By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The McNary High School varsity football team ended a state playoff absence extending all the way back to 2008 last week, but figuring out how to make it farther is going to be even more of a challenge.
The Celts drew the No. 1 team in the state, Lake Oswego High School, as their first-round opponents. The Lakers, 9-0 this season, haven’t lost a league match-up since 2004, but their postseason performance has been slightly less even-keeled.
“Two weeks ago, we weren’t able to do what we needed to do to win. Last week, we were. That was encouraging growth and evidence that our kids were learning how to win and not just compete well,” said Isaac Parker, McNary head coach.
McNary travels to meet Lake Oswego Friday, Nov. 9. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
The Celts may not be expecting miracles in the game with Lake Oswego, but the team is no less determined to walk out with its heads held high.
“You sort of have to change your perspective,” said McNary senior Kelly Cowan. “We can’t do any more than play our best. After the game is over, if we’ve done our best–win, lose, or draw–we’ll have to be satisfied with that.”
McNary’s defense will have to have its strongest showing yet up against the Lakers’ senior quarterback Justen Ruppe. He’s thrown 14 touchdown passes and only one interception this season. His most likely target will be Connor Griffin, a senior who’s responsible for 10 of those touchdown catches.
The Lakers had two close wins earlier this season over Central Catholic and Southridge high schools, but they’ve also won by as much as 55 points a scant threeweeks ago in a contest with Lakeridge High School.
McNary’s defense has had moments of greatness this season, but the Lakers will be its toughest test of the season. They held Grants Pass High School to a mere six points last week and a muddy field assisted the team in creating turnovers.
“We have to look for their weaknesses,” said Celt Brett Hildebrand. “If we can expose some of their weaknesses and make it a game, that will be a win.”
As much as offense has been key for the Lakers this season, the team is no slouch on defense. Two weeks ago, the team held Oregon City tailback Mitch Thompson to 136 yards on 25 carries and one touchdown. Thompson entered the game with 1,910 yards for the season and 22 touchdowns.
McNary will look to improve on its growth as a run-first offense that had two breakout games with North Salem and McKay high schools earlier this season.
“As long as we play as hard as we can and with all our hearts, I won’t walk off the field upset,” said Celt Bruce Isabell.