By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
A varsity football game that started out troubling for both teams ended with a McNary 35-15 win over McKay High School.
The game was a marked improvement over the Celts’ past two outings when penalties often got in the way of offensive output. McNary kept unforced errors to a minimum against McKay and forced a handful on the part of the Royal Scots.
“I’ve always lived by the mantra, ‘if you accept it, expect it.’ I’ve accepted the lack of focus in the past weeks of practice, and we had to expect to have those penalties show up. This week, we decided to not accept it anymore,” Parker said.
“We did a better job of executing and purposing better than we have been and getting less penalties,” added Celt Perry Groves.
A wet ball and wetter field got the best of the teams in their opening drives. While offense struggled, tackles by Tim Hays, Groves, Zac Fegles, Kelly Cowan, Cody Bond and Frank Rios helped keep the Royal Scots off the board in the early going.
McNary stopped McKay at the Celtic five-yard line to end their first drive of the second quarter and then things finally started clicking for the Celtics. Two hand-offs to Brett Hildebrand got the Celtics further away from danger, but it was a long pass from Hayden Gosling to Garrett Hittner that moved the chains to McKay’s 30-yard line. Gosling found Hittner open around the 14-yard line two plays later and Hittner carried the ball for a touchdown, and 7-0 lead with a successful point after, at 3:22 in the second quarter.
“The rain and the wind were a factor, but once we had our first scoring drive it boosted our spirits,” said Celt Grant Gerstner.
Both teams went three-and-out on their next drives and tackles by Andrew Lawrence, Gerstner and Bond helped slow McKay’s roll enough to wind down the clock leading into halftime.
“We didn’t play as well as we should have in the first half, but we definitely started executing in the second half. We played well against the run plays we knew they were going to try and shut them down,” said Cowan, a McNary senior.
Fegles and Mason Ross came up with key stops in the Scots’ first drive of the second half forcing a turnover on downs, but a dropped hand-off ended McNary’s subsequent drive.
McKay found the end zone on its fourth play and faked a point after attempt to take an 8-7 lead with a two-point conversion.
A big run by Hildebrand and reception by Groves helped move the chains to McKay’s 11-yard line, but a touchdown pass intended for Devon Dunagan was caught by one of the Scots for a touchback.
Lawrence took a measure of revenge for the Celts when he picked up a McKay fumble near midfield and returned it to the home team’s 27-yard line. Three rushes by Hildebrand moved the Celts to the McKay seven-yard line and Gosling connected with Hittner for McNary’s second touchdown of the night. Gosling hit Hildebrand on the two-point conversion attempt to retake the lead 15-8.
Celts Grove and Ross helped force a punt on McKay’s next drive and McNary took over the ball with 46 seconds left in the quarter. A 20-yard punt return by Grant Taylor and two long running attacks by Hildbrand put the Celts in the end zone again 17 seconds later for the 22-8 lead.
McKay drove the ball back to McNary’s red zone on their return, but Daniel Brattain and Dunagan broke up the Scots’ last attempts to force a turnover on downs at the McNary 16-yard line.
A hand-off to D.J. Wilson earned McNary a couple of yards and then Gosling found Hildebrand open at the McNary 24-yard line. Hildebrand took off and raced the ball 63 yards before the Scots caught up with him. D.J. Wilson punched the ball through for McNary’s final points of the night and a 35-8 lead.
McKay made one final rally in the third play of their next drive when quarterback Juan Ochoa took off down the sideline for an 88-yard touchdown run.
“Our D-Line played a great game,” Parker said. “Mason and Kelly led the way for the unit and they dominated the line of scrimmage and controlled the McKay ground game. All McKay’s points literally came on one long run where we had a breakdown at the second and third level, and a kick off return.”
The Celts’ season may be winding down with only a contest vs. West Salem High School and a play-in game remaining, but Parker is still looking for the team to show growth.
“We are struggling to put a whole game together. I am waiting for the week where we play good offense, defense, and special teams, all at the same time. I think that day will come soon,” he said.