McNary defensive linemen wrap up a Celtic runningback during a preseason scrimmage game. (Keizertimes/ERIC A. HOWALD)

Of the Keizertimes

McNary High School’s varsity football team couldn’t make much happen on offense last week, but the Celts’ head coach will be putting his faith in his “speedy and skilled” players – again.

McNary hosts Newberg High School Friday, Sept. 10. Game time is 7 p.m.

“They’re a big, physical team, which doesn’t sound good for us right now, but our speed and athleticism is going to give them some problems,” said Rick Ward, McNary head coach. “They have some big guys but we’re not certain they can cover ours.”

The Tigers run an “old school I-back veer” that might be a test for the Celtic defense, “but our defense is up to that test,” Ward said.

Newberg (1-0) won its opening game against Reynolds High School in the final seconds. Tiger linebacker Matt Dunkle forced and recovered a fumble after a blitz as the team trailed 27-26. After the turnover, Newberg quarterback Darnell Adams hit Nate Hyatt for 24-yard touchdown pass. Adams laid out 99 passing yards and two touchdowns in the game.

Mistakes plagued McNary’s opening game vs. Crater High School that ended in a 36-14 loss, but the team can work harder, said Alex Willeford, a McNary senior linebacker.

“I think we have a lot of potential. We’re not there yet, but we can get there,” he said.

Laziness on offense was an issue for Celt runningback Tim McDowell.

“We need to show good face when we’re trying to sell play fakes,” McDowell said. “Running backs need to be running hard lines and the line has to fight for it like the ball is right behind them. That’s the kind of effort that can turn the game for us.”

The Celts also need control the Newberg’s field position more than they did Crater’s, said James Lowells, a McNary wide receiver.

“We need to focus on getting into the red zone more, that gave us a lot of trouble [in the Crater game],” Lowells said.

Ward will be relying on the defense to stop the larger players on Newberg’s team, but he’s confident they will be up to the challenge.

“The one great thing I noticed watching the film from last week’s game was that we had guys flying to the ball on defense and that’s what you gotta have,” Ward said. “It will probably come down to who gets the breaks, but each team makes those happen.”

The key, Ward said, is getting the Celts to play their game, not Newberg’s.

“We like to call plays on the field and go where they’re not. If we can do that we should be able to cause [Newberg] some real grief,” he said.