AUBURN – It looked like a simple game of keep-away.
Keep the ball out of the hands of the Tahoma High School football team’s offense.
Auburn did a lot more than just that.
Sophomore Ercle Terrell exploded for a career-best 149 yards rushing and a touchdown on 15 carries as the Trojans rolled up 373 yards on the ground and dismantled Tahoma 34-14 in Friday’s SPSL 4A North game at Auburn Memorial Stadium.
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The Bears (2-2 overall, 1-2 league) were the preseason choice of many coaches to win the North, and were averaging 39.7 points per game. But Auburn (3-1, 3-1), rich in tradition, showed the Bears who is boss, piling up 403 yards of total offense to Tahoma’s 200.
“The way you beat teams like that is to keep it away from them, and that was our goal,” Auburn coach Gordon Elliott said. “They’re a great offensive team. They’ve got a lot of weapons, and that’s a really potent offense.
“Most people are picking them to win the league this year. That’s a darn good team over there.”
Tahoma didn’t avoid the shutout until Jerome Woods ran for a pair of 5-yard touchdowns in the final 5:28 after the Trojans went up 34-0.
“We don’t focus on that much on other teams,” said Elliott, who returned just five varsity players from last year’s Class 4A state semifinalist team. “Our players have not been satisfied with how they’d been playing. Our expectations are pretty high at Auburn. The focus was on us this week. We wanted to get us to the level we are capable of playing and we did.”
The shifty 5-foot-7, 175-pound Terrell, who suffered a high-ankle sprain in third quarter of the season-opening loss to Kentwood, provided the Trojans with that extra spark with seven runs longer than eight yards, and a long of 38 yards.
“We had a test against Kentwood, and we didn’t do it,” he said. “And, now we did it. I think we belong here.”
Said Terrell of his mentality: “When I run, I can’t stop. I just keep moving.”
William Jefferies crashed in for a 1-yard touchdown run with 5:56 left in the first quarter as the Trojans took the game’s first possession and went ahead 7-0. The drive, which consumed 6:04, 11 plays and 79 yards, was kept alive and aided by a fourth-down unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that wiped out an Auburn punt.
Auburn went in front 14-0 on quarterback Brier Atkinson’s 3-yard keeper for a TD with 6:42 showing in the second quarter. That capped a 10-play, 68-yard march set up by an interception from Jefferies.
The Trojans quickly went ahead 21-0 with 5:27 to go before halftime after a bad snap went over the head of Tahoma punter Denham Patricelli and gave Auburn the ball at the Bears’ 2-yard line. Patrick O’Dell crashed in for a 2-yard TD run on the following play.
The lead grew to 27-0 on Atkinson’s second TD keeper of the night, this time a 1-yarder over right tackle with 11:23 left in the game.
On its next possession, Terrell then busted loose over right tackle for the Trojans and jetted 38 yards into the end zone for a 34-0 lead with 6:51 left.
For Tahoma, it was mistake after mistake.
“They are so fundamentally sound and you can’t afford to make mistakes against them,” Tahoma coach Tony Davis said after his team had three turnovers, 12 penalties for 93 yards and failed twice on fourth down. “What we talked about this week was, ‘You can’t give good teams extra snaps.’
“We’re in a little bit of funk with that, and we need to find a way out of it. It’s throwing and catching. We had dropped balls.”
Tahoma, which came in pouring on the points, sputtered in the first half with Nelson throwing a pair of interceptions in addition to being stopped twice on fourth-down attempts and the costly botched punt snap.
Auburn entered Friday’s game having won two games in a row after an opening 29-19 loss to Kentwood on Sept. 6.
“We’re young, but this time we kept the pedal to the metal,” Elliott said. “We have to be able to run the ball. That’s who Auburn is.”