By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The McNary High School varsity football team snapped a three-game losing slide and got its first Central Valley Conference win over North Salem High School, 26-19.
The Celts and Vikings tied the game twice before McNary took a lead it never relinquished in a game where the team appeared to finally strike a balance between running and passing that produced regular points.
Head coach Isaac Parker credited McNary’s offensive line with turning a corner in the game.
“Our O-line stepped up this week. They have been on a long journey in understanding our offense and they took some big steps forward in practice last week,” he said. “The run game makes the throws easier and we experienced some of that this week. We also competed better. Our kids on the sidelines, on the field, and during plays were noticeably different than the previous week. Something in them clicked last week and they learned how to play the game of football the right way.”
After a scoreless first quarter, McNary finally pushed deep into Viking territory on a Brett Hildebrand 23-yard run putting the Celts on the North 27-yard line. McNary quarterback Hayden Gosling connected with Garrett Hittner giving the team another first down. Hildebrand carried the ball to the Viking three-yard line and Cody Bond handed off the ball to Hittner who swung right and crossed into the end zone for the first points of the night and a 6-0 Celtic lead.
“Part of the problem has been not doing well on our first drive, if we don’t do well then, we seem to lose it for the rest of the game. Even though we didn’t have the first great drive we had a better second one and that helped,” said Celt Brett Hildebrand, running back. “We knew we could push them around a little bit.”
Stops by Mason Ross, Frank Rios and Adam Snegirev nearly put the brakes on North’s return drive, but Santano Sauseda found an opening on the sideline and reeled in a long pass that resulted in the Vikings tying the game 6-6. McNary blocked the extra point attempt.
Spencer Baker returned the following kickoff to McNary’s 40-yard line and another big run by Hildebrand put the Celts at first-and-goal. After losing ten yards on a holding penalty, Gosling connected with Devon Dunagan who leapt to catch the ball and amazingly managed to keep a foot in-bounds.
“I thought our line blocked really well and Goose [Hayden Gosling] got good reads,” said Celt Connor Goff.
McNary took a 12-6 lead after a bad snap killed the point-after attempt.
North tied the game 12-12 minutes later with less than a minute left in the half, and it was Celt Grant Taylor who broke up an attempt at a two-point conversion and kept the game knotted.
On McNary’s return, Gosling tried for another long pass to Dunagan, but one of the Vikings dove just a step behind the receiver and snagged the interception. The two teams headed to the locker room at a stalemate.
North chewed nearly seven minutes off the clock on its first drive of the second half capping it with a Sauseda dive over several Celtic defenders for his second touchdown of the night. With the successful point-after attempt, the Vikings took a 19-12 lead.
The Celtics drove the ball to North’s two-yard line with help from two big runs from Hildebrand and a long completion from Gosling to Bond. Hildebrand drove the ball home and Gosling kicked a successful point-after to tie the game at 19-19 seconds into the fourth quarter.
McNary forced the first punt of the night on the Vikings next drive and took possession at their own 37-yard line. Hildebrand broke through the Viking defense three times on the drive for big gains and scored the game’s final touchdown on a four-yard run at 7:22 in the fourth quarter. The Vikings got as close as McNary’s 11-yard line on their final drive, but pass coverage by Bond and a sack by Mason Ross denied them the opportunity.
McNary ended up crushed in their red zone for the final drive, but a long catch by D.J. Wilson gave the team the breathing room it needed to run out the clock.
Hildebrand had his most successful game yet on the ground taking the ball 220 yards on 31 carries. Bond led receivers with 60 yards on three catches. Gosling completed 12 of 15 for 147 yards with one interception.
Parker was pleased with Gosling’s maturation in the role of shotcaller and the defensive stand of Andrew Lawrence
“Andrew played another good game on defense and has been pretty consistent this year,” he said.
While penalties set the Celtics back more often than he would have hoped at the midpoint of the season, Parker hoped to see the team’s defense and special teams put some points on the board in a game against Sprague High School Thursday, Oct. 11, past press time.
“I’m hoping we finally get one of those scores this week,” he said.