Celts struggle in opener

McNary quarterback Erik Barker combined for 223 total yards against North Medford, but the Black Tornado still defeated the Celtics 45-6 (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

Coming into the season, McNary knew that they would face one of the toughest non-league schedules in the state. 

But when they traveled to southern Oregon on Friday, Sept. 6, it was clear the Celtics weren’t up to the test. 

It was a 7-6 game going into the second quarter, but North Medford rattled off 38 unanswered points as the Celtics struggled mightily in their season opener, falling to the Black Tornado 45-6. 

“We actually got off to a decent start, we just had a couple things that went against us and we just did not handle it very well,” McNary head coach Jeff Auvinen said. 

McNary quarterback Erik Barker led the offensive attack for the Celtics, rushing for 112 yards on eight carries and going 10 of 20 through the air for 111 yards and a touchdown. But he also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. Receiver Junior Nunez caught five balls for 80 yards on the night. 

The Celtics marched down the field in their first offensive drive of the game, but couldn’t finish the possession with a score. North Medford took advantage when quarterback Brennan Stults hit Chance Costanzo for a 54-yard score to give the Black Tornado the 7-0 lead.

However, McNary would quickly answer back on their following drive. 

After a long scramble from Barker, the senior quarterback found Zane Aicher wide open in the corner of the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown, cutting the lead to one. 

But the Celtics defense couldn’t stop North Medford from rattling off a multitude of big plays. 

The Black Tornado outscored the Celtics 24-0 in the second period, capitalizing on a pair of McNary turnovers, including a fumble by Barker inside the North Medford 10-yard line. 

“It just felt like we were a different team once we got down a couple scores. It was bad in the second quarter,” Auvinen said. “It was almost like the wind went out of the kids sails. It’s very rare to lose the turnover battle and win the game.”

North Medford continued to gash the Celtics defense for all four quarters, exploding for 554 yards of total offense — 326 on the ground and 228 through the air. 

Offensively, McNary was able to rack up just over 300 yards of total offense, but the Black Tornado still only managed the Celtics to one score. 

“We actually moved the ball pretty well at times, we just couldn’t finish off drives,” Auvinen said. 

McNary will be challenged once again in their home opener on Friday, Sept. 13 when they take on West Linn, a team that is projected to contend for a state title. 

It will be a different matchup for this Celtics squad than it was against North Medford. The Black Tornado take pride in being physical in the trenches while West Linn is a team that spreads the field and has the majority of their offense revolving around the passing game. 

Auvinen believes McNary will be able to compete better in this contest, but he also wants his team to not bring the frustrations of their first defeat into their battle with West Linn. 

“It will be a different game. I think that we match up well with them at some positions. We just need to try and flush our last game and move forward,” Auvinen said