By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
SALEM—McNary senior Hakam Nagra could not remain silent as the Celtics went into halftime trailing at McKay.
“When I saw the potential that we had, we weren’t living up to it, it just lit something in me,” Nagra told the Keizertimes after the game. “I just let it all out, everything I had to say. I had to motivate my team. I had to get them going. I saw that they were a little flat. This football team, I’ve never had better chemistry with. We’re all a bunch of brothers. We go to each other for everything. If somebody is down, we pick them back up. That chemistry I just didn’t see on the field. That’s what ignited me.”
The speech was just what McNary needed as it came from behind to defeat the Scots 21-7 on Friday, Sept. 22.
Jose Solorio was one of the player’s that took Nagra’s words to heart.
Down 7-0 to open the second half, Solorio and quarterback Erik Barker connected for a 41-yard touchdown on third-and-long to tie the game with 10:24 remaining in the third quarter.
“We just played to our competition level,” Solorio said. “It took a half to wake us up.”
Junior Walling started the scoring drive with runs of 23 and 34 yards.
“We had to do exactly what Sprague did to us, be mean, mad, show McKay that we’re not soft and we can compete with the teams all around,” Walling said.
McKay answered with a long drive but on the 10th play ended with a fumble that McNary junior Jacob Jackson recovered at the Celtic 4-yard line.
McNary then drove back into McKay territory but Kyle McCallister dropped a pass on fourth down.
The Scots looked to strike quickly on a reverse pass but a wide open streaking receiver dropped the ball.
Jackson then intercepted a McKay pass to give the ball back to the Celtics, who went 65 yards on 10 plays to take a 14-7 lead with 10:11 remaining in the fourth quarter. Walling capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Barker added a 1-yard touchdown run with 37 seconds left to play to seal the victory.
Struggling in the passing game, McNary had to do most of its damage on the ground without its leading rusher as senior Lucas Garvey left in the first quarter with a shoulder injury and didn’t return.
Walling took the load of the work, finishing with 171 yards on 29 carries. Senior Freddy Jimna added 31 yards on eight attempts. Robert Benson, who had mostly played junior varsity this season, picked up 37 yards on nine carries as the Celtics finished with 281 yards on the ground.
“You take one of your best players on both sides of the ball and take him out of the picture,” McNary head coach Jeff Auvinen said of losing Lucas Garvey. “We had three other running backs go in there and play like they were possessed and really got every inch they could. I was pleased with all three running backs. It’s something we had to do. We weren’t executing throwing the football so we went mostly run with a little bit of play-action. The kids did real well with that.”
Devyn Schurr, a junior varsity cornerback, took Garvey’s place on defense.
Penalties, eight for 70 yards, killed the Celtics in the first half.
McKay scored its only touchdown on a short field. Starting from the McNary 35-yard line, the Scots were aided by two defensive offsides penalties. On offense, the Celtics were constantly facing second and third-and-longs.
Barker threw two interceptions in the first half, including one in the end zone, trying to get the ball to McCallister.
“We’re playing with a lot of guts and a lot of heart but we’re not playing with our mind much,” Auvinen said of the first half. “I thought we battled. We just made a ton of mistakes throughout the game. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot, penalties and missed assignments, especially on offense.”
Solorio had two interceptions, one in each half, as McNary was plus-3 in turnover margin.