Celtics blank North Salem in dominant victory

McNary receiver Gunner Smedema runs by a pair of North Salem defensive backs for a 21-yard touchdown in the first quarter (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

After an eight-point loss to West Salem in the previous game, McNary head coach Jeff Auvinen said that he wanted to see more consistency from his team for the remainder of the season.

In their matchup with North Salem on Friday, April 2, the Celtics showed their coach that they could not only play with consistency against the Vikings, but be consistently dominant for four quarters.

McNary quarterback Jack McCarty threw for 256 yards and four touchdowns while the Celtics defense got their first shutout since 2016 in McNary’s 47-0 rout over North Salem.

It was the Celtics largest margin of victory since 2008.

“Every time we got it, we took it right down the field and every time they got it, we shut them down,” Auvinen said. “It was awesome.”

McNary had been plagued by poor starts in each of their last two games, but that wasn’t a problem in this one as the Celtics got out to a 26-0 lead in the first period.

McCarty led McNary on a four-minute, 70-yard drive, capped off by nine-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Copeland — who had six catches for 139 yards and two scores on the night.

“Honestly, it was really fun. We definitely came together as a program on offense,” Copeland said. “We are really putting it together at the end of the season.”

“Being able to pick up first downs and have long sustained drives is everything because it controls the game,” McCarty added.

The Vikings coughed the ball up on their second play from scrimmage and Kyle Grass recovered the fumble to give the Celtics great field position at the North Salem 33-yard line.

After McCarty scrambled 12 yards on third-and-long to move the sticks, he connected with Gunner Smedema on a screen pass, and the junior wideout juked out multiple Viking defenders on his way to a 21-yard score to put the Celtics on top 13-0.

North Salem had no answer for the McNary passing attack as McCarty was able to connect with numerous receivers on short, long and intermediate routes all throughout the first half.

“We really focused this week on having fun and kind of opening things up and making our stuff a little more interesting,” McCarty said. “I think it boosted morale for sure and it obviously worked because (North Salem) wasn’t prepared for it.”

The Vikings went three-and-out on their following possession, giving the ball right back to the Celtics. McCarty hit Copeland downfield on a long pass into Vikings territory, and then two players later, the senior signal-caller hit Ethan Martin up the seam for a 23-yard score.

“It really came down to Jack having a great game. He had great vision and threw the ball right where we wanted. He was throwing dimes all night long. The line gave him some nice protection,” Auvinen said.

“We game-planned really well and we had a good scout team this week. I knew where I was going on every play because I knew what look they were going to give us,” McCarty added.

Smedema would get in on the McNary passing attack in the following possession. After Grass recovered his second fumble of the night to put the Celtics in great field position, Smedema took a lateral from McCarty and chucked it downfield for a 39-yard completion to Copeland, putting the McNary offense inside the five-yard line. Celtics running back Zane Aicher rumbled for a four-yard touchdown the next play to extend the McNary lead to 26-0.

“I think we put in 10-plus plays this week, including some trick plays. We definitely opened up the playbook,” Copeland said.

North Salem scored a season-high 41 points the week prior in an 11-point victory over South Salem. But their Wing-T attack couldn’t muster much of anything against the stout Celtics defense — the Vikings only had two first downs in the first half.

“The defense did a great job with our game plan. The big thing was physicality,” Auvinen said. “Our scout team must have given us a good look this week because we were prepared and dialed in.”

Copeland got in the end zone again in the second quarter after he got behind the Viking defense and was hit in stride on a post by McCarty for a 37-yard touchdown. Dyami Rios scored his first touchdown of the season on a 12-yard run in McNary’s next possession.

It seemed that McNary’s only mistake in the first two quarters came late in the first half when McCarty fumbled while trying to get out of the pocket. But it didn’t take long for the Celtics defense to turn that negative into a positive.

On the last play of the first half, North Salem quarterback TC Manumaleuna appeared to be running an option to his right when he was stripped of the football before he could pitch it. Celtics linebacker Braiden Copeland scooped up and sprinted to the end zone as time expired to bring the McNary lead to 47-0.

The Celtics will play host to South Salem in the season finale on Friday, April 9, making it a unique and special senior night for the Celtics upperclassmen.

“It’s definitely going to be emotional. I’m just trying to enjoy every minute of football,” McCarty said.

Due to many student-athletes graduating early due to COVID-19, McNary only had nine seniors on the varsity roster this season, so Auvinen wants to make his seniors feel special in their final game.

“We have really taken a keen interest in the seniors this year. We are really going to honor those seniors that stuck with it. They have been great leaders for us,” Auvinen said.

Matt Rawlings: [email protected]