By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
McNary (6-2) will need to play its best game to knock off West Salem (7-1) as the Celtics close the regular season on Friday, Oct. 27 at home.
“Since [last] Friday night, we’ve been talking about just getting our minds right and be ready to play West the best we can,” McNary senior Brayden Ebbs said. “Last year we played them the best we could and we came out on top.”
Since losing to Sheldon 41-7 on Sept. 18, the Titans have won five straight Greater Valley Conference games, outscoring their opponents 273-49. West Salem’s closest league game came in 35-15 at McKay to open the season.
The Titans are No. 8 in the power rankings. McNary is 15th.
Despite its lofty numbers, Ebbs said McNary won’t give West Salem anything.
“We’ve been watching some film but the key to being successful against them is not giving them too much respect because they have to earn that from us,” Ebbs said.
West Salem is led on offense by quarterback Grant Thies, running back Jacob Denning and receivers Anthony Gould and Micah Pugh.
“They’re aggressive,” McNary head coach Jeff Auvinen said of the Titans. “They’re good both offensively and defensively. They’ve got good athletes. They’re well coached. We need to play well in all three facets against a good team and it’s going to be a playoff type atmosphere. Most weeks we’ve continued to take a step up so we’re going to continue to do that.”
West Salem defeated Sprague and McMinnville, the two teams that beat McNary, by a combined score of 97-13, but Auvinen isn’t putting any stock in that.
“Every matchup is different,” he said.
Ebbs, who plays H-back as well as linebacker, said the key will be controlling the time of possession and keeping the ball away from West Salem’s playmakers.
“Our offense has to keep doing what we do best,” Ebbs said.
“We’ve got to put the ball in the end zone, keep the ball moving, keep our offense with the ball.”
Seniors Jakoby Doke (shoulder) and Blake Norton (back) both missed Monday’s practice recovering from injuries but Auvinen expects both to play against West Salem.