By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
It’s going to feel like déjà vu for some players on both sides of the football field when the McNary High School Celtics and the Grants Pass High School Cavemen clash in a state tournament play-in game.
McNary hosts the game kicking off at 7 p.m.
The two teams met last year with a playoff berth on the line and the Cavemen ground down the Celtics in a 40-21 win.
For McNary, the test will be whether it can improve on its strongest showing of the season against the West Salem High School Titans last week. McNary lost 24-20, but held its own against the 11th-ranked team in the state.
“Last week, we learned how to compete. This week, we have to learn how to win, how to drive the dagger in and twist it,” said Celt quarterback Hayden Gosling.
The Celts will need to keep their running game moving against a burly Caveman defensive line, many of whom return with more experience. Running back Brett Hildebrand ran for more than 200 yards in two of the Celtics’ last three games and pounded out a 178-yard night against the Titans last week.
“If we do what we did this last game, we can win. If we just keep up our consistency, we’ll be in good shape,” Hildebrand said.
When the Celts take to the air, expect Gosling to look for Cody Bond and junior Garrett Hittner, both of whom have come on strong of late. Gosling completed 11-of-15 last week for 196 yards. Bond led receiving with six catches for 114 yards.
The Cavemen (3-6 overall and 3-4 in the Southern Conference) took three wins midseason, but the team has been on a