By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
For a game that ended in a 34-20 loss for McNary High School varsity football team, there was rarely a dull moment in the Celtics’ clash with Westview High School Friday, Sept. 12.
The Wildcats repeatedly threatened to blot out the lights on Flesher Field Friday, but the Celtics were raging against it until the final drives of the game.
Westview’s hurry-up offense buried McNary 27-6 by the half, but the Celts returned from the break refreshed and ready to make a game of it despite the score.
“We constantly impress on our kids to only bear the weight of things that they can control. If they are stressing over things that they don’t have control over, they will never be comfortable. I think our kids sorted through what they had control over, what they didn’t, and tried to refocus on the things that they could do,” said Isaac Parker, McNary head coach.
The Celts’ opening drive sputtered and ended up turning over the ball on downs after a fourth-and-three attempt failed. The Wildcats struck first three plays later on a quarterback keeper by Austin Brisbee, who ran the ball in from the McNary nine-yard line. The touchdown put the team up 7-0 less than three minutes into the game.
McNary’s return drive suffered a deathblow in the form of a sack that lost the team nine yards on a second down attempt, but Westview ran into troubles of its own.
After a holding call that put the Cats on their own 29-yard line at first-and-20, senior Connor Goff got a tackle that held Westview at third-and-16. Kolby Barker halted a run attempt by Brisbee, and Devon Dunagan sacked Brisbee on the next attempt to end the drive.
The Celts punted away the next drive and its defense crumbled under the passing attack leading to a touchdown run from the McNary 20-yard line. The Cats went up 14-0 on the play.
“We gave up two touchdowns on fourth down because we lost discipline on the play. Both of those were simple plays for us to execute, but it got lost in the chaos of their offense. They have a great gameplan to put stress on the defense like they do, and we learned in the second half to ignore the distractions of their system, and focus in on our jobs,” Parker said.
McNary started the next drive from its 35-yard line and reset the chains, for the first time in the game, on a run by junior Brady Sparks. On the next play, Sparks got caught behind the line of scrimmage and two passing attempts went incomplete.
The second quarter began halfway through Westview’s return drive and they scored three plays later for a 20-0 lead after a missed point-after attempt. The Celts were stymied at midfield, but a punt from Dunagan took a McNary bounce and rolled toward the end zone where a Cat and Celtic waited for it to come to a stop. The Wildcat player pushed McNary’s player out of the way and kicked the ball into the end zone as he tried to get his bearings. McNary recovered it for a touchdown and its first points of the game. The point-after attempt was blocked and the score stood at 20-6.
The Celts tried to take advantage of the momentum swing with an onside kick by Parker Janssen that took a bounce over Westview’s first line, but then fell into Cat hands. Tevita Maake got a tackle for a loss on the third play of the drive and Westview punted the opportunity away, burying McNary at their own nine-yard line.
McNary never moved the chains and pressure on Dunagan’s punt attempt helped send it off the wrong side of his foot. Despite starting from McNary’s 16-yard line, the Wildcats’ drive met with one of the stronger appearances from the Celtic defense. A tackle by Tanner Gordon and a pass broken up by Anthony Nguyen led into a last-ditch attempt at fourth-and-seven. Brisbee connected with a teammate just outside the end of the field under heavy Celtic pressure to end the drive.
The Wildcats scored on their next drive for a 27-6 lead, and left the Celts with 44 seconds left in the half, which wasn’t enough.
Westview scored on its opening drive in the third for a 34-6 lead, but it was the last time they would find the McNary end zone. The Celts struggled on the ground and in the air in their next drive, but tackles by Barker, Goff, and Tim Hays led to a fourth-and-one attempt by Westview. Lacroix Hill and Jacob Burrus stopped the drive and McNary took over on downs at their own 32-yard line.
On McNary’s first play, quarterback Drew McHugh connected with Kyle Torres around the Westview 40-yard line and Torres ran the ball to the end zone for a score of 34-13.
Celt Matt Aguilar recovered an onside kick giving the Keizer team another chance that almost ended before it began. McHugh was sacked for a nine-yard loss on the first play. A run and pass attempt left them at fourth-and-long. After a Celtic timeout, McHugh connected with Dungan at the Westview 16-yard line to reset the chains, but the drive fizzled out after that.
The Wildcats seemed poised to march the ball back down the field, but a tackle by Kyle Aicher and a sack by Nick LaFountaine forced a punt.
On the verge of a three-and-out drive, McHugh tucked the ball and ran. Spinning out of a tackle, he got a first down. He connected with Dunagan four times in the ensuing plays to put the Celts at first-and-goal at Westview’s one-yard line. McHugh followed the line into the end zone for the final 34-20 score.
Torres ended the next Westview drive picking off a pass and sliding out of bounds on his knees. Burrus put the kibosh on Westview’s final attempt by stripping the ball from Brisbee’s hands on a third down attempt and forced a punt.
“We had plans to take away their biggest offensive threats, their two tight ends, and I feel like we did a good job of that. We wanted to force them to beat us with other players,” Parker said. “We started to do our jobs, and held them well in the second half. In the future, hurry-up offense or not, that is going to be the key to our defensive success-whether we are focused on our jobs or not, and having the discipline to execute consistently.”