With the Auburn Riverside High defenders on their heels during crunch time, someone needed to step up.
Senior linebacker Artem Deyneka grabbed hold of the moment.
Deyneka returned a fumble 80 yards for a touchdown after Thomas Jefferson muffed field-goal attempt in the final four minutes and the Ravens turned away a late charge to remain unbeaten with a 31-21 win over the Raiders on Thursday night in an SPSL North matchup at Federal Way Memorial Stadium.
“We had to stop them,” Deyneka said. “We worked too hard to lose this game.”
Down 24-21 with 8 minutes, 34 seconds remaining, Thomas Jefferson (2-3 overall, 2-2 SPSL North) marched to the Auburn Riverside 19 before its drive stalled.
The Raiders lined up to try a 37-yard field goal that would have tied the game, but the snap was high. Holder Cordae McAfee tried to run but was hit after five yards and the ball popped out.
“I picked it up and I’m like, ‘I’m scoring,’ ” Deyneka said with a grin. “I just ran for my life.”
Despite starting freshman quarterback Mason DeLaCruz, who was replacing his injured brother, Niko, the Raiders were hanging tough against the undefeated Ravens.
Joshua Madden’s 2-yard touchdown run and DeLaCruz’s ensuing conversion pass to Phillip Cuadros cut the Auburn Riverside lead to 24-21 with 10:05 to play.
The Raiders held on defense to give their offense one last shot, but the Ravens also held tough. After finishing 1-9 last season, Auburn Riverside (5-0) has turned things around.
“You know, 5-0 is a little bit greater than my expectations, but like I told them when I took the job, I wouldn’t have taken the job if I didn’t think we could win,” first-year Auburn Riverside coach Bryant Thomas said. “These kids have stepped up and my staff has done a heck of a job getting these kids ready to play.”
On a night when quarterback Kevin Thomson was limited to 77 passing yards to an injury-depleted receiving corps, the running game lifted the Ravens. Six ballcarriers combined to rush for 236 yards.
Cole Huckaby led the way with 94 yards on 15 carries.
Huckaby, Gavin Hettinger and Joey Galeno scored rushing touchdowns for Auburn Riverside.
“We put the ball in the hands of our running backs and said, ‘Hey, go win us the football game,’ ” Thomas said.
Last season, Shadle Park quarterback Brett Rypien threw for an astounding 577 passing yards to set the 11-man single-game record for high-school football in Washington.
The junior topped that Thursday night in the Highlanders’ 63-42 victory over Mount Spokane.
The nephew of Super Bowl XXVI MVP and former Washington State Cougars star Mark Rypien finished with 613 passing yards – 581 by the end of the third quarter.
Auburn 60, at Kentlake 38: The coaching father-in-law (Gordon Elliott) made it two consecutive victories over the coaching son-in-law (Chris Paulson) as the Trojans won an SPSL North shootout at French Field.
Kieo Buchanan halted a rally by the Falcons by returning a kickoff 85 yards midway through the third quarter to give Auburn a 41-26 lead.
At Graham-Kapowsin 59, Rogers 26: The fourth-ranked Eagles kept their comfortable lead atop the SPSL South by routing the Rams at Art Crate Field.