Celtic football banged up but not done yet

McNary football is getting ready for senior night, as they host the North Medford Black Tornado on Friday.

North Medford (4-3, 4-1) has looked like two very different teams in their wins and losses this season. They’re averaging 31 points in games they win. But in the three losses the Black Tornado has suffered, they’ve scored a total of 19 points. 

“You’ve got to take away what they do best,” McNary head coach Connor Astley said.

And for the most part, North Medford has been a run-first team, led by senior running back Ty Pugliano. 

Ty’s brother AJ, a junior tight end and linebacker, is the No. 1 recruit in the state from the class of 2024, according to 247Sports.

In the trenches, they have two of the top offensive linemen in the state. Junior Terrell Kim is the No. 4 recruit in the state according to 247Sports’ class of 2024 rankings. Senior David Fuiava is ranked the No. 35 senior recruit in the country by 247Sports.

“They’re big, they’re powerful, they do their job well,” Astley said. “They’re everything North Medford wants them to be.”

In all, the Black Tornado returned seven starters on offense, four of who made first-team all-conference last season. 

However, it’s the loss of a senior that wasn’t there in 2021 that has been a big story in recent weeks.

Back on Oct. 7, North Medford senior quarterback Caiden Lacey went down on the team’s first offensive play against Roseburg — a game North Medford won 42-6. Lacey was stretchered off, and taken to a local hospital, where he was discharged later that night. 

According to North Medford head coach Nathan Chin, Lacey was in concussion protocol and suffered slight whiplash. 

Lacey wasn’t on the field for North Medford last week, a 42-6 loss to Sheldon, but he was on the sidelines. 

The loss of their starting quarterback has forced the Black Tornado to be even more of a run team.

“They become a little bit more one-dimensional,” Astley said. “They still throw the ball quite a bit, but they went from about a 50/50 run pass split to 75/25.”

The Celtics are dealing with their own injuries. According to Astely, they’re down to 13 varsity players, not including swing players or players that also play on junior varsity.

It’s a common story across the state and country. Multiple schools have been forced to forfeit games, or remainders of the season, due to a lack of healthy players.

But Astley doesn’t want to entertain an idea like that.

“I want to make sure that we end this season with giving our seniors the best opportunity and letting them play the game that they love,” Astley said. “It gets very small on the funnell of who goes to college sports and get to play at that next level. I want to give them as many opportunities as we can to continue to play the game.”

Astley said he is ready to call up more players from the JV squad to ensure these final two games of the season can be played.

The Celtics are possibly down their top two running backs and four linebackers. Jake Allen and Hunter Ruberto, both of who play both spots, are in concussion protocol, and availability Friday is still unknown. 

Jake’s brother Ben was ejected against West Salem last week, and as a result is unavailable for McNary this week as well. Their fourth linebacker, Jeremy Kite, has a potentially torn hamstring, according to Astley.

Despite the injuries building,