Like a determined wrecking ball, Auburn Riverside moved slowly, generated momentum and eventually knocked down the wall.
Friday night, the obstacle was Auburn Mountainview.
The Ravens stumbled out of the blocks throughout a mistake-filled first half but eventually subdued the big-play Lions for a 49-10 North Puget Sound League Olympic Division win at Auburn Memorial Stadium.
Auburn Riverside, which took its first lead of the game with a late first-half touchdown, outscored Auburn Mountainview 35-0 in the second half to improve to 2-0 in the division, 4-0 overall. The Ravens host Todd Beamer of Federal Way (2-0, 4-0) in a division showdown next Friday.
Auburn Mountainview, undone by four turnovers, dropped to 0-2 and 0-4.
The Ravens rolled up 564 yards of total offense, of which 462 yards came on the ground with their punishing option attack.
Quarterback Tiano Malietufa, a stocky senior southpaw, ran for 181 yards and a touchdown and passed for two more – both to Jaden Robinson – and running back Sam Braboy broke loose for 169 yards and two TDs.
“Between the two of them, it’s tough. It makes for a long night,” said Ravens fifth-year coach Bryant Thomas.
“They came ready to play. It was a dogfight,” Thomas said of the Lions’ start. “But we got our tempo and wore them down. Eventually, we got them where we wanted them.”
Defensively, Robinson returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown and Isaiah Prescott returned a fumble 15 yards for another. The Ravens surrendered their first points of the season following three shutouts.
Malietufa, who also plays linebacker, made 17 tackles, six of which were solo.
For the Raven seniors, it was their first win against the Lions. Auburn Riverside, which toiled through back-to-back 1-9 seasons before emerging with a 6-4 district playoff finish a year ago, is poised to make a run at the division title and a state berth.
“That’s what really fuels the fire for all of us. We’re not going back to how it used to be,” Malietufa said. “Every game we’re reminded of Monroe (last season’s playoff loss) and the (previous) two seasons. So we’re not going back to that.”
The Ravens are also pursuing a city championship. The Fugate Trophy, awarded to the season series winner among the three Auburn programs, has belonged to the Lions the past three seasons. The Ravens last owned it in 2013.
“This is something we’ve been chasing for a long time,” said Ravens defensive end Justus Legg, a blue-chip recruit. “We’ve worked too hard to not get to where we want to go. We want to go all the way. That’s something we want to make happen.”
Auburn Mountainview jumped out to a 7-0 lead when Sui Daniels hit Bill Benjamin on an 80-yard scoring play late in the first quarter. A Drew Davenport interception put the Lions on the Ravens’ 25-yard line, but they couldn’t cash in, settling for but missing a short-range field goal.
The Ravens then went on a 12-play, 80-yard, game-tying drive, capped by Malietufa’s 8-yard TD strike to Robinson on a slant pattern with 3:45 left in the first half.
The Lions responded when Damarea Dunnigan’s 67-yard kickoff return set up Carlos Huizar’s 37-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead.
Undaunted, Auburn Riverside drove quickly in the final two minutes, with Malietufa’s passing and a personal-foul penalty against the Lions paving the way for Braboy’s 6-yard TD run that gave the Ravens a 14-10 halftime lead.
“We woke ourselves up at halftime. … We understood what we needed to get done,” Legg said. “We play every down at 100 percent and fight for every blade of grass. That’s what we try to do.”
Malietufa’s second TD pass of the night, a 12-yarder to Robinson, completed the Ravens’ opening second-half drive that stretched the lead to 21-10.
Prescott and Robinson then scored off turnovers to put the game out of reach. Braboy dashed 63 yards and Malietufa vaulted 47 yards for touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens, for the most part, contained Daniels and the Lions’ spread offense. Talan Alfrey, the Lions’ BYU-bound wideout and free safety, was shadowed throughout the night. Daniels did find Alfrey on a 43-yard completion, but two other deep balls to him were picked off.
In defeat, coach Jared Gervais offered no excuses.
“We’re struggling to finish right now. We have to play really, really well, and right now we’re making mistakes at critical moments,” Gervais said. “It just started rolling the wrong way for us. Obviously, they are a good football team. There’s a reason they’re undefeated and haven’t given up any points until tonight.
“Right now we’re trying to get the ship righted,” he said. “You just can’t have those mistakes. We’re going to try to eliminate that and get better.”
In victory, Thomas saw the good and the bad. The Ravens made their share of mistakes and committed 129 yards in penalties.
“We can be pretty good,” he said, “but we’ve just got to get better.”