It was a switch from last year when the Ravens were protesting during the anthem. In another switch from last season, No. 10 Riverside beat the Titans 49-14.
Typically pregame talk on the field between opposing coaches isn’t memorable. Injury updates, weather, chatter while players warm up. Friday was different for Auburn Riverside coach Bryant Thomas and Todd Beamer coach Darren McKay.
For 15 minutes on the Auburn Memorial Field, they discussed social injustices and how their football players were navigating a period when discussions about racism and inequality are unavoidable.
McKay wanted to let Bryant know some of his players were going to kneel during the singing of the national anthem in protest of the state of minorities in America.
It was a twist for Thomas, who called McKay last season because his players were already following activist Colin Kaepernick’s lead when he began kneeling during the anthem as an NFL player for the 2016 season.
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The Titans joined the wave of kneeling the past week after President Donald Trump called for NFL players to be fired for protesting.
“Last year, Colin Kaepernick was an enemy,” McKay said. “Right now, what we’re talking about is a movement. Our kids are participating in a movement and we’re not going to tell a kid based on what their experiences are whether they can take a knee or stand. We told them, though, the way we’re going to be unified is if someone chooses to take a knee or someone stands, you respect that. … It’s a shame we even have to address that.”
This season, Riverside opted to not kneel because the gesture divided the team and families last year. Instead, they maintained a focus on football.
They had little problem with Todd Beamer, beating it 49-14.
Afterward, Riverside players and coaches talked about how they appreciated the respectful way Beamer protested.
“It was pretty cool,” Thomas said. “I feel like that’s why our troops go overseas and fight the wars they do, so that we can have those freedoms that we can enjoy.”
But more talk was on the win. Riverside, which is 10th in The Seattle Times’ Class 4A rankings, is 5-0 (3-0 in NPSL play) to start the season. It also handed Beamer (4-1, 2-1) its first loss in two years in North Puget Sound League play.
“They beat us in every phase,” said McKay, whose team defeated Riverside 34-7 last year. “They were more physical than us. They tackled better than us. They ran by us. This was definitely their game.”
Beamer scored first on a 23-yard pass from junior quarterback Brandon Niksich to sophomore receiver Alex Rogers with 17 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Riverside responded with three touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 21-7 lead into halftime. Senior Sam Braboy scored first, breaking through the Titans’ line for a 20-yard run with 10:49 left in the half.
Senior quarter Tiano Malietufa closed the quarter with a 60-yard pass to senior receiver Jaden Robinson with 3:35 on the clock. Malietufa opened the fourth quarter with a 72-yard TD pass to senior receiver Cade Stober to give the Ravens a 42-7 lead. He finished the game with 204 yards passing and three touchdowns.
“This was fun,” said Braboy, who had 127 yards on 17 carries. “I’ve never been 5-0 or even 3-0, so this means a lot.”