Black Tornado run through McNary

Coming into Friday’s game, the McNary defense knew that North Medford wanted to run the ball. But with their depleted linebacker corps, the Celtics just couldn’t slow the Black Tornado down.

North Medford (5-3, 5-1) had three players score rushing touchdowns on the way to a 52-6 win.

The Celtics (0-8, 0-6) were without their four top linebackers. Jeremy Kite was out with a hamstring, while Hunter Ruberto and Jake Allen were held out for concussions. Jake’s brother Ben Allen was ejected in the previous week’s game against West Salem, keeping him out against North Medford. 

The Black Tornado ran for 226 yards in the game, with six players recording a rush attempt. Alexander Angulo reached the end zone three times, rushing for 123 yards on 15 carries. Kilohana Wailleua added 55 yards and a score on nine carries, and Jeremiah Robbins scored on one of his two attempts. 

While the Celtics and head coach Connor Astley expected the run, Astley said it came from different looks than he expected. Rather than the double tight-end and overload sets Astley thought they’d see, the Black Tornado spread the offense — and defense — out. Paired with their two top-tier linemen, senior David Fuiana and junior Terrell Kim, the Black Tornado’s run game dominated the line of scrimmage.

“It surprised me a little bit that they were so spread, but they still ran the ball and did what they wanted,” Astley said. “We knew what they were going to do, we tried to be gap sound, but it’s hard when they’ve got guys like [Fuiana] and [Kim] over there who can move like a running back, just bullying our guys out of the way. It’s hard to compete with that size.”

Astley didn’t think the different-than-expected look from North Medford’s offense had much to do with the defensive issues. Astley said they knew going in that they didn’t have players in the positions they’re used to. He had defensive linemen and a safety playing linebacker. 

“They’re not accustomed to it and it’s not their primary problem which makes it all that more difficult,” Astley said.

Meanwhile on offense, the Celtics struggled. 

Throughout the season they’ve found their identity running the ball. But on Friday, with Ruberto and Jake Allen sidelined, the Celtics couldn’t get past the line of scrimmage, finishing with -31 rushing yards on 14 carries. 

Backup quarterback Kaiden Akerman’s five-yard scramble was the longest run of the night for McNary, who seemed to constantly be hit two-yards deep in the backfield on every attempt. 

Towards the end of the game, Astley had to resort to putting a lineman, James Catron, in the backfield. 

One facet of the game the Celtics did come away with an advantage was points off turnovers. The Celtics were able to take a Black Tornado fumble and turn it into their one scoring drive of the night.

Wide receiver Jabol Balos got behind the defense, quarterback Jackson Alt connected with him, and Balos did the rest. The 70-yard score came after the game was likely decided, cutting the deficit to 46-6 in the fourth quarter. 

Balos got behind the defense a few times on Friday, drawing a couple of pass interference flags as well as the touchdown. 

“He balled out,” Astley said. “He’s fast, he’s explosive, he’s quick-twitch. It’s all those basketball muscles he’s used to using. We were thankful to be able to use him in the second half like we did.”

The 70-yard pass was the longest play from scrimmage in the game for either team.

Unfortunately for McNary, they gave the points from Balos’ score right back when Deandre Card returned the kickoff for a touchdown. 

“It is deflating, for sure,” Astley said. “You almost get accustomed to it at a certain point, which is unfortunate. You want to keep the high energy, the momentum going, but it’s just deflating.”