McNary running back Dakota Dunagan stiff-arms a Sprague defender (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
After a spectacular offensive display in their previous game, the McNary attack was completely neutralized by the Sprague defense.
The Celtics could only muster 176 yards of total offense as Sprague routed McNary 28-0 on Friday, March 19.
It was the first time McNary has lost a league contest since 2017 and the first time they have been shut out since 2014.
“It seemed like anything that could have gone wrong did go wrong,” McNary head coach Jeff Auvinen said. “The nice thing about our kids and our coaching staff is that we’re going to take responsibility and get better from this.”
The Celtic errors began during the opening kickoff as Jake Paton fumbled the Sprague pooch kick and allowed the Olympians to take over on the McNary 27-yard line. Sprague converted a trio of third down conversions on their short drive, which concluded with a five-yard touchdown run from Ethan Bullock.
Despite multiple other miscues from the Celtics, such as an interception and a muffed punt, the McNary defense stayed stout and kept the score at 7-0 for the majority of the first half.
“The defense rose up quite a few times,” Auvinen said.
However, with less than three minutes remaining in the second quarter, Sprague took advantage of McNary’s man-to-man coverage on third-and-18 and connected on a long pass play to get the ball inside Celtics territory.
“I screwed up that play-call on third-and-long and they took advantage of that,” Auvinen said. “We were in man (coverage) and probably should have had a little help over the top. I almost called timeout and looking back, I should have.”
Moments later, Sprague quarterback Logan Smith connected with Colton Herring on a crossing route for a 20-yard touchdown, putting the Olympians up 14-0 at the break.
In the second half, it was clear that fatigue was setting in for the McNary defense. The Olympians went 80 yards on their first drive of the third quarter, which was capped off by a seven-yard score from Bullock.
“Defensively, we hung around for the most part, but they really wore us down in that second half. They were just gassed. They were completely exhausted,” Auvinen said. “The defense was probably on the field 75 percent of the time. That was a challenge that really tested us.”
The McNary offense tried to give their defense some reprieve, but went three-and-out in both of their third quarter possessions as the physicality of Sprague was too much for the Celts to handle — McNary went three-and-out five times in the first three quarters.
“They were really good and really physical. They won the battle up front and we couldn’t get much going offensively,” Auvinen said. “When you are not owning the line-of-scrimmage it’s really tough to move the ball unless you throw it really well, and we didn’t throw or catch really well tonight.”
McNary quarterback Jack McCarty found Gunner Smedema on a screen pass for a 27-yard gain — which was the Celtics longest play of the night — on third-and-19, but McNary was still forced to punt. Bullock soon followed with his third touchdown run of the night to give Sprague the four-score lead.
The Celtics got into the red zone for the first time late in the fourth quarter but they were turned away when McCarty was picked off for the second time.
McNary’s next task won’t be any easier as they get set to travel to undefeated West Salem for a 7:30 p.m. game on Friday, March 26, but Auvinen believes that his team is up for the challenge.
“We have played really well against them the last few years. It’s a game where we should come in feeling confident, but we got to get better from this one,” Auvinen said.
Matt Rawlings: [email protected]