Auburn High School football just won their first district title since 2009 after beating rival Auburn Riverside, 37-34, in a game Oct. 28.
The Auburn Trojans’ high-powered, fast-paced offense gave the Auburn Riverside Ravens’ defense trouble throughout, but it was the Trojan defense that came through at the end.
Auburn leaped out of the gate early with some huge plays made by Trojan sophomore Luvens Valcin. He was extremely dominant on the ground, totalling 144 yards. He also scored the first two touchdowns of the game — a two-yard run and a 29-yard run put the Trojans up early, 14-0.
The Ravens responded on their second drive of the night. After a punt on their first possession, Riverside took the ball 73 yards down the field. A 27-yard throw and catch from sophomore Andrew World to 6’ 3” senior Jace Villers cut the Trojan lead in half, 14-7, with 4:04 left in the first quarter.
The first quarter continued to be the Luvens Valcin show — he scored his third touchdown of the night on another run, this time from the Raven 37-yard line. Valcin cashed in for six. After not converting the two-point attempt, Auburn High School was up 20-7.
The Ravens found themselves threatening the Trojans’ lead once more. A 43-yard reception to Cater Rhooms put Riverside at Auburn’s 30 yard line, completely flipping the field. On the very next play, World found Villers again for a touchdown, reeling the Trojans back to a one-score affair, 20-14.
With 2:38 before halftime, Villers tallied two receptions totalling 53 yards, putting the Ravens on the 12 yard line with 48 seconds on the clock. A 12-yard rush from junior Thyrou Umi-Tuato’o tied the game, and the Ravens missed the extra point, keeping the score 20-20.
The first points of the scond half were scored by Riverside. On a drive that started near midfield, Riverside relied on their run game. All 53 yards were picked up via the ground, and a Umi-Tuato’o 12-yard sprint capped off the drive, putting the Ravens in a prime spot to upset the Trojans, 27-20.
Senior quarterback and Tacoma Community College baseball commit Amari Goodfellow took charge for Auburn on their following drive. Goodfellow broke a QB keeper loose for 47 yards, putting the Trojans inside the Ravens’ 10 yard line. He then kept it for the next eight yards for the score, but the extra point was no good. Auburn still trailed by one, 26-27.
Entering the fourth quarter, Auburn drove the ball down the field and was inside the Riverside 20 yard line. Goodfellow was lurked by sophomore Kyree Wright for an interception, the first turnover of the game. Wright returned it for 34 yards before getting tackled.
Riverside, seemingly having all the momentum, took the ball and punched it into the endzone on a one-yard touchdown catch from World to Rhooms once more, extending the lead to 34-26. On the ensuing kickoff, Riverside forced a fumble and recovered it deep inside Trojan territory. And with less than eight minutes to go, it seemed as if Auburn Riverside could put the game away.
After a negative run play that lost five yards and two incompletions, Riverside was left with a 4th-and-15 at the Trojans’ 30 yard line. They elected to attempt a 40-yard field goal — the David Perez attempt would be blocked by the Trojans and picked up by senior Rhyan Fesili, who ran 67 yards for a touchdown. Valcin ran the two-point conversion in and tied the game, 34-34.
In a well orchestrated drive, the Trojans took 4:02 off the clock and set up for a field goal by Latvian foreign exchange student Karlis Cakuls. Cakuls drilled the 30-yard field goal, putting the Trojans ahead 37-34, which capped the scoring for the evening with 1:06 left to go.
Auburn Head Coach Aaron Chantler was unsure at the beginning of the season what he had at kicker, but now he knows: “For him to come out there with ice in his veins, ‘want me to nail a 30-yarder?’… He’s definitely a weapon for us.”
But the very first play from scrimmage, Riverside’s World was picked off by his QB counterpart Amari Goodfellow, essentially clinching the game for the Trojans.
In a decision not familiar to many, Auburn decided to try and get one first down to keep possession and ice the game away. On their first play, Valcin fumbled the ball and Riverside recovered, breathing life into a team that thought the game was over.
For the Ravens, a last second heave from World was intercepted and brought down by Easton Rutledge and ended the game.
After the seven-minute mark in the fourth quarter, Riverside had a total of negative seven yards and two interceptions. Chantler needed the defense to step up.
“They started playing with energy and flying around and we just fed off of that,” Chantler said. “We had to get stops and that is what they did in the second half. They got stops and played their butts off and I am really proud of their resolve.”
Auburn had won its first league title since 2009, and will host a home playoff game on Nov. 5 against Southridge High School.