By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The Sprague High School varsity football team dominated possession time in their game with the McNary High School Celtics to take a 21-14 win Friday, Oct. 30.
The Olys ran up a 14-point early in the match-up and held on as the clock wound down to take the win.
“We actually did pretty well, but it’s executing on both sides of the ball. I feel like we lost control of the tempo a lot and that hurt us,” said Hayden Sader, a McNary senior.
McNary’s first possession sputtered quickly, and the Celtic defense looked set to spoil Sprague’s first drive. Tackles by Kyle Aicher, Jon Anderson, Sader and Kolby Barker brought up fourth-and-10 at midfield. However, Sprague faked a punt and junior running back Dane McKinney took the snap. McKinney barreled up the field to the Celtics’ one-yard line. Teammate Anthony Nunn punched it into the end zone two plays later for a 7-0 lead.
On McNary’s next drive, the Keizer boys pushed all the way to the Oly 17-yard line and quarterback Trent Van Cleave ran a weaving route for a touchdown that was called back. After that setback, the drive ended with McNary facing fourth-and-18.
“We weren’t very consistent offensively and that hurt us quite a bit when it came down to it,” said Jeff Auvinen, McNary head coach.
On the first play of Sprague’s return, Oly Nick Brotton sloughed off three Celtic tacklers to get the second touchdown of the game and give the Olys a 14-0 lead with 4:43 left in the first quarter.
“They had some tricky blocking schemes and we got lacksidaisical in what we were supposed to do. We tried to do our own thing instead of working as a team,” said Celt LaCroix Hill.
McNary started its next drive on the Saxon 45-yard line after a kickoff return by running back Brady Sparks. Sparks notched two more long rushes and three shorter ones to put the ball at Sprague’s four-yard line. Van Cleave got the touchdown on a third-and-two attempt.
The Olys scored again on their next drive after another big run by Nunn put them at first-and-goal at the one-yard line. The teams went to halftime with a score of 21-6.
Both teams struggled in the third quarter, but McNary won a goal-line stand with seven minutes left in the game. The Celts then pulled out a 99-yard drive capped by a touchdown pass from Van Cleave to junior Josh Benson in the end zone. Sparks rushed for a two-point conversion to close the scoring gap to 21-14 with 3:54 left in the game.
McNary appeared poised to snuff out the Olys’ return drive after key tackles by Collin Young and Colden Garro, but the Olys converted a short pass into a long run and reset the chains at the Celtic 29-yard line with a little over two minutes to go. Sprague pushed all the way to McNary’s four-yard line before deciding to simply ride out the clock by taking a knee.
“On their third down conversions we let them do whatever they wanted and that kind of happened the whole game,” said Van Cleave.
Auvinen said the game came down to giving up too much possession time.
“We bent, we didn’t break, but we bent too far,” he said.