McNary could have easily given up.
Opening the season with five straight losses, getting outscored by more than 170 points.
Who could blame them?
But the Celtics ran out into the field last Friday as confident, as loose and as ready as they had all season. And it paid off with a 21-14 win, their first of the season and first over Sprague since 2014.
“We stayed positive the entire season,” McNary quarterback Erik Barker said. “We knew a win was going to come and all that mattered was league. We flushed those first five games out, completely. We’re focusing on league now and focusing on ourselves and getting better every week.”
The five games, four of which came against top 10 teams in Oregon and Washington, prepared McNary for its Mountain Valley Conference schedule.
“That was the toughest competition I’ve ever faced,” Barker said. “I think it made all of us way better.”
What clearly stood out against Sprague was McNary’s defense.
Gashed in previous games, the Celtics held Sprague to 150 yards on the ground, 65 of which came on two carries—31 and 34 yard touchdown runs by Landon Davis.
“We know they’re a physical team,” McNary linebacker Junior Walling said of Sprague. “We prepared all week to stop that run game and I think our defense came out strong.”
Can the Celtics carry the momentum over the Santiam Pass to Bend?
Dallas at McKay
McNary wasn’t the only Salem-Keizer squad to get its first victory of the season as the Royal Scots won 17-15 at Corvallis last Friday. McKay gets another winnable game at home against 1-5 Dallas. The Dragons only win came at North Salem but then they lost to Corvallis. Two of Dallas’ other losses were by just one point so maybe the Dragons are a little better than their record. Still, I’ll take the team coming off a win, not the one on a three-game losing streak.
Pick: Royal Scots 14, Dragons 13
North Salem at Central
The Vikings followed up their first win of the season by getting shut out at home against undefeated West Albany. But the Bulldogs have made a lot of teams look bad, including North Salem’s next opponent—Central.
The Panthers do have three wins but two of those came against 1-5 McKay and 2-4 South Albany. Central’s most impressive win came against Crescent Valley (4-2), who shut out North Salem 34-0 to open the season.
Pick: Panthers 30, Vikings 24
Sprague at Summit
The Olympians are one of three teams traveling to Bend this Friday and get the easiest draw as Summit (1-5) has already lost to Mountain View and Bend this season. Looking ahead at games with Mountain View (4-2) and West Salem (3-3), this is Sprague’s best chance to avoid a winless season. After getting close at South Salem and McNary, the Olympians finally get their first victory.
Pick: Olympians 20, Storm 17
West Salem at Mountain View
While the Cougars have the better record, the Titans have played a much more difficult schedule with games against Lake Oswego and Sheldon. The last time West Salem played a Bend school, the Titans defeated the Lava Bears by 29 points on Sept. 7. West Salem should have similar success against Mountain View as the Titans show they’re the team to beat in the Mountain Valley Conference.
Pick: Titans 48, Cougars 30
McNary at Bend
The Lava Bears are a shining example of just how flawed OSAA’s power rankings system is. Bend enters the game No. 10, ahead of No. 12 West Salem, who the Lava Bears lost to 56-27. While Bend is benefitting from a 5-1 record, it just hasn’t played nearly as strong a schedule as West Salem or its next opponent—McNary. The Lava Bears do have a one-point win over North Medford, who dominated McNary to open the season. Bend also defeated South Salem in a game the Saxons led in the fourth quarter. The Lava Bears belong somewhere in the 20-25 range of the power rankings, not the top 10, and McNary, riding high off its first in of the season, will put them there.
Pick: Celtics 34, Lava Bears 28
Derek Wiley is the Associate Editor of the Keizertimes.
Last week: 3-1