By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

WEST LINN—Playing on the road against maybe the best team in the state, McNary (0-2) showed it could bounce back.

The next step is learning how to finish.

The Celtics got within one touchdown of West Linn with 8:51 remaining. But the Lions closed the game with 21 straight points to run away with a 55-27 victory.

“It’s a step forward. We battled. We were right there,” McNary head coach Jeff Auvinen said after the game. “We just kind of shut down at the end but throughout the game I think we took a step forward. We played harder. We played more aggressively. There’s still a ton of things to fix. Instead of ending on a bad note, we need to finish and compete down the stretch. We need to grab on and hold and do whatever we can, battle and kick until the final horn.”

After losing their home opener by 28 points, the Celtics looked like they were in for another long night as West Linn quarterback Ethan Long threw two quick touchdown passes to give the Lions a 13-0 lead with 7:36 remaining in the first quarter. But McNary responded as Erik Barker connected with Noah Bach for a 4-yard touchdown pass to get the Celtics within 13-7 late in the first.

McNary again appeared to be out of it as West Linn stretched its lead to 27-7. But Barker found Jacob Jackson for a 13-yard touchdown just before halftime and then connected with Devyn Schurr for a 12-yard score to get the Celtics within 27-21 with 2:57 remaining in the third quarter.

After Long threw another touchdown pass, Ryan Bamford converted a fake punt with a 29-yard strike to Schurr. Barker then hit Junior Walling on a wheel route down the McNary sideline for a 13-yard touchdown to get the Celtics within 34-27 with 8:51 to go.

But the McNary defense couldn’t stop Long and a fumble on their next possession ended any chance of a Celtic comeback.

Long, who has committed to Arizona State, finished the game with 416 yards and six touchdowns.

“There were times when we had pretty good coverage and he (Long) had a little window to put it in and he put it right in there,” Auvinen said. “That was frustrating. We had a couple of big coverage break downs, which really hurt us.”

Barker passed for 222 yards, four touchdowns to four different receivers and one interception, trying to make a play with McNary down 48-27 with 2:36 remaining.

“Erik made some very nice plays,” Auvinen said. “He made some plays out of nothing, which is the first time I’ve seen that. He’s definitely improved his running skills. The offense played really well. I thought the line looked really good. I thought our running back ran well.”

Walling rushed for 85 yards to lead the Celtics on the ground.

McNary plays at Tualatin (2-0) on Friday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. The Timberwolves are coming off a 36-28 win over Oregon City.

“It will definitely toughen us up these good teams we’re playing,” Auvinen said.