Thaddeus Umi-Tuato’o was just as surprised as anyone when the football quickly bounced his way.
Kentridge, looking to cut into a three-touchdown deficit, opened the second half with a onside kick that Umi-Tuato’o instinctively reacted with his quick hands and feet. Auburn Riverside’s 5-foot-7, 150-pound sophomore – one of the smallest players on the team – played big by scooping up the ball and returning it 54 yards for a breakaway touchdown.
The play ignited a 28-point third quarter, enabling the Ravens to knock out the Chargers 55-14 in a bruising North Puget Sound League Valley Division game at Auburn Memorial Stadium on Friday night.
Given the opportunity, Umi-Tuato’o responded.
“I didn’t see that coming,” he said of the onside kick. “Matter of fact, I was going to go (run) deep, but once I saw it I decided to just take it and go.”
Kentridge was able to pull within 28-7 early in the third quarter before the Ravens pulled away behind a punishing ground game.
The Ravens picked up a vital Valley win, improving to 1-1 in the division race, a game back of Federal Way, and 5-1 overall. The Chargers dropped to 2-1 and 3-3.
Arthur Tauiliili ran for three touchdowns, Javon Forward rushed for 137 yards and two TDs and wideouts Umi-Tuato’o and Andrew Butler each swept in for six as Auburn Riverside’s spread attack covered 342 of its 358 yards of offense on the ground.
Umi-Tuato’o, who also played safety, wound up with a team-leading seven tackles.
The Ravens came ready to pick up their first NPSL win in the two seasons of the league’s three-tiered division alignment.
“Our kids had a hunger in them,” said Ravens coach Marcus Yzaguirre. “We haven’t had a league win in two years. … I just told them to go out and get it.”
A Forward interception immediately set up the Ravens’ first score – Tauiliili’s 14-yard blast up the middle at 8:49.
Kentridge came up short on fourth down plays in its next two possessions, and Auburn Riverside cashed in. Out of a rare wishbone look in the backfield, Forward plowed in from the 5 for a score, and Umi-Tuato’o took an inside-handoff jet sweep 12 yards for a TD and a 21-0 lead with 3:15 left in the half.
The Chargers – buoyed by quarterback Chance Guadiz’ 46-yard completion to Michael Faber – drove to the Ravens’ 6. But on fourth-and-goal, Cade Foster sacked Guadiz for a 10-yard loss with 4:33 left in the half.
Kentridge was undone by untimely penalties, third- and fourth-down conversion woes and four turnovers. What might have been a tighter game by halftime eventually got out of reach.
“They really did take it to us. They made some plays that caused us to make mistakes,” said Kentridge coach Brett Ogata. “It could have been a different game, but we didn’t play up to where I’m used to seeing our guys play. At the same time … they made us that way.
“We have to take this game and learn from this because they came out and smacked us in the mouth a little bit,” Ogata said. “We didn’t know how to respond to that. … We have to learn how to respond to this.”
The Ravens held the Chargers to 240 yards in offense, 67 of which came from the run. Auburn Riverside made the Chargers’ Payton Thomas, a ground-churning tailback, a priority.
“He was for sure a tough guy to (bring) down,” Foster said of Thomas. “Our game plan was to gang tackle. … You can’t let them run through arm tackles.”
Yzaguirre added: “Our kids were just locked in. We knew coming in (Thomas) was going to be good. He’s going to make a couple of big plays. We had to contain him.”
Early in the third quarter, with his team down 28-0, Thomas found the end zone from 1 yard out. But the Ravens went on a spree, adding Forward’s 33-yard TD run and Tauiliili’s scoring runs from 1 and 9 yards out.
In the fourth quarter, Butler, a sophomore, raced 51 yards for a touchdown.
Kentridge’s second TD came on George Strunk’s 20-yard pass to Paul Lam with 2:16 left to play.
Auburn Riverside plays winless Kentlake in division play at 7 p.m. Thursday at French Field. Kentridge (1-5) is at Auburn next Friday in an interdivisional game. Kickoff is 7 p.m.