Second half surge not enough for McNary against Tualatin

McNary running back Junior Walling rushed for 152 yards and two scores in the Celtics 52-27 loss to Tualatin (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

It may have been McNary’s best performance of the season thus far, but the effort still wasn’t good enough against one of the best teams in the state as the Celtics dropped to 0-3 on the season with a 52-27 loss to Tualatin on Friday, Sept. 20. 

Despite the loss, one positive aspect for McNary was that they outscored the Timberwolves 21-10 in the final 24 minutes of the game.

“They didn’t give up and they played hard, we just had some breakdowns. Tualatin is a good, disciplined team and they were just able to find those weak spots,” McNary head coach Jeff Auvinen said. “We didn’t tackle particularly well and we didn’t cover people particularly well, but to our credit, they played harder than they have had the past couple games. Our execution wasn’t great, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort.”

The McNary defense forced Tualatin into a trio of third-and-long situations on their opening drive. But each time, the Timberwolves were able to convert as they eventually capped off the possession with a two-yard touchdown run from Kainoa Sayre. 

But on the ensuing kickoff, McNary speedster Ethan Martin provided some fireworks for the home crowd. 

The kickoff was short as Martin came up to the 20-yard line to gather the ball. Martin reversed his field with a pirouette spin move, then cut up the sideline and went the distance for the 80-yard score. 

“I was just thinking that I had to get my team juiced,” Martin said. “When it came up short, I knew I had to do a little something with it. So I stuck it to the outside than spun around and saw a seam. I knew I was gone from there.”

But the McNary defense couldn’t do anything to stop the balanced attack of Tualatin as the Timberwolves scored again in just three plays to take the 14-6 lead. 

McNary didn’t run their first offensive play until midway through the first quarter. Quarterback Erik Barker found tight end Layton Thurlow between the hashes for what appeared to be a big play, but Thurlow was stripped of the ball before going to the ground, allowing Tualatin to regain possession. 

The Timberwolves would score two more times before the end on a long opening period, going up 29-6.

Things wouldn’t get much better for the Celtics in the second quarter as the offense struggled to get into a rhythm, while the defense couldn’t seem to get a stop. Tualatin was dominant in all phases of the game as they went to the half with a 42-6 lead. 

When the Celtics came out of the locker room and received the ball to start the second half, they approached things much differently on the offensive side of the ball.

Auvinen got Junior Walling much more involved with the game plan in the third quarter after Walling got just two touches in the first half.

The senior moved the chains three separate times in the first drive of the third quarter, getting the ball into the red zone. After an 18-yard run by Barker put the ball at the one-yard line, Walling punched it in from there for his second rushing score of the season. 

“We quit messing around and went right at them. We wanted to establish a little bit of an identity and play more physical,” Auvinen said. “We want to use (Walling) as much as we possibly can.”

Tualatin responded when Griffin Biggs crossed the goal line from a yard out. But McNary was quick to answer back. 

Barker found Thurlow downfield on an out rout to get the Celtics into Tualatin territory. Moments later, Walling found the end zone once again on a 36-yard run up the sideline. 

Walling finished the game with 152 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries, all in front of Oregon State football coach Jonathan Smith, who will be Walling’s coach next season. 

With the game out of reach, Auvinen put in backup quarterback Jack McCarty on the Celtics final series. After completing three passes resulting in first downs, the junior signal-caller took it in himself with a one-yard touchdown run on a quarterback draw, putting the Celtics sideline in high spirits with less than two minutes remaining. 

“We’re definitely really proud of how we came to together in the second half,” Martin said.

Auvinen added: “We still have a ways to go to get where we want to be, but I think we took a step in the right direction.” 

McNary starts the more manageable portion of their schedule on Friday, Sept. 27 when they take on the Barlow Bruins in their final non-league home game.