Ravens thump Titans, reach district playoffs

Ground game, smothering defense fuel Auburn Riverside romp; Bothell up next

Moments after a convincing, glowing road win, Auburn Riverside football coach Marcus Yzaguirre’s thoughts turned to a bigger challenge.

Heralded Bothell and the district playoffs.

“We’re playing good football,” Coach “Izzy” said following the Ravens’ 59-9 demolition of Todd Beamer in a North Puget Sound League divisional crossover game at Federal Way Memorial Stadium last Friday night. “Bothell is a great team. Their quarterback is great. Their running back is great. They play physical.

“We’re going to go up there (to Bothell) and give them our best shot,” he said, “and try to represent as best as we can.”

Few NPSL teams have gone far in November. The league simply hasn’t measured up to teams from other regions when it comes to district survival. In fact, NPSL teams have gone a combined 1-24 in district, winner-to-state games over the past three seasons, including an 0-for-8 disappearance a year ago.

The Ravens (8-1) hope to keep on winning that this Friday when they meet the Class 4A’s fifth-ranked Cougars (7-2), the Kingco champions, at Bothell’s Pop Keeney Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Bothell advanced to the state quarterfinals, losing to eventual champion Union of Camas.

“Our kids are playing well. They knew this game had playoff ramifications if we were able to get in,” said Yzaguirre, whose team finished second in the NPSL Valley Division. “Last year we just missed (the playoffs) … and our kids were very upset about that.

“I’ve got to give the kids all of the credit,” he added. “They’ve worked hard … to get eight wins. But we’re not done. We’ve got a tough team (this) week. I’m excited about how they’re playing.”

Senior running back Javon Forward ran for 154 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 1,195 yards and 17 rushing TDs on the season. Sophomore wide-out Thaddeus Umi-Tuato’o scored twice on sweeps. Andrew Butler scored on offense and defense.

All told, Auburn Riverside ran for 313 of its 390 yards in total offense.

The loss, meanwhile, ended the season for injury-riddled Todd Beamer (4-5), which suited up 26 players.

“They did a nice job,” said Titans coach Darren McKay. “They beat us man-on-man. It wasn’t double-teams or things like that. On both sides of the football they were more physical than us.

“Give them credit. They just flat-out beat us.”

Auburn Riverside immediately went to work, going 68 yards on nine plays to score on a four-minute, game-opening drive that ended with Umi-Tuato’o’s 19-yard sweep.

The Titans went three-and-out, and the Ravens ground out another nine-play scoring drive, capped by Butler’s 2-yard sweep at 2:32 of the first quarter.

Todd Beamer responded with its best drive of the game, marching 77 yards to AR’s 7. But the Ravens held, forcing the Titans to settle for Blake Stafford’s 28-yard field goal with 9:46 left in the first half.

“It really shifted the whole game over,” Ravens linebacker Jayden Solis said of stopping the Titans. “They were moving the ball on us, but they didn’t get into the end zone. … I felt like that (stop) really took it out of their hearts.”

The Ravens went up 21-3 on Forward’s 2-yard TD, but the Titans answered when Xavier Watson broke free off tackle for a 62-yard TD run that closed the gap to 21-9 with 5:40 to play in the second quarter.

AR wasn’t done, however. It went 73 yards in 10 plays on its ensuing possession, a drive extended by quarterback Payton Accetturo’s well-placed pass that cleared the rush and found Jace Villers in the flat for an 8-yard gain on fourth-and-4 at the Titan 27. Three plays later, Umi-Tuato’o scored on a 4-yard run for a 28-9 lead at the break.

Things quickly became lopsided in the second half. The Ravens smothered the Titans, allowing just two first downs in the second half, seven total for the game.

Forward scored from the 3 out of the wishbone formation, Accetturo hit Lucas James on a 3-yard slant and Arthur Tauiliili’s plowed in from the 1 – a score set up by Andrew Butler’s interception – to pad AR’s cushion to 49-9 in the third quarter

In the fourth quarter, Cade Foster’s fumble recovery set up David Perez’s 35-yard field goal, and Butler returned a fumble 17 yards for the Ravens’ eighth and final touchdown of the night.

Beyond giving up a long-distance TD run, the Ravens contained the Titans. Offensively, they ran the ball with good execution and shone on special teams.

Are the Ravens peaking at the right hour?

“There’s always room for improvement,” Forward said cautiously. “We let them score on us on a long touchdown. We shouldn’t have let that happen to us. … Federal Way outplayed us (Ravens’ lone loss five weeks ago on the same field) so we had to come back stronger. We had that (34-7 loss) in the back of our minds every single day. We worked harder and played better.”