By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The McNary High School varsity football team endured more final minute scares as it claimed its first win of the season Friday, Sept. 7, a 13-6 victory over the Hillsboro High School Spartans.
“It’s a big confidence booster,. The first one is always the toughest especially with the inexperience we have,” said Celt senior Zac Fegles.
Running back Brett Hildebrand said the team’s first-week loss to North Medford High School helped the team see past the chips they’d been carrying around on their shoulders.
“It made us realize that we were kind of arrogant going into that game and not as good as we expected us to be,” he said. “This time around we executed a lot better and the turnover rate was better.”
Despite the success, Head Coach Isaac Parker said there were too many moments when the two games felt similar.
“At the end, we made two or three of the plays that we needed to make,” he said.
McNary’s first drive of the night was highlighted by first down connections between quarterback Hayden Gosling and receiver D.J. Wilson, but the drive ended in a punt. Daniel Brattain buried the Spartans at their own five-yard line when the ball took a Celtic roll out of bounds.
In their first outing of the game, the McNary defense allowed a stingy five yards before forcing a Spartan punt that gave the Celts prime field position on the Hillsboro 41-yard line.
McNary struggled through a snap fumble and an incomplete pass before Gosling found Devon Dunagan on a short route for the first down.
Hildebrand fought off three tacklers to take the ball to the Hillsboro one-yard line and set up Gosling to put the first points on the board with a quarterback sneak at 3:07 in the first quarter. The extra point by Cody Ratliff made it a 7-0 game.
The Spartans again struggled to make gains putting the Celts back in the driver’s seat after punting the ball away. The Celts got a first down when Gosling found Wilson in the air, then the quarter ended and the Celtics fizzled ending the drive on a sack by the Spartans.
Junior Perry Groves returned the favor on the opening play of Hillsboro’s drive taking down Spartan quarterback Matt Jones for a seven-yard loss.
Neither team could string together plays for much of the quarter, but Fegles, Grant Gerstner, Frank Rios and Brattain all came up with key tackles for the Celts. Fegles also broke up a pass that would have given Hillsboro a large gain.
On the opening drive of the second half, McNary got into penalty trouble on three separate occasions and helped the Spartan cause, but Mason Ross and Garrett Hittner sacked Jones on a blown snap that recouped much of what the team had lost on penalties. Brattain got an interception on Hillsboro’s last attempt of the drive and took the ball out to McNary’s 18-yard line.
A holding penalty set the Celts back to their own eight-yard line, but Hildebrand pushed it back out to the 15-yard line on the rush. On the next play Gosling was stripped of the ball and it bounced back to the McNary two-yard line where a Hillsboro player tried scooping it up with enough momentum to push it into the end zone. Spartan Quentin Engel finally fell onto it in the end zone notching the Spartans’ only points of the game. A missed extra point left McNary in the lead 7-6.
The Celts ended up punting away their next drive, but the ball slipped through the hands of the Spartan receiver and Celt Connor Goff was there to claim it giving McNary another shot from the Hillsboro 37-yard line.
Gosling skated to the sideline and notched a Celtic first down. A pass to Goff moved the team to the 20-yard line. McNary tried running the ball twice but came up short by inches on the fourth down.
The Spartans got their biggest offensive play of the night, a pass that resulted in a 25-yard gain, on their next drive, but big stops by Hittner and Brattain helped force a punt.
McNary gave up its next drive on downs, but Rios captured a Spartan fumble to put McNary back in control. The Celtics were hit with holding and delay-of-game penalties that left a field goal as the only option, but the kick flew wide of the uprights.
With 6:44 left in the game, Hillsboro’s offense took the field. The Spartans made three positive plays and encroached into the Celtic side of the field when Jones loosed a pass that was tipped by Groves, who landed on his feet and reeled the ball in for an interception.
Hildebrand shrugged off multiple tacklers on the next play to give McNary a 16-yard gain and repeated the stunt from the 24-yard line three plays later to pound through a second Celtic touchdown with 1:52 left in the game.
Brattain came up with two tackles on Hillsboro’s final drive of the night and Grant Taylor broke up a pass attempt to foil the Spartans efforts and end the game at 13-6.
Hildebrand rushed for 139 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries. Gosling went 10 for 15 in the pocket and 79 yards passings. Wilson led receivers with 38 yards on four catches.
Parker credited Groves with an outstanding game on defense and Wilson with stepping up the challenge of playing receiver for an injured Cody Bond.
“D.J. Wilson made some really tough catches and been really solid especially for a kid who was banged up during camp and then was thrust into game on week one after Cody was hurt,” Parker said.