McNary Football, Sports

Rough start to Astley era, but still encouraged

The first game for head coach Connor Astley and the McNary Celtics may not have gone how most of them hoped, but Astley isn’t discouraged.

Following a 47-0 loss to Lakeridge to open the season Friday, Sept. 2, Astley was still positive in his assessment of his team, as well as the talent level of their opponent.

“That’s a well coached team, that’s a state champion contender there,” Astley said. “I felt like we really battled in the first half. The score necessarily didn’t reflect that, but kids were flying around, kids were being where they were supposed to be, fighting through it all. There were a lot of positives to go with the negatives.”

Among those positives that Astley sees are his group of leaders. Hunter Ruberto took charge of the defense, getting guys in position and, as Astley said, making sure the defense operated the way it should. 

“I thought our leadership crew really held the ship together,” Astley said. 

Astley also commended Ben Allen’s rushing of the ball, and his offensive line’s play. 

When it comes to the offensive line, the Celtics have a young front, and were down their starting center at Lakeridge. And while they held up for most of the game, in a few critical moments the Pacers pressure was able to get to quarterback Jackson Alt.

The first possession of the game told that story.

Facing a third and one, the Celtics chose to pass. Alt had little to no time as the pass rush got to him, forcing a sack and a three and out from the Celtics offense. 

Coming into the game, McNary knew their defense had a task on their hands with the top prospect in the state Joey Olsen. But the 6-foot-five-inch, 220-pound receiver wasn’t even the best player on the field for Lakeridge.

Lakeridge quarterback Ryan Oliver threw for 356 yards and five touchdowns, both career highs for the senior. Oliver connected with Baylor Corbin for 225 yards and three scores on 12 receptions. Olsen had 88 yards and two scores. 

Following the loss, Astley had a firm message to his team.

“You get 24 hours to sulk in it and be pissed or be sad or however you’re feeling it and then you’ve got to flip the switch,” Astley said. Those leadership characteristics we have will keep us going forward and hold those guys accountable and make sure in 24 hours we’re ready to move on to the next point.”