McNary running back Junior Walling scampers down the sideline for his first of four touchdowns in the Celtics 51-18 win over Sprague on Friday, Oct. 11 (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
In desperate need of a victory after an 0-5 start, McNary’s Junior Walling put together an all-around dominant performance to lead the Celtics to victory in their Mountain Valley Conference opener.
The senior running back rushed for 101 yards and three touchdowns on just eight carries, and added a receiving score as well, leading the Celtics to their first win, a 51-18 rout of Sprague on Thursday, Oct. 10.
Walling also led the Celtics on defense with 11 tackles.
“This was huge. We knew we needed this one and I couldn’t be more happy for this team. Our O-line was a huge factor. They balled out and had an amazing day,” Walling said. “Those first few games made us tougher. We had to form an identity and learn who we were as a team. But that’s what has happened and we’re ready to go now.”
Things were not going in McNary’s favor to begin the contest. After the Celtics went three-and-out on their first possession, Sprague converted a 3rd-and-19 bubble screen to Carson Vankempen, who scored from 22 yards out to give the Olympians the early advantage.
But thanks to a 48-yard kick return from Alex Tavera to the Olympians 37-yard line, the Celtics were able to take advantage moments later.
Facing a 3rd-and-12, McNary quarterback Erik Barker eluded the rush to find Walling in the flat on a broken play. Walling broke a tackle and then cruised to end zone for a 29-yard score, putting McNary on top 7-6.
The Celtics offense got great field position once again on their opening possession of the second quarter thanks to a partially blocked punt by the McNary special teams.
On the second play of the drive, running back Nico Sandoval took a shovel pass 14 yards down to the goal line. Barker punctuated the drive with an easy score from a yard out on a quarterback draw.
“We have been waiting for a performance like this all season. And our hard work has finally paid off. This is the best feeling in the world right now,” Barker said.
McNary got the chance to have their third straight possession start in Sprague territory when the Celtics recovered a fumble on the Olympians 42-yard line. And for the third straight drive, the Celtics capitalized as Walling scored from 20 yards out to put his team up 21-6.
“It was good to see the execution and it was good to see the offense clicking and the defense playing hard and keeping things under control,” McNary head coach Jeff Auvinen said.
Sprague responded to start the third quarter with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Elias Polanski to Zach Dodson-Greene, but the Olympians couldn’t convert the two-point try, which still made it a two-score game at 21-12.
But on the ensuing McNary drive, Sandoval found the end zone from 36 yards out, dragging multiple defenders with across the goal line, which gave the McNary sideline a huge boost of energy.
After Sprague went three-and-out, Walling put the game on ice on his following touch.
Facing 3rd-and-seven at midfield, Walling took the handoff and looked like he was stacked up at the line of scrimmage. But his 6-foot-2, 230-pound frame was too much for Sprague to bring down as Walling broke through the pile and strolled into the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown.
“It’s always nice to dominate the line of scrimmage because then you can run, pass and keep people off-balance. We did a nice job of mixing things up and it all starts with the guys up front,” Auvinen said.
Even with the game out of reach, the McNary defense continued to impose their will on the Olympians with their stout defensive front, which made Sprague’s offensive attack one-dimensional.
“We knew (Sprague) wanted to run the football, so when we forced them to pass and mixed up our coverages, I think that made a big difference,” Auvinen said.
Backup quarterback Jack McCarty scored the Celtics final touchdown in the fourth quarter with a five-yard run on a read-option. It’s the first time McNary has put up more than 50 points in a game since the 2015 season.
“To finally put up 50 on a team was awesome. We have have been on the other side of that a couple times, so it felt great to return the favor,” Barker said.
While the season overall hasn’t gone the way they have wanted, the Celtics are 1-0 in conference play and will have an opportunity to win their second straight league title in they can go unbeaten in their final three games.
“It’s all about our senior leadership. We believe that we’re the best team in this league and that we can win it again,” Barker said.
McNary will host Bend on homecoming week at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18.