The Kentwood High football team entered last Thursday’s showdown against Auburn Riverside with a monkey on its back and a chip on its shoulders.
Being humbled in consecutive weeks by SPSL North heavyweights Auburn and Tahoma can do that to a team.
The Conquerors exorcised those demons on a wet and rainy Auburn Memorial Stadium turf. Running back Darrius Coleman rushed 11 times for 151 yards and a touchdown, quarterback Luke Anegevine added two perfectly-thrown scores and the Kentwood defense delivered a downright dominating performance. Collectively, it allowed the Conquerors to unload on Auburn Riverside, 52-0, in an SPSL North game between playoff hopefuls.
The tradition-rich Conquerors entered the night without a league win, and proceeded to take out much of their early-season frustrations on the Ravens.
“Starting 0-3 in league, that’s never happened in our program before,” said Angevine, who completed 2 of 4 passes for 87 yards and the two touchdowns. “We were reminded of that before the game. We didn’t want to be the first Kentwood program to go 0-3 in league.
“That was motivation for us, for sure.”
It was Kentwood’s most lopsided victory since ripping Kent-Meridian, 62-0, in 2004. With the win, Kentwood (1-1, 2-2) still remains very much in the hunt for one of the SPSL North’s four playoff berths. On the flipside, however, was Auburn Riverside (1-2, 2-2), which spun its wheels all night, but seldom got anywhere.
The Ravens mustered just 91 yards of total offense, fumbled the ball five times, of which they lost three, and never got any closer to scoring than Kentwood’s 28-yard line.
“I think, early on, we had some penalties, key mistakes and some turnovers,” lamented Auburn Riverside coach Bob Morgan. “And I think it just snowballed from there. We need to be able to overcome that and we weren’t able to do that tonight.”
Kentwood wasted little time getting the barrage of snowballs in motion, needing just two offensive plays in the first quarter to get on the scoreboard. Running back Steven Warner opened the mini-drive with a 33-yard burst down the left sideline, pushing the ball down to the Auburn Riverside 43. One play later, Coleman took his first handoff of the game 43 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown, giving Kentwood an immediate 7-0 lead.
Things went from bad to worse in a hurry for the Ravens on their next possession. With Auburn Riverside facing a third-and-13 at its own 21-yard line, Conks linebacker Taylor White burst through the Ravens’ offensive line and was in hot pursuit of quarterback John Hakala. Trying to make something happen, Hakala spun and backpedaled down to the 1-yard line before White delivered a ball-jarring hit. Kentwood’s Robert Sims quickly pounced on the loose ball in the end zone, giving the Conquerors a 14-0 lead with 4:03 remaining in the first quarter.
“Before the play, I was like, ‘Defense has got to score tonight,’” said Sims, a 5-foot-11 270-pound defensive lineman. “That’s what we do. We came out and played tough ‘D’ and the opportunity presented itself.”
The Conquerors added two more scores in the second quarter (a 16-yard run from Devin St. Clair followed by a 60-yard touchdown pass from Angevine to St. Clair) and the onslaught was on.
Angevine added a 27-yard touchdown pass in the second half, running back Joseph Banks chipped in four carries for 63 yards, including two more scores while kicker Matt Bell connected on a 24-yard field goal.
“We need to learn how to overcome a disappointing play and they didn’t do that tonight,” Morgan said.
Little went right for the Ravens on this particular night. Running back Jake Pele, who eclipsed the 100-yard mark twice in AR’s first three games, was held to 31 yards on eight carries. Backfield teammate Corey Carson managed a bit more, going for 71 yards on 20 carries while the Hakala-to-Dalton Thomas fade that helped the Ravens win a pair of games already this season, never materialized.
By game’s end, Kentwood had accumulated 433 yards of total offense (346 on the ground, 87 through the air), sacked Hakala three times and backup quarterback Kell Garrison twice. In addition, of Auburn Riverside’s 48 plays on offense, 23 went for 2 or fewer yards.
“This was definitely in-your-face Kentwood football,” Sims said. “Kentwood football is physical. It’s mentally tough. It’s the never-quitting type of football. It’s the kind of football that we haven’t had the past two weeks.”
And the kind of football that had the Conquerors playing with a chip on its shoulders all night.
Defensive-minded Conquerors cruise past Ravens, 52-0