By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
TIGARD—McNary had shining moments in the first round of the OSAA football playoffs.
But they all came early as Tigard closed the first half with 35 unanswered points and rolled to a 58-28 victory over the Celtics on Friday, Nov. 4.
The Tigers rushed for 235 yards and passed for 186 in the first half.
McNary finished the game with 238 yards through the air but only six on the ground.
“They came to play,” McNary senior Josiah Gilbert said of Tigard. “They were more physical than us. They stopped the run game. We were taking a beating. That’s all in credit to them. We played our hearts out. We did what we could. They were ready for us and knew what they were going to do. They were a big physical football team with a big physical running game.”
The Tigers scored first on defense as Aksel Thorsfeldt intercepted Gilbert deep in McNary territory and returned it for an easy touchdown to put Tigard ahead 7-0 less than a minute into the game.
But the Celtics quickly recovered. On the 11th play of an 85-yard scoring drive, Gilbert and Brendan Van Voorhis connected for a 33-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 with 7:51 remaining in the first quarter.
McNary freshman Junior Walling then recovered a fumble, giving the Celtic offense the ball right back, at the Tigard 32-yard line. After Lucas Garvey took a screen pass 18 yards to set up first-and-goal from the 10, Gilbert scored a 1-yard touchdown on third down to give McNary its first lead, 14-7 with 6:29 to go in the first quarter.
However, the Tigers didn’t stay down long. On the first play of their next possession, Ryan Wothley threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 14-14.
After Tigard’s defense got a stop, the offense began marching back down the field. But on third-and-10 inside the McNary 35-yard line, Van Voorhis intercepted a pass and returned it 76 yards to put the Celtics back on top, 21-14, with 1:17 remaining in the first quarter.
However, that’s as excited as the McNary crowd would get.
The Tigers tied the game with a 33-yard touchdown run 30 seconds into the second quarter and took the lead on a 40-yard pass with 8:54 remaining in the first half.
Van Voorhis, who had five catches for 100 yards, exited the game early in the second quarter with concussion-like symptoms and didn’t return.
Tigard added three more touchdowns, including a 20-yard pass with 19 seconds remaining, to enter halftime with a commanding 49-21 lead.
“We just couldn’t get them tackled,” McNary head coach Jeff Auvinen said. “We couldn’t get them stopped. There were a number of plays where I swear we had them for no gain or one or two yards and they’d end up with 15 or 20. They’d come back and play-action pass and throw a perfect ball.”
The Tigers expanded their lead to 56-21 on a 7-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter and then added a safety when McNary had a bad snap on a punt in the end zone.
With 3:48 remaining in the third quarter, the Celtics completed the scoring as Gilbert connected with Josh Benson for a 27-yard touchdown.
Both McNary and Tigard primarily played its second and third teams in the fourth quarter.
“By far the best team we’ve played,” Auvinen said. “I commend the kids for battling and staying with it. It was a great season. We won’t base it on this one game. I’m so proud, especially the senior kids, for battling through the year. They’ve been such a nice group of kids to work with. They come to practice everyday ready to get better and they work. They’re nice to each other. People in Keizer have just done a great job with them, raising these kids. They’re going to be great members of our community and society. I just like how they treat people.”
Auvinen pointed out that the seniors went 3-6 and the juniors were 2-7 on their freshmen teams but finished 6-4 together this season.
A loss is never easy, especially in the playoffs, especially to go two years in a row losing in the first round, it doesn’t feel good,” Gilbert said. “But we performed better this year than anyone expected us to. I think that was attributed to leadership and some phenomenal athletes coming together.”