As the Celtics and head coach Connor Astley still look for win number one, sights are squarely on Friday night’s homecoming game against the North Salem Vikings.
The Vikings (3-1, 1-1) had outscored their opponents 107-3 in their first three games. Head coach Jeff Flood said in the preseason they needed to establish a defensive identity. It looked like they had. But last Friday they lost to North Medford 23-17.
In week two, senior running back Josiah Davis injured his ankle. The next week, at North Medford, Davis carried the ball only 12 times for 50 yards. It was a similar story last season when North Salem, and Davis’ health could be a big story come gametime Friday.
“They would love for him to be healthy, and they feel better with their offense when he’s out there,” Astley said. “But they’re ready to plug in the next guy.”
If he’s in there, Astley knows what they’ll have to do to take down the powerful back.
“Gang tackle, get two guys on him at all times and take him to the ground” Astley said.
While Davis may be the biggest piece, the biggest name on the Vikings offense is junior quarterback T.C. Manumaleuna. He’s a three year starter that received an offer from the University of Oregon before his freshman year. He’s received offers or interest from multiple top college programs.
Flood doesn’t ask a lot from his quarterback regularly, but when he does, Manumaleuna delivers. He only had to throw six times out of 56 plays in a 26-0 win against Roseburg. Against North Medford, with Davis hurt, he threw 29 times out of 55 plays.
“When they needed the big play, they needed the explosive thing they put his number out there and say ‘we’ll roll with you,’” Astley said. “That’s definitely in the back of our minds as well.”
This is the Vikings’ first season up in 6A, but that doesn’t mean Astley and the Celtics are unfamiliar with them. They met during the spring 2021 season, a 47-0 win for the Celtics.
“They’re running the same offense, they have the same guys, T.C. was there,” Astley said. “The familiarity isn’t as consistent as some of these other teams, but it’s there.”