They may not have been the ones to wake the sleeping giant, but the Celtics were caught in its path Friday night.
Sheldon — last year’s 6A state championship runner-up — started the season slow, going 0-2 and scoring just three points in each of the first two weeks. But the Irish came to life in their week three trip to Sprague, a 50-13 win. And that momentum continued when McNary took the trip to Eugene.
“It looked like they got back to basics,” McNary head coach Connor Astley said. “They just ran basic stuff that we knew they were going to run and they’re just a little bit quicker, a little bit faster, a little bit bigger.”
The 49-6 final score was also the score at halftime, and McNary’s lone score came in the closing seconds of the first half.
Caden Balos-Masey’s 97-yard kickoff return touchdown put the Celtics on the board
“Balos is an explosive player. That’s why he is an offensive starter, that’s why he is a special team starter for us,” Astley said. “And when he gets the ball in his hands there’s always that chance, and he looked really good running that.”
It was the first kickoff Balos was able to get his hands on after Sheldon kicker Rocco Graziano had put every previous kick into the endzone for a touchback. And it ended up looking much better than it started out.
Balos bobbled the ball before picking it up at the three-yard line and made his way towards the far sideline. He found a running lane around the 20-yard line, cut up field and put distance between himself and the Sheldon kickoff team.
The touchdown snapped a near 10-quarter scoreless streak for the Celtics.
“There’s a bit of excitement, there’s a bit of that’s what that’s supposed to look like, there’s a bit of feeling of, ‘oh thank God,’” Astley said. “But it’s definitely one of those things where we know we can capitalize if we just continue to do our job.”
And they nearly capitalized on it to begin the second half. McNary’s third quarter drive was their longest, both in time and distance. They took the entirety of the third quarter’s running clock, but came up short at the Sheldon 12-yard line.
“Guys just kept going,” Astley said. “It’s one of those things where if you stay in it long enough, if you continue to battle long enough, something’s bound to go your way.”
The defense battled in the second half as well, getting its first stop against the Sheldon offense. Friday night was also the first time this season the McNary defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher.
They’ll have to keep that same mentality heading into this coming Friday at North Salem. Vikings running back Jamahl Wilson entered week four leading the conference in rushing yards with 437. North Salem suffered its first loss of the season this past week in a 56-21 game at North Medford.