent.”
At Auburn Riverside, Yzaguirre has been a part of two league championship teams and was named the 2013 South Puget Sound League Assistant Coach of the Year. Prior to coaching at Auburn Riverside, Yzaguirre spent six years coaching at Federal Way, where he was named the 2012 Tacoma News Tribune All-Area Offensive Coordinator of the Year.
Yzaguirre, his peers said, is well prepared for the job.
“BT (Bryant Thomas) and I have coached together for 13 years,” Yzaguirre said. “We do things differently from an organizational standpoint, but, for the most part, it’s similar. … The guys know me. We try to make it less of a change as possible for these guys.”
Said junior Javon Forward: “We’ve known Coach Izzy for a long time. He’s just taking over a new role. It’s basically the same atmosphere … a family atmosphere.”
The Ravens start anew without the likes of quarterback-linebacker Tiano Malietufa and playmakers Jaden Robinson, Isaiah Prescott and Sam Braboy – all of whom earned scholarships to play in college.
But Auburn Riverside reloads with talent in the right spots, beginning with Legg, a highly-recruited force, who has received offers from many major colleges, with Utah sitting at the top of his short list, for now.
“Legg is a beast. We’re just glad to have him back,” Forward said. “Great player, great guy, great leader.”
Forward, a three-year varsity starter with 11 career interceptions, returns bigger and better. The 6-1, 220-pounder will play a significant role this fall – at tailback and safety. He was an all-league cornerback last season.
Yzaguirre describes Forward, a three-sport athlete, as “the best-kept secret” in the state. Forward has received interest from several Pac-12 schools.
The Ravens also return Eyvar Robles, a 6-3, 275-pound senior, the NPSL Olympic Division Offensive Lineman of the Year last season.
Jayden Solis, a 6-3, 225-pound junior, is ready to shine at linebacker and running back.
Senior D’andre Stevens, the backup quarterback last year, played well at cornerback in 2017 and will lead the offense.
The Ravens will compete in the Mountain Division of the realigned, three-tired NPSL, joining heavyweights Kentwood, Enumclaw, Kennedy Catholic, Tahoma and Todd Beamer.
“I’m anxious to see. I don’t necessarily know too much about it or how it’s going to check out,” Yzaguirre said of the league’s revamped divisions. “If everybody can get the opportunity to make the playoffs, then I’ll be a fan of it.”
As for the Ravens?
“We’ll be right in the mix of things,” Yzaguirre said.