By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
On Friday, Aug. 31, Isaac Parker will find out if all he’s been hearing about is true.
“I keep hearing that they’re gamers,” said Parker, McNary High School head football coach. “They might underimpress you at practice, but they have a good knack and feel for game situations. Some kids that might blend in during the week can really shine during the game.”
The Celtics square off with the North Medford High School Black Tornadoes in Medford for their first contest of the season.
Parker admits his offense looked a bit squishy during a offense/defense scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 25, but he’s got a lot of faith in new quarterback Hayden Gosling (6-1 170), a junior.
“He wasn’t at his peak in the scrimmage we had last week, but he was upfront and said he had the cobwebs and the jitters out and he was ready to go,” Parker said.
Gosling didn’t play last year but was part of an undefeated Celtic freshman team.
Fans should expect a revamped offensive scheme when the Celts hit the field. Parker is attempting a shift to a run-first offense that will look and feel much different than the passing game that has long been a Celtic standard.
“A successful play in the past was a 20-yard pass and a successful play in the new offense might be a five-yard run,” Parker said.
Last season’s go-to running back Cody Bond has been moved to wide receiver and Brett Hildebrand will likely be the team’s workhorse in the new scheme.
While the offense is still fine-tuning it’s plays, Parker said he’d be willing to put his defense out on the field against just about any team in the state.
“Defense wins championships. We’ve got great players at each level and not a lot of places where there’s holes,” Parker said.
Junior Garrett Hittner, one of the fastest sprinters in the Central Valley Conference, will likely be a force to be reckoned with on defense this season.
“My hope for this first game is that we just go out on that field and execute the play we have well and that will give us something to build on,” said Kelly Cowan, Celtic senior lineman.
Across the field, the Celtics will face a refreshed Black Tornado roster and a new-to-the-program head coach, Mike Mitchell. The Tornadoes were winless in 2011 and had to grapple with their former head coach resigning under accusations of resume-padding.
The Tornadoes are starting a sophomore at quarterback, Troy Fowler (5-10, 158), who was part of an undefeated team as a freshman. Medford lost nine offensive players and seven defensive players in the offseason and returns two on offense and four on defense.
Medford runs a multiple offense that will run two and spread five meaning the Celtic defense will have its work cut out for it. Playmakers for the Black Tornadoes are likely to be Fou Polataivao and Tyler Baird on the offensive and defensive lines and running back Evan Hisey on offense.
As for Parker, his plan is taking each day and each game in stride regardless of the outcome on Friday.
“Right now we’re focusing on one opponent at a time,” Parker said.”Our goal for the next four games will be building our playbook to be ready for CVC games.”