The Celts scored their most points of the season, and their first on offense since week one, but the 20-point output wasn’t enough to spoil North Salem’s homecoming.
McNary (0-5, 0-3) moved the ball more consistently than they had all season, but they couldn’t overcome a 27-0 halftime deficit in the eventual 48-20 win for No. 9 North Salem (4-1, 2-1).
The offense for the Celts hadn’t put points on the board since their three touchdowns in week one against McMinnville. But on Friday, they reached the end zone three times, twice by junior running back Jeremiah Tracy.
“He finally tapped into his potential. He finally started giving himself the positive self-talk that we’ve been trying to give him. And it paid off,” McNary head coach Connor Astely said. “He ran the ball hard, he read the cuts right. He trusted his judgment and he finally is starting to reach the potential that we’ve been telling him he’s had for years.”
As might be expected from the way the season has gone, neither of Tracy’s scores were easy ones.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, he scored from 14 yards out after running through a North Salem defender. In the final minutes of the fourth, Tracy broke away from a crowd of defenders — with an official nearly blowing the play dead — and scored on a 24-yard run.
Outside of a three-and-out on their opening possession, the Celtics offense was able to move the ball against the Vikings. And decisions on their second drive showed the mentality that Astley and the Celts came into Friday with.
Deep in their own territory, the Celts put their chips on the table with a fake punt. Roman Burrus took the snap, read the defense and made his way up the right sideline to midfield and a McNary first down.
Twice more the Celtics went for it on fourth down on that drive. The second quarter opened with a fourth-and-nine at the North Salem 37-yard line. Burrus picked up 16 yards on a completion from QB Gage Smedema.
Moments later, they were stopped short on a fourth-and-one at the 12-yard line.
It was the first of two times the Celtic offense had a drive end in the red zone Friday night. The other, on a fourth-and-goal from the seven when Smedema was cut short at the two-yard line.
But even with the offensive success, the McNary defense could’t find an answer for 6A leading rusher Jamahl Wilson and his five touchdown night for North Salem.
Wilson entered Friday with 626 yards and eight TDs while averaging 14.5 yards per carry. He put up 230 yards just on his five scores, coming from 11, 73, 38, 64 and 44 yards out.
“We knew that [Wilson] ran the ball hard.He’s definitely their best athlete out there. He makes cuts at full speed that just, I mean it looks like a college athlete right there,” Astley said. “I’d give that kid a full ride scholarship if I was any DII, DIII school.”
This wasn’t even Wilson’s best game. Last season, while at McKay, Wilson ran for 444 yards and six touchdowns against Crescent Valley.
And a week after facing the most dynamic runner they’ve faced this season, the Celtic defense will have to flip their mentality as they prepare to face No. 4 South Salem and the state’s top passing attack.
“You give yourself 24 hours from right now, and you look at North and you look at the film and you evaluate it and you try to get better from it,” Astley said. “And then 24 hours from right now, you switch gears to South Salem and you move on.”
Saxon senior quarterback Athan Palmateer has thrown for more than 1,500 yards and 16 TDs through the first five games this season with just one interception.
Through four weeks, senior receiver Esteban Mendez led 6A with 502 yards receiving, with fellow senior receiver Eli Johnson fourth with 414 yards.
The game against South Salem is McNary’s homecoming game. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.