The Celtic defensive line makes a goal-line stand preventing a touchdown in the game Friday, Oct. 30. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

The Celtic defensive line makes a goal-line stand preventing a touchdown in the game Friday, Oct. 30. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

BY ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

To advance to the second round of the Oregon football playoffs, the McNary High School varsity football team will have to unseat the OSAA 6A champs of the past two seasons.

The 28th-ranked Celtics travel to meet fifth-ranked Central Catholic High School Friday, Nov. 6. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Hillsboro Stadium.

“We want to compete and play our best game. Nobody’s seen our best game yet this season and that is our best weapon,” said Celt Hayden Sader.

To make an impact in the game, the Celtics will have to put together 48 minutes of offense, defense and special teams, said Jeff Auvinen, McNary head coach.

“If we do that it helps our chances tremendously,” he said.

The Rams have won seven straight games, but haven’t been the crushing offensive force of seasons past. The last time the two teams faced each other, in 2013, Central Catholic routed McNary 62-7.

The Rams have thrived this season on defense. In its last seven wins, the team has held its opponents to 99 total points. The defensive line has had huge help from punter Owen White.

Two weeks ago, White kicked a 47-yard field goal and five punts of more than 45 yards.

“They’re a better defense than they are an offense so that means I’m going to have to get the ball off quick and get the right reads. After that, it’s just making holes,” said McNary’s Trent Van Cleave.

On Ram offense, quarterback Deandre Smith has completed 67 of 100 for 930 yards with one interception and seven touchdowns. Running backs Ronnie Rust (686 yards for the season with nine touchdowns) and Brady Breeze (449 yards) lead the ground attack.

“We have to keep working on defense and I want to have no leakage on the run game,” said Celt LaCroix Hill. “We have to regroup after the loss last week and make sure everyone is on the same page, and there is no intimidation.”

McNary’s offense will have to find its center this week if the Celtics stand a chance of coming out on top. The Keizer team will also have to halt a three-game losing skid. The team has shown signs of greatness at times when it makes use of its many weapons on the receiving end of the ball, but frequently relies on the rushing skills of quarterback Trent Van Cleave and running back Brady Sparks.

Its best performances so far this season have been in a 51-28 rout of Forest Grove High School and an admirable start in a 56-12 loss to South Salem High School two weeks ago.

In a 21-14 loss to Sprague High School last week, the Celtic defense proved it was capable of coming up with red zone stops. However, breakdowns on ball returns and long passing plays have plagued McNary since the start of the season.

“To win, we have to have great practices all week and everybody has to buy in. That’s what its going to take,” said Sader.