Pitch perfect

There was nothing unlucky about game number 13 for the Celtics.

With a hat trick from senior Hudson Brunk and a fantastic showing in goal from junior Emerson Carella, McNary (13-0, 8-0) defeated South Salem on the road 4-1 to finish off their historic regular season run Tuesday night. 

In head coach Miguel Camarena’s 21 years as a coach at McNary, he can’t remember a team to run the table and have a perfect record without even a tie. He said it definitely hadn’t happened in the conference, and hasn’t happened in the last 10 seasons at least, according to OSAA archived web pages. 

And while perfection in the regular season is nice, the Celtics know that the real season is just starting.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Brunk said. “When we get to those top teams later in the playoffs that will definitely be a challenge for this team, but I love the boys that I’m playing with. We put in a lot of effort and I think we can make a good run in the playoffs.”

It may have not been a picturesque setting, with rain coming down before halftime and wet conditions from the earlier rain. And the conditions definitely impacted the game.

There were a number of slips and problems with simple control touches, which kept the action going up and down the field. 

“Games like this, it’s always difficult,” Camarena said. “But that’s part of the game and we were able to figure it out and score four goals, and that’s awesome.”

Brunk opened the scoring Tuesday 12 minutes into the game when he ran down a perfect deep lead pass, beating his defender and the Saxon goalkeeper Rylan Davidson to the ball, putting it past Davidson and in the net. 

It’s a goal that Brunk has scored all season, but there wasn’t any celebration following this goal. Brunk stayed down following a collision with Davidson. He was down for a couple of minutes, was helped to his feet and came off the field with a slight limp.

But he wasn’t off for long. Six minutes later Brunk returned to the field.

Head coach Miguel Camarena considered sitting Brunk and looking towards the postseason, but after he came to Camarena and said he was good to go, Camarena sent Brunk back in.

“We knew that the only thing we were playing for today was perfection, but it’s important to think of the playoffs,” Camarena said. “But he told me he was ready to go.”

Brunk’s return was met with heckling from the South Salem student section, including chants of “over rated.” 

With 8:31 left in the first half and the rain starting to fall, Brunk did his best to silence them. He scored his second goal off another pinpoint lead pass, this time in the box, and a simple redirect from Brunk made the score 2-0.

In celebration, Brunk made his way towards the South Salem student section, finger to his lips in the universal sign of “shhhh.”

But it’s all in good fun to Brunk.

“It adds a little fun to the game, a little spice,” Brunk said. “Especially when you score right in front of them, then I get to shush them.” 

The student section might not have stayed quiet, but Brunk and the Celtics had the last word. 

His goal in the second half was his 26th of the season in 12 games played, which leads 6A play. And Camarena had some high praise for his midfielder.

“He’s the best player in the state,” Camarena said. “Having a player like him, it’s just something special every time.”

And while Brunk was putting the ball in the net for the Celtics, Carella was keeping it out. 

Carella came through with a number of athletic saves to keep the Celtics in front. Camarena called it Carella’s best game of the season. 

“That confidence for him is going to help us,” Camarena said. 

And even with the praise from his coach, Carella’s mindset was still about the team’s performance.

The action was much closer than the 4-1 final score tells. For most of the night, possession and attacks were nearly even. 

“South Salem is a good team and we know that,” Camarena said. “And to come here and play on their senior night is not easy. But we were able to figure out a couple opportunities.”

With the regular season behind them, the Celtics don’t have long to celebrate, as the first round of the playoffs is Saturday. And with the postseason looming, Camarena plans on working on the little things the rest of the week.

And some are looking both forward and back.

““This has been in the works since last year, we had a rough season last year,” Carella said. “But with our seniors this year we’re looking at state championships. We’re going all the way this year and I need to back up my team, especially in their senior year. It’s all for them.”