Celt Hugo Gonzalez looks for a shot during the Celtics’ play-in game with Aloha High School. McNary won 3-0. (Keizertimes/ERIC A. HOWALD)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

McNary’s starters on the boys varsity soccer team played for just 40 minutes in their final game of the Central Valley Conference with West Salem, but they made the statement they’ve been striving for all season.

“There was one team on the field and that was us,” said Celtic Jake Paulson. “We were winning every ball, they had the ball maybe 10 percent of the time. They were yelling at their coach saying their strategy wasn’t working.”

After getting pulled from the field in the second half, McNary’s subs continued to hold the Titans off until the 65th minute, but the game fell apart after that ending in a 3-0 loss for McNary.

The game proved to be a launching pad for the Celtics as they entered a state playoff play-in game with Aloha on Tuesday, Nov. 2, and came out with a 3-0 win.

The first goal came from the foot of Celtic forward Nevin McLain who broke away from defenders into an open field and snuck the ball into the net under the arms of Aloha’s goalkeeper. McLain assisted on the second goal of the match by popping the ball up to Hugo Gonzalez who buried it in the back of the net with a header. Gonzalez paid it forward on an assist to Erick Cid to put the game away.

“We were ready,” said Miguel Camarena, Celtic head coach. “It was a great opportunity for us to make the state playoffs, the team knows that their level of play is increasing every day. We played at home and got to have an “Ole Ole Ole” celebration.”

The path to glory isn’t going to get any easier for the Celtics, They will travel to meet Lincoln High School, the No. 1 team in the 6A Special District Saturday, Nov. 6.

Moving forward the team will need to keep up its intensity, said McLain.

“We can’t let goals by our opponents get us down. It’s a game that can change any minute and a single goal can mean the whole game,” McLain said. “We have a really good team and we’re capable of taking a state title.”

Prior to the West Salem game, the boys faced off with the McKay Royal Scots and fought the team to a 2-2 draw on a slip-n-slide field.

McNary’s Mychael Thomas was the first to put a ball in the back of the net and it was followed up with another quick goal by Celt Hugo Gonzalez.

“The second goal put our spirits up, but then we shut down in the backfield. We got just got a little too cocky,” Thomas said. “We could have won if we’d kept our heads in it.”

Camarena cited Hugo Gonzalez, Luis Garibay, Paulson, Reece Braatz, Oscar Ramirez and Eric Sanchez with outstanding play throughout the week prior to the play-in game.