There wasn’t much to celebrate on the field Friday night at McNary’s Homecoming game as No. 4 South Salem’s aerial attack handed the Celts (0-6, 0-4) their worst loss of the season.
The Saxons (6-0, 4-0) found the end zone nine times in the 62-0 win, and their 6A leading passing attack was on display from the first play of the game when leading receiver Esteban Mendez came in motion across the formation and QB Athan Palmateer found him alone downfield for an 80-yard touchdown.
“It happened to us in the JV and the freshman game yesterday. We couldn’t get our linebacker to carry him well enough for our safety to get over the top,” head coach Connor Astley said. “They like to go five wide, they like to go four wide. They like to move them around and cause our guys to shift in motion and get out of alignment and they did a really good job executing their stuff.”
It was the first of three scores for South Salem on the first play of a drive. Palmateer threw for 392 yards and five touchdowns in just one half of football, bringing his 6A leading totals to 1,919 yards and 21 touchdowns with just one interception.
On the other side of the ball it was a baptism by fire for sophomore quarterback Arris Vasseur making his first start in place of the injured Gage Smedema. South Salem defensive end Hatimu Letisi came in leading 6A with seven sacks, and he added two more as the Saxons’ pass rush got to Vasseur five times in the game.
Despite the rough debut, Astley commended his young QB.
“He battled hard, he went through his progressions, he made the right reads and distributed the ball well or played it well in the speed option game,” Astley said. “He’s just got grit, he’s just going to battle it out and he’ll be good.”
The Celts did have one thing to celebrate at Homecoming. Senior defensive back Bradley Fryman was elected Homecoming King.
“Hey, we’ve got a king on board so that makes us royalty, so why not have a little fun with that,” Astley said.