By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
McNary head coach Jeff Auvinen was blunt after his team’s 38-17 loss to North Medford on Friday, Oct. 21.
The Celtics laid an egg.
“They just played a lot harder than we did,” Auvinen said. “They took it to us and played with more intensity. We got caught kind of flat-footed and by the time we responded, we were still in the game, and then we got caught flat-footed again and didn’t respond nearly as well.”
North Medford entered the game with a pass-first spread offense but the Black Tornado did most of its damage against McNary on the ground, rushing for 200 yards and passing for only 49.
“I figured they would like to run the ball,” Auvinen said. “They just haven’t been very effective at at. They were much better today, obviously, and took it to us.”
North Medford scored on its first drive with a 6-yard run to take an early 7-0 lead. But the Celtics quickly answered as quarterback Josiah Gilbert hit Brendan Van Voorhis in stride for an 84-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7-7 with 7:19 remaining in the first quarter.
The Black Tornado added another 6-yard touchdown run on its next possession but McNary again responded. On fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Gilbert pushed his way into the end zone and AJ Johnk’s extra point tied the game 14-14 with 7:23 remaining in the second quarter.
North Medford returned the following kickoff 87 yards to take a 21-14 lead.
Gilbert them fumbled, giving the Black Tornado the ball at their own 41-yard line. But the Celtic defense stood strong as Caleb Kiefiuk-Yates sacked North Medford quarterback Javan Gail on third down to force a punt.
With 36 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Lucas Garvey lined up at quarterback but the North Medford defense wasn’t fooled and Garvey threw an interception to close the first half.
McNary caught a break early in the third quarter when the Black Tornado muffed a punt and the Celtics recovered at their opponent’s 35-yard line.
On third-and-8 from the 18-yard line, Gilbert appeared to have Van Voorhis open in the end zone but the pass was short and McNary had to settle for a Johnk 35-yard field goal to get within 21-17.
North Medford had its own chance to kick a field goal but on fourth-and-6 from the Celtic 16, decided to go for it and Garvey broke up a pass in the end zone.
Defense then took over the game.
The Black Tornado started their next two possessions at the McNary 39 and 24-yard lines, respectively, but got zero points to show for it as both drives ended in punts.
In between, the Celtics weren’t able to do anything either. After a 5-yard penalty, Gilbert threw three incomplete passes and McNary punted.
North Medford was then able to place a punt on the Celtic 1-yard line. After three plays and gaining zero yards, the Celtics elected to take a knee in the end zone for a safety rather than try to punt.
“That was my call,” Auvinen said. “We had trouble on the last punt. We were on the 1-yard line and the last punt went to about the 23. Let’s see if we can reverse the field a little bit.”
The decision looked like the correct one when North Medford later blocked a McNary punt and returned it for a touchdown to expand its lead to 30-17 with 11:25 remaining in the game.
The Celtics continued to do little on offense, turning the ball over on downs at the North Medford 42-yard line with 10:06 left to play.
“We struggled all night long controlling the line of scrimmage,” Auvinen said. “I thought we had them tired in the second quarter and started moving the ball a little bit but we couldn’t duplicate that after. We weren’t throwing the ball on time frequently, rather it was good coverage or the rush was too mush pressure. There were a lot of reasons.”
Garvey was able to momentarily stop the bleeding, intercepting Gail at the McNary 3-yard line. However, three plays later, McNary was called for intentional grounding, which resulted in another safety and gave North Medford a 32-17 lead.
With only 21 seconds remaining, Gail threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to complete the scoring.
McNary finished with 59 yards rushing on 31 carries. Gilbert was 9-for-25 passing for 203 yards.