By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
A few weeks ago, many teams in the Central Valley Conference might have been willing to write off a game with Sprague High School as a loss but, with four teams holding a 1-1 record, the Celtics game with Sprague has become a very big deal.
“We’re depending on South to beat West, but this will a big game and, if we win, it gives us tons of momentum going into McKay. If South beats West, then it’s all up for grabs,” said Celt running back Brett Hildebrand. While the Saxons and Titans won’t meet for another week, McNary locks horns with Sprague at home Thursday, Oct. 12.
During the preseason, the Olys were expected to walk away with the CVC title, but opportunities expanded for other teams after took a loss to currently undefeated West Salem.
“We will try our best to take away their best runs, but ultimately, they have good football players, and good players make good plays. We focus on what we have control over, and I want to see us respond to big plays by making big plays of our own,” said Isaac Parker, McNary head coach.
While West got the better of the Olys, it was a close contest with a 29-26 final score and it was Sprague only loss of the season and it’s lowest offensive output.
In Sprague’s most recent contest, a 38-7 routing of South Salem High School, running back Devvon Gage piled up 224 yards on the rushing attack and set a career-high five touchdowns. He’s fronted by all-league selections Ricky Julian (6-0, 220) and Zachary Sweet (6-0, 215) alongside Austin Wilson (6-2, 215). Running back John Marshall also gave the team 115 yards on the ground against South Salem.
For their part, the Celts are less worried about the running game than they are Sprague passing attack.
“They’re a running team and I think we do a decent job of holding the run, but their passing game could give us trouble if they go to the air a lot,” Hildebrand said.
“We need to be ready to be able to stop their whole offense,” said Celt Connor Goff.
The Celts (1-1) put on a show in last week’s 26-19 win over the North Salem High School Vikings with the team showing the most cohesion its had all season. Hildebrand ran for 220 yards while quarterback Hayden Gosling completed 12 of 15 in the air.
Parker still plans on taking it one game at a time, but the team needs to win two of its next three games, which includes the Titans in the final game of the season, to avoid a playoff play-in game.
“I like our players and I like our team, we have size and speed and athleticism, too. I like our game plan and I like our personnel for the game plan, it comes down to executing,” he said.