High School Sports

With Justus Legg, Auburn Riverside football could have leg up in state-title chase

Are teams preparing to target Justus Legg?

“Yeah,” said the Auburn Riverside defensive end, who so far has scholarship offers from Hawaii, Michigan, Oregon, Oregon State and Utah. “But I like that.

“I want people to be like, ‘Oh, that’s that kid.’ It makes me work harder and play harder. So I’m coming.”

But he and the rest of this team have a target set, too.

Auburn Riverside went from back-to-back one-win seasons to the district playoffs last year. They return most of their starters from a year ago, when their season ended in a barnburner against Monroe.

And they have bigger expectations for this year.

“We’re definitely trying to chase something,” Legg said. “The main goal is a state championship this year. We told ourselves we can do something special this year and we’re trying to show everyone we can do this.”

And there’s a lot more to like about Auburn Riverside.

It returns quarterback Tiano Malietufa, who is built like a running back. He threw for 764 yards in the regular season and also led the team with 730 rushing yards.

He and running back Sam Braboy are Auburn Riverside’s thunder and lighting, said fifth-year coach Bryant Thomas, the former wide receiver and defensive back at Washington State University.

They also return top receivers Isaiah Prescott and Jaden Robinson, who ran a 10.74-second 100-meter to finish sixth at the state track and field championships in May. They double as defensive backs alongside Javon Forward, who was a second-team all-4A North Puget Sound League Olympic selection as a freshman last year.

They graduated first-team offensive lineman Terrell Moffitt, but his younger brother, Aaron, has been working with the first-team offense at left tackle – and he’s 6-foot-8, 350 pounds.

“The thing that stands out most is the talent we have,” Thomas said. “We got some really good kids who are getting recruited by several colleges. And they are going to have an opportunity to showcase those skills that they’ve worked on all summer.

“If we can come together as a team, we’ll be good.”

And if Legg’s leg is healthy.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound soon-to-be junior has been looked at by big colleges despite playing three games and one quarter his sophomore season.

But those were some three games – Legg led the team in tackles and sacks. On offense he’s played tight end, fullback and offensive line.

But he sprained his left ankle in a 52-27 win against Thomas Jefferson, and the following Monday at practice he broke his right ankle because he was favoring it, he said.

But he wasn’t 100 percent entering the district playoffs against Monroe, but he wasn’t going to miss that game – not after what Auburn Riverside had endured with back-to-back 1-9 seasons.

The Ravens led 14-0 and then 21-14 before Monroe took over to end Auburn Riverside’s season at 6-4.

“It wasn’t a smart decision, but I just wanted to get back and be with my team,” Legg said. “Every game I was out was painful. It hurt me inside. So I didn’t want to be out anymore. If I could go back, I would do the same thing, though.”

He said he didn’t feel fully healthy until about midway through his basketball season.

And then he hit college camps – heading to UW’s “Dirt Dawgs” camp, then to Oregon and USC, where he met and was offered a scholarship by Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.

“I knew (Legg) was special,” Prescott said. “He’s strong, he’s fast and he’s long. It didn’t surprise me at all.”

And Legg’s been talking with more schools.

“He’s a tireless worker,” Thomas said. “And he’s motivated. That inner motivation has gotten him to where he’s at right now. He’s a young, big, strong kid. I’m expecting a big season out of him.

“But the greatest thing I’ve seen so far is he’s humble. All this hasn’t gone to his head. Everybody on the team loves him, everybody on the team hangs out with him. … I’m licking my chops to see what he does.”

As what Auburn Riverside can accomplish as a team.

Asked to describe the Ravens’ team identity will look like this year, Malietufa had one word.

“Amazing,” he said. “Just amazing.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677, @tjcotterill