By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
McNary head football coach Jeff Auvinen looked out at the Celtics five league and two state championship banners and told his team how much fun it is to practice on Thanksgiving.
McNary had just won its first playoff game since 2013 but the Celtics aren’t satisfied.
In order to continue its postseason run and get to Thanksgiving, McNary must first knock off defending state champion and No. 3 West Linn on the road Friday, Nov. 10.
“I think we’ve got a great game plan,” Auvinen said. “I think the kids are excited. I think it’s a quality opponent we’re playing. We’re going to have to play a really, really good game but it can be done.”
Auvinen compared West Linn to Sprague and West Salem, two teams that combined to outscore the Celtics 119-12 during the regular season.
“Hopefully we’ve learned from those two outings that weren’t very good efforts,” Auvinen said. “We didn’t keep our mentality about us and hopefully we’ve learned from that.”
While West Linn cruised to a state championship last season, the Lions lost back-to-back games to Tigard and Lake Oswego this season.
“They lost a load of seniors,” Auvinen said. “But they’re a quality team. They’re well coached. They have good players. They’re good offensively, defensively and special teams. They do things well.”
One of those seniors was quarterback Tim Tawa, who after being named the state Gatorade player of the year in football three straight years signed a baseball scholarship with Stanford University.
While this season’s quarterback, junior Ethan Long, doesn’t have near the accolades, Auvinen sees another good player on film.
“He’s athletic. He throws the ball well, especially on timing routes,” Auvinen said.
West Linn also graduated defensive back Elijah Molden, who signed with Washington, and offensive lineman Alex Forsyth, who signed with Oregon.
West Linn’s biggest 2018 prospect is Keishon Dawkins, a 6-foot-6, 240 pound tight end who has committed to Oregon State.
“He’s big and physical and uses his body real well,” Auvinen said. “They also have a good little receiver (senior Qawi Ntsasa) and a couple nice running backs (seniors Tyler Good and Ahmir McGee).”
McNary last played a Three Rivers League opponent in the first round of the playoffs last season, losing at Tigard 58-28.
“Tigard was a much more physical team,” Auvinen said. “They were bigger and stronger. This team is not that team. I think they (West Linn) throw the ball a little better. They have a different brand of defense. They’re not as big but they do run hard and play hard. It’s different than that (Tigard) team. It’s a different challenge.”
But McNary will have to play it best game of the season to pull off the upset.
“We’ve got to combine that game we’ve been looking for with all three aspects, special teams, offense, defense, all coming together,” Auvinen said. “We’re getting closer all the time, I think. If we combine all three of those and play really well, keep them off balance offensively and defensively, we’ll be fine.”