Football season began with some doubters, and so far this season for Auburn High School, it’s been about silencing those doubters.
“I think a lot of people counted us out before the season. Respectfully we didn’t buy a lot of that. Yeah, we lost a lot of kids, but we have the same mantra: ‘We believe in our process’… We’re still talented. I think everybody kind of overlooked us,” said Auburn Head Coach Aaron Chantler.
The Trojans stormed into the inaugural football game at the new Federal Way Memorial Field on Oct. 19 and stole the show. Auburn remained undefeated in league play, beating Todd Beamer, 44-33.
“We got out of here with a win, got out relatively healthy. Now it’s time to go compete for a league title,” Chantler said.
“It felt good. I feel like we could have done better on defense, and could have moved the ball better. But yeah, happy with the win,” said senior Fale Titialii.
Beginning in the first quarter, the two sides kept it interesting. Auburn charged down the field on their first drive with a 12-play 3:46 minute drive. Quarterback DJ Bielza capped off the drive with both the touchdown from eight yards out and the two-point conversion for the 8-0 lead.
An interesting aspect to this game were injuries — all-around game breakers Luvens Valcin and Christian Titialii were sidelined with injuries for the Trojans. Coach Chantler turned to the quarterback to carry the offense.
“A lot of guys were playing meaningful minutes in week eight, which isn’t exactly how to draw it up. So it was good to see them kind of step up and make some plays at the end of the game,” said Chantler.
The second quarter would prove much better for the Trojans as they put up three touchdowns in the quarter alone. Logan O’Neal had two of them for Auburn, and he even had one bounce off his hands. Coach Chantler had the trust in his team to go right back to him, and they did so for the score.
Even the defense got involved for the Trojans. Senior Lukens Valcin intercepted a pass from Todd Beamer quarterback Dominic Simpson and returned it 40 yards to the nine yardline. On the first play by the Auburn offense, RJ Conlan sliced his way through the Titan defense for the score. Before the halftime break, Todd Beamer had an interception and return of their own. Going into the halftime break, Auburn led 30-13.
Coming out of halftime, Todd Beamer found its way in the end zone, seemingly having all the momentum after the pick-six. But a scoop-and-score put the momentum back in the hands of the Trojans’ Nathan Kelley who picked up a Simpson fumble and ran it into the end zone.
The final score of the game came on the first play of the fourth quarter for the Trojans. Lucas Whitehall-Gilkes broke away from the defense for a 44-yard score, showing some speed for the Trojans.
“We just needed more of that, which is hard to do,” Chantler said.
The Auburn defense allowed two scores for Todd Beamer in the final two minutes. But coming away with the win is all the team had to do. It’s a bag of mixed emotions for the Trojan head coach: “It’s tough you know. We jump out early like we’re capable, then we kind of just stopped. We shot ourselves in the foot, a lot of self-inflicted wounds,” said Chantler.
With Baylen Erdmann sidelined, Chantler is rolling with the DJ Bielza show for the near future.
“Both had different skill sets. Baylen was more of the pure passer and DJ was kind of the pure runner. Now DJ has to wear both hats…These quarterbacks spend every waking second of the program with me. I’m the quarterback coach, offensive coordinator and head coach. It’s not an easy job, it’s the hardest job… It’s tough, I chew and chew and chew because we expect a lot of them and tonight DJ answered the bell,” Chantler said
The new stadium impressed the Auburn head coach: “It’s great to see. It’s nice. Respectfully, it’s a lot better than what they had… It was a good atmosphere tonight. Thursday nights are tough, but they had a good crowd over there,” Chantler said.
The chance to win a second league title is something these Trojans are excited about.
“It feels good to be back in this spot because we had a lot of doubters. But coach had faith in us and he’s pushing us toward our goal. All we wanted to do is win a league title and go to playoffs and win,” said Titialii.
Auburn and Auburn Riverside go to battle on Oct. 27 with the league championship on the line.