Celt Garrett Hittner steals a McKay touchdown pass as McNary defeated McKay. (Photo by Jim Sweigart)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

When the season started, Celt receiver Garren Robinett felt something was missing in the McNary High School varsity football ranks. Last week, as McNary marched to a 48-19 victory over the McKay Royal Scots, he realized what the absent ingredient was:

“We weren’t having fun at all, but these past two games have felt fun,” Robinett said.

Despite a 13-13 tie at halftime, McNary dominated late in the game and cruised to its second win in the Central Valley Conference.

“We had a slow start and McKay comes off the ball really well, but we adjusted somethings at halftime and got it moving in our direction,” said Rick Ward, McNary head coach.

Sideways rain didn’t help the cause of either team, but McKay struck first on a six-minute drive that spanned the first and second quarters. The Scots finally punched through the Celtic defenses at 10:52 in the second quarter despite valiant stops by senior Todd Hatley and sophomore Perry Groves.

A big return by Celt Justin Gardner put McNary at McKay’s 48-yard-line. Quarterback Justin Burgess and Cody Bond traded runs that moved the ball to the 29-yard-line. Burgess found a route on the keeper that put him in the end zone for a 7-7 tie after the PAT by Gonzolo Cervantes.

Tackles by Mason Ross, Tyler Brown, Austin Hejny and Corey White forced a McKay punt. D.J. Harryman stepped in at quarterback for the Celts and either handed the ball off to Bond or passed it to him and to move to McKay’s 33-yard-line. Bond drove it home from the 33-yard line for a 13-7 lead.

McKay’s Alex Emerson broke loose for a 55-yard touchdown run on the Scots’ next drive and tied the score at 13-13 after a blocked punt.

McNary’s Bruce Waldner picked up McKay’s kickoff and ran it back to the Scots’ 34-yard-line before being taken down. Two plays later, a lateral pass from Harryman to Bond slipped through Bond’s hands and was recovered by the Royal Scots.

The Celt defense stifled McKay’s attempts to run the ball forcing a punt, but a dropped punt allowed McKay to recover the ball. With 17 seconds left in the half and the Scots on McNary’s 11-yard-line, Celt Garrett Hittner intercepted what would have been a touchdown pass in the end zone.

“I wasn’t going to let him get the ball. I just happened to grab it and hang on,” Hittner said.

It stopped the drive, but with on 10 seconds left in the half, McNary was unable to capitalize on the return.

Halftime gave the team a chance to step back and regroup, Burgess said.

“In the first half, we came out slower than we wanted to. In the second half, we figured out that they were basically doing the same thing over and over again and put a stop to it,” he said.

In the second half, McNary needed just 50 seconds and three plays to prove they were in it to win it. Robinett carried the ball back to McKay’s 40-yard-line on the kick off. Burgess moved it to the 37-yard-line on a keeper and Bond made a 37-yard touchdown run to retake the lead 19-13.

Ross, Harryman, Burgess, Bruce Isabel and Groves all made tackles in the Scots’ next drive forcing a turnover on downs at the McNary 38-yard-line. Burgess put up a long bomb that was reeled in by Robinett and put the Celts at the McKay’s 26-yard-line. Three keeper plays put Burgess in the end zone. Harryman connected with Gardner on the two-point conversion for the 27-13 lead.

Celt Jesse Wilson doused the McKay kickoff return at their 21-yard-line. Big tackles by Groves forecasted another punt, but Harryman intercepted a pass on McKay’s third and 15 attempt and ran it to the Scots’ five-yard-line for a Celt first down.

Bond crossed the end zone line for a 34-13 lead with 2:27 left in the third quarter.

The Celtic defense forced another turnover on downs and Burgess connected with Robinett on a 16-yard touchdown pass giving the Celts a 41-13 lead.

McKay made its last strike of the night with 5:44 remaining in the game to close the gap 41-19, but McNary responded on its next drive with a touchdown pass from Burgess to Hittner and the final 48-19 margin.

On offense, Burgess led the team in rushing with 105 yards on 12 carries, Bond was close behind at 95 yards on nine carries. Robinett led receivers with 83 yards on five catches. On defense, Groves led with 10 tackles and three assists. He’s currently McNary’s leading tackler with 48 for the season.

“Perry just keeps getting better and better, the second half of this season he’s really become a force for us out on the field,” Ward said.

He also credited Burgess with reading the plays correctly finding ways to rack up more than 100 yards on the rush for the night.

The win put allowed the Celts to finish in fourth place in the league and set up a playoff play-in game with Grants Pass High School Friday, Nov. 4, at McNary.

Robinett said the McKay win was a testament to how had the team had worked despite a challenging season.

“The running game was there [against McKay] and we hadn’t had that all year. Our receivers blocked well on the outside. I felt like everything was working well,” he said.