BY ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
McNary High School’s varsity football team never threatened in a 42-21 loss to Central Catholic High School in the first round of the playoffs.
Fortunately for the Celtics, the team had just enough big plays – led by quarterback Trent Van Cleave’s three interceptions – to keep the game interesting despite the lopsided score.
The Keizer team was off to a rough start from the get-go. Three plays in to their first drive, a wild snap was recovered by the Rams at the Celtic 20-yard line. It took Central Catholic only two plays to notch the first touchdown of the game at 10:49.
The Celts made it to midfield before fizzling on their first possession. Once Central Catholic had the ball back, a 31-yard rushing attack brought up first-and-goal at the one-yard line. The Rams scored again on the next play for the 14-0 lead.
McNary’s drive started at the five-yard line because of a holding penalty and a fumble on the first play was recovered by Central Catholic. The Rams scored on the next play and, with 7:28 remaining in the first quarter, McNary trailed 21-0.
“The difficult thing to swallow is that, if you take away the first four minutes of the game, we played them even the rest of the way,” said Jeff Auvinen, McNary head coach. “It’s just too bad we couldn’t compete to our full ability those first four minutes.”
The Celtics finally bolted the wheels back on their game in their next posession. A first-down rush by running back Brady Sparks was helped along by a personal foul that reset the chains at McNary’s 42-yard line. Sparks reeled in a one-handed catch on the next play but it was called back on a holding penalty.
Facing first-and-22, Van Cleave found teammate Josh Benson cutting across the field for a short gain, but lost five yards on a penalty. On second-and 20, Van Cleave made a short pass to Hayden Sader and it took four tacklers to bring him down at third-and-seven.
The Rams drew a defensive holding penalty and reset the chains for McNary at the Central Catholic 45-yard line.
Sader and Benson finished off the drive with catches and the Celtics made it to the board with 2:19 left in the first quarter.
Sader and Bobby Botta got key stops for the Keizer team on Central Catholic’s return, but the Rams scored on a long rushing attack facing third-and-one, making the score 28-7. The Rams cushioned their lead to 35-7 on their next possession shortly after the start of the second quarter.
After punting away their next opportunity, Van Cleave pulled down a one-handed interception at the McNary 15-yard line and ran it all the way back to the 40-yard line. After a Ram player was judged out of bounds and returned to the playing field, McNary took possession at Central Catholic’s 43-yard line.
Van Cleave unleashed a long bomb two plays later intended for senior Matt Aguilar. Aguilar was under cover by a Ram defender and stepped back behind him to get the catch at the 30-yard line and ran for a touchdown. The score closed the gap to 35-14.
After trading punts, Van Cleave came up with his second interception of the night, but Central Catholic got the ball back on an interception of its own.
The half ended as Van Cleave made his third interception in the Celtic end zone.
The Rams scored again, and for their final time, on their first play after the second-half kickoff, expanding the lead to 42-14.
The Celtics suffered another setback three drives later. After converting on fourth-and-one with LaCroix Hill taking the snap and driving to reset the chains, McNary pushed all the way to Central Catholic’s 23-yard line. Facing third-and-12, Van Cleave escaped a pair of tackles on the scramble before launching the ball to Aguilar at the four-yard line. Aguilar got the grab, but offsetting penalites forced the down to be replayed.
Another rushing attack by Van Cleave set the Celtics up at the 12-yard line, but a holding penalty sent the team back to the 28-yard line. A last ditch attempt at conversion was intercepted at the Ram 5-yard line.
The Rams’ return possession sputtered thanks, in large part, to a sack by Kolby Barker that left the Portland team at fourth-and-24.
McNary struck for the final score of the game on its next drive. Sparks put the Celtics on the Rams’ 19-yard line on the first play. He helped move the ball to fourth-and-one giving Hill another chance to convert and reset the downs at Central Catholic’s six-yard line.
Van Cleave put the ball into the end zone with fourth-and-inches to go.