Hugo Gonzales tackles a West Salem players during the teams’ match-up Tuesday, Oct. 5. (Keizertimes/ERIC A. HOWALD)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

It’s a rare night when a quarterback throws for 358 yards on 33 of 51 and still comes up short.

That’s the way it went for the McNary High School varsity football team in their 44-20 homecoming loss to West Salem High School.

“We came out knowing they were one of the best teams around, but our receivers were finding the right routes and it was a matter of hitting them quick and letting them take it from there,” said Celtic quarterback Kyle Ismay.

McNary held the Titans, the No. 3 team in the state, to a field goal on their opening drive. On their return route, Ismay connected with Garren Robinett who shovel passed to running back Tim McDowell, but McDowell never quite got control of the ball and fumbled ending in a West Salem recovery. The Titans scored on a single play to jump ahead 10-0.

McNary was nearly in the Titan red zone when a tipped passed from Ismay ended up in Titan hands. Ismay recovered and got the tackle. The quarter ended with the Titans on their 44-yard line.

West Salem completed the drive with a touchdown at 10:13 in the second quarter. McNary got another shot in the arm after a touchdown pass from Ismay to James Lowells that closed the gap to 17-6.

“Our hot routes were working real well,” Lowells said. “Kyle was throwing the ball real well, our defense struggled and we had some of our plays get busted up. That’s pretty much what killed us.”

The Celts forced a Titan turnover on downs and Ismay completed a pass to Justin Gardner on the return drive to cinch up the score to 17-12.

“We had the ball a lot and a lot of chances to score,” said Kyle Knight, a senior. “Our defense did pretty well in the first half, but then we came out in the second half and didn’t clean up the things we talked about cleaning up at half time.”

West Salem scored 27 unanswered points before McNary scored on a two-yard pass to McDowell with 5:38 left in the game to seal the deal at 44-20.

Overall, McNary Head Coach Rick Ward was impressed with the effort.

“I thought our kids played well and hard and we did some good things,” Ward said. “We took a big step forward and that shows some good growth.”

Robinett, Lowells and Gardner all ended up with more than 70 yards receiving on the night and Ward was equally impressed by the efforts of Alex Willeford and Jared Van Cleave leading the push at the line.

“When you put those kids in man coverage against that quarterback with the talent to put the ball right where he wants it, that’s a tall order,” Ward said. “Both of our lines were outsized by West Salem and we protected well for the most part.”

Given the overall quality of the opponent many on the team were pleased with the showing.

“We’re working hard and getting better every day,” said Zac Fegles, a sophomore. “We’re going to make a turnaround and a playoff push.”