When Arris Vasseur connected with Cameron Harrington for a 21-yard touchdown in the final minute of Friday’s game the Celtics notched their first touchdown reception of the season.
Vasseur’s fourth quarter pass over the top of the defense hit Harrington a couple of steps in the endzone between two West Salem defenders. Seven weeks into a struggle-filled season, the Celtics (0-7, 0-5) finally scored through the air.
“It’s a great ball, great ball. Throw it up to your guy, give him a chance,” McNary head coach Connor Astely said.
But just like Vasseur’s pass, the Celtic touchdown was just a drop in the bucket of a 55-14 loss to West Salem (3-4, 3-2).
It was one of the few times Vasseur threw the ball more than a few yards downfield in the game, finishing 14-for-21 with just 89 yards in the sophomore’s second start of the season in place of injured senior Gage Smedema. And this week, his start didn’t come as a surprise and allowed Astley and the coaching staff a full week to prepare their young QB.
“It wasn’t a shock value to him this time,” Astley said. “He was able to go out there, he knew what to expect. He knew the speed at which playing at the varsity level was.”
But even with seeing the speed of the game and having time to prepare, things didn’t start smoothly for the Celtic offense. Less than eight minutes into Friday’s game, Vasseur and the Celtics were in trouble, down 14-0 after a pick-six from the Titans’ defense on their second offensive possession.
On their first drive, it looked as though McNary was deep into West Salem territory after a long run from Jeremiah Tracy on third-down put them in the red zone, but a holding call brought the ball back beyond midfield.
The Celtics would go for it on a fourth-and-four from the Titans’ 43-yard line, but were stopped short.
Had those two plays gone differently, the story at halftime could have been decidedly different. McNary could have been heading into the locker room down just one score or even tied. Instead, they went into halftime trailing 28-7.
“We just got to clean up a couple small details and not give up the big play,” Astley said. “And unfortunately, we gave up the big play again in the second half, and so that seems to be our Achilles heel.”
Those big plays for West Salem came early in the second half. The opening kick return brought them across midfield, and junior QB Kaden Martriano capped it off with a 28-yard scramble down the sideline for a score.
Martriano finished the night 11-for-15 for 193 yards and three touchdowns in the air, along with 52 yards and the score on the ground.
The McNary defense could rarely even pressure Martriano as his offensive line, anchored by two 6-feet-7-inch tackles both weighing more than 300 pounds, kept the West Salem QB clean.
The Celtic defense did make one big play when Jordan Araiza picked off Martriano in the endzone in the second quarter.
McNary takes their long road-trip of the season this week when they head down to face North Medford on Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.