By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
FOREST GROVE—McNary continued to lean on its running game, racking up 246 yards, as the Celtics defeated Forest Grove 35-14 on Friday, Sept. 29.
McNary had two runners go over 100 yards as sophomore Junior Walling gained 107 yards on 21 carries and senior Freddy Jimna had 101 yards on 12 attempts.
“I just want to thank my O-line because they worked hard all this week, getting the plays right and figuring out which linebackers to block so I could find a hole,” Jimna said.
The Celtics were without senior Lucas Garvey, who broke his collarbone the week before at McKay.
“Losing Lucas hurt us but what it also did was it forced us to simplify some things and in doing that I think some kids, especially the O-Line, are starting to take pride in running the football,” McNary offensive coordinator Brad Emmert said. “We ran off-tackle power probably half of our running plays and the kids just love that. I think that’s definitely part of our game moving forward.”
But simplifying the offense didn’t cure all of the Celtics problems. Three interceptions, negative plays and penalties allowed Forest Grove to remain in the game into the fourth quarter.
McNary scored its first touchdown on a 2-yard run by Jose Solorio to give the Celtics a 6-0 lead with 2:40 remaining in the first quarter after the extra point was blocked.
McNary’s defense then got its first turnover when junior Devyn Schurr intercepted Forest Grove quarterback Jarod Miller, giving the Celtics the ball at the Forest Grove 36-yard line.
After two incomplete passes and a sack, Alan Jefferson was able to punt the Vikings inside their own 2-yard line and Walling tackled Forest Grove running back Kurtis Van Dyke in the end zone for a safety.
Barker was then intercepted throwing a jump ball to Jefferson with 10:10 remaining in the first half. However, Solorio picked off Miller on the next play to give the ball right back to the Celtics.
McNary had the ball at the Forest Grove 11-yard line but an unsportsmanlike penalty led to a fourth-and-long and missed 31-yard field goal. The Vikings again gave the ball right back to the Celtics as Schurr recovered a fumble. Barker made Forest Grove pay for this one, connecting with Jacob Jackson for a 36-yard touchdown, and McNary led 15-0 with 6:49 remaining in the second quarter.
The Vikings were held to zero yards on their first 11 plays until Miller completed a 23-yard pass to get Forest Grove into Celtic territory late in the first half. Miller added an 18-yard pass and a defensive pass interference penalty got the Vikings inside McNary’s 10-yard line. Forest Grove running back Cole Smith then fought his way into the end zone to get the Vikings within 15-7 at halftime.
“We’re trying to figure out what the identity of this group is,” Emmert said of the offense. “We slowed things down this week, tried to simplify it a little bit and I don’t know if that was necessarily the answer. The potential is there.”
With 3:07 remaining in the third quarter, McNary went back up by two touchdowns as Walling capped off an eight-play, 78-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown run.
The Celtics defense then forced another three-and-out. But Barker, trying to avoid a sack, threw an interception, which the Vikings returned for a touchdown to get within 22-14 with 1:05 left to play.
Barker was then intercepted for a third time with 47 seconds remaining as a Forest Grove defender ripped the ball away from Griffin Oliveira.
But McNary’s defense again held strong, forcing another punt.
“Defensively, we played pretty hard and had lots of turnovers,” McNary head coach Jeff Auvinen said. “That saved us. Defense is starting to fly around a little bit. I like that. I hope they continue to gain confidence.”
On fourth-and-3, Walling got loose for a 21-yard touchdown run to stretch McNary’s lead to 29-14 with 7:07 remaining in the game. Jimna put the final nails in the coffin, recovering a fumble on defense and then adding a 16-yard touchdown run with just 2:42 left to play.
“We were running to the wide side, I just saw that skinny corner and thought I could intimidate him with my size and he wasn’t able to tackle me,” Jimna said of the touchdown.
After the game, McNary’s coaches weren’t satisfied with the win.
“A win is a win and I get all that,” Emmert said. “I just want us to be better. I want us to finish drives. We had some tough penalties called. That always kills us. If we clean those things up, then these are non-issues. We’ve got to cut down on picks. We’re just handing the ball over to the other team. Those are the types of things we’re going to have to look at and square away.”
“We need to get better,” he said. “We’re going into the meat of our schedule and we let a team stay in the game that we should’ve put away about 27 times.”