Celts Brett Hildebrand and Connor Goff provide cover for quarterback Hayden Gosling during McNary’s game with Mountain View High School Friday, Sept. 21. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School varsity football team will face another defensive test when they meet the South Salem High School Saxons at home Friday Sept. 28, at 7 p.m.

“We need to tackle well, and ideally get two hats on the football during every play. If we pursue correctly and tackle with great fundamentals, we should be able to slow down the offense,” said Isaac Parker, McNary head coach.

It will be McNary’s first contest of Central Valley Conference play and Parker’s first against the running back-reliant offense he helped develop in his former role as South Salem’s offensive coach.

Saxon Jaylynn Bailey has been relentless on the ground in the team’s two wins and teammate Joshua Benton is nipping at his heels. South drove the ball home six times from more than 20 yards out in its 43-40 win over West Linn High School last week. They pounded out a 52-43 win over Clackamas High School the week prior to give them a 2-2 record thus far.

“We know who they are and we can stop them,” said Celt Garrett Hittner. “We’re putting in some new plays this week to surprise them.”

In addition to stopping the Saxon run, McNary (1-3) will seek to reinvigorate its own running game, which has taken a backseat to passing in its last two outings.

Last week against the returning 5A state champs, Mountain View High School, lack of offensive output put the Celtic defense through the wringer.

“We had a good defensive game and we could have had a few stronger stops, but the offense is going to score more points from now on,” said Celt Mason Ross.

While Parker is growing his Celtic run-first offense, he understands that it takes time having gone through the same pains with the Saxons.

“Our run game is still struggling, but change like this takes time and we are continuing to improve the run game every week,” Parker said.

Celt defensive lineman Bruce Isabel said the Celts will be bringing added motivation to start the CVC season off on the right foot.

“We’ll be running hard on every single play and trying to take that play away from them. We’re more motivated now than we’ve been,” he said.

The Celts have only had one lopsided loss–to Gresham, 39-18–the other two were decided by fewer than four points. Parker said those scores are telling.

“We’ve been in a couple games this year where we failed to execute plays that we needed to execute. We are literally two or three plays away from being 3-1 rather than 1-3 and we need to start making those plays to win us football games,” he said.