Joe Fagan and his teammates were especially motivated for this one.
The Auburn senior halfback, a blend of speed and power packed into a 5-foot-9 and 165-pound frame, ran through and around Kent-Meridian to fuel a 62-28 season-opening runaway win at Auburn Memorial Stadium on Friday night.
The Trojans scored early and often, racing to a 41-14 halftime lead in routing the Royals and retaining the Taylor Trophy. Auburn, which has won 17 of the last 19 meetings, leads the series 49-47-13 in the state’s second-oldest high school football rivalry. Only Aberdeen-Hoquiam, which began in 1906, has run longer.
Fagan ran for 171 yards and three touchdowns, caught a fourth and set up another with a 55-yard kickoff return in a three-hour matchup of North Puget Sound League programs.
The Trojans played this one in memory of Bob Jones, the school’s longtime athletic director and coach who died of cancer on March 19.
“In the locker room before we got started, coaches talked about Bob Jones and how important the Taylor Trophy game is. It really inspired me to give it my all for him because he means a lot in the Auburn community,” said Fagan, who missed 2½ games to injury to fall shy of reaching 1,000 yards last year. Breaking that barrier is a personal goal this season.
The undermanned Royals had trouble containing Fagan and the Trojans’ spread jet offense, which attacks defenses from every angle.
Fagan punctuated a fast start with a 75-yard, zigzag scoring run early in the second quarter to stretch Auburn’s lead to 35-7. His 24-yard bolt to the 1 set up the Trojans’ sixth touchdown, a Cole Washburn run.
“He’s got everything. He’s got good balance, good vision and he runs hard,” Auburn coach Gordon Elliott said of Fagan. “He’s a big play ready to happen every time he touches the ball.”
Auburn’s other playmakers joined the scoring party.
Quarterback Calvin Luilamaga threw for one TD, passed to set up one score and ran 58 yards to set up another in the first quarter. Speedster Zeke Turner scored the game’s first TD on a 2-yard run and broke loose for a 44-yard TD run in the second quarter. The younger Fagan, Josiah, had a 21-yard TD run and Julius Cain threw a late TD to complete the rout.
Defensively, Anthony King had a sack and fumble recovery for Auburn. Washburn picked off a pass and recovered a fumble.
For K-M, junior quarterback Isaac Cordova shone, throwing for 287 yards and three TDs. James Wilson plowed in for a short TD run. Cameron McDowell, Nate Jones and Jaylen Clark each had scoring receptions.
The Royals were undone by mistakes, coughing up five turnovers and joining the Trojans in committing too many penalties.
“We’ve just got to learn to come together as a team, and once that happens, we’ll start clicking,” Cordova said.
K-M is starting anew with first-year coach Jeff Scott and a small roster composed mostly of juniors and sophomores.
“We need to get the rust off,” Scott said. “The most important thing is our kids didn’t quit. They’ll hang their heads and lick their wounds … but they never gave up.”
Auburn has plenty to work on itself. Too many penalties and mental mistakes shrouded the win.
“Typical first game. We made a lot of mistakes, and, for all of that, I thought we played pretty well,” Elliott said. “We were resilient enough that when we shot ourselves in the foot (we didn’t) pout. … We came back and played well. It’s a good group with good senior leadership.”
At Kentlake 21, Auburn Mountainview 20: Brandon Mortenson threw a 68-yard touchdown pass to Jeremiah Woods to rally the Falcons past the Lions in an NPSL opener for both schools.
Sui Daniels passed for one TD – 18 yards to Talan Alfrey – and ran for another for Auburn Mountainview. Carlos Huizar kicked field goals from 37 and 42 yards out.
Auburn Riverside 41 at North Thurston 0: Quarterback Tiano Malietufa threw for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth as the Ravens pounded the Rams in a season-opening nonleague game in Lacey.
Sam Braboy scored on a 4-yard run and Tyrus Malietufa scored on a fumble recovery.
Isaiah Prescott (9 yards), Jaden Robinson (29 yards) and Cade Stober (35 yards) had the scoring receptions.