McNary receiver Noah Lelack tries to gain extra yardage after a catch in the Celtics 21-9 loss to Barlow on Friday, Sept. 27 (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

The McNary football appeared to be in complete control of the game in the first half. The second half, however, was a different story. 

After McNary took a 9-0 lead into the locker room, Barlow scored 21 unanswered in the second half to come away with the 21-9 win on Friday, Sept. 27, dropping the Celtics to 0-4 on the season. 

“We wore down physically and mentally and kept stabbing ourselves in the foot,” McNary head coach Jeff Auvinen said. “We definitely left some plays out on the field on both sides of the ball.”

The Celtics had their best opening drive of the season to start the game off. On the second play of the contest, McNary quarterback Erik Barker connected with Riley Flores on a deep post for a 47-yard gain putting the Celtics in the red zone. 

Three plays later, Barker found the end zone on a quarterback sweep, just reaching the across the pylon before going out-of-bounds, giving McNary the early 6-0 lead. 

Barlow wouldn’t have nearly as much success on their first drive as they went three-and-out and were forced to punt the ball back to the Celtics. 

After multiple mistakes stalled their next two possessions, the McNary offense appeared to get back into a rhythm in the second quarter when Celtics defensive back Junior Nunez forced a Barlow fumble to give his team the ball back. 

Barker started off the possession by picking up a first down with his legs. Two plays later, the senior signal-caller escaped a heavy pass-rush and found Zane Aicher for a 15-yard gain to the Bruins 22-yard line.

Even though the Celtics couldn’t punch it in the end zone, Daniel Mood hit a 36-yard field goal the give McNary the 9-0 advantage.  

While Barlow drove deep in to Celtic territory late in the second quarter, the Bruins were turned away when Aron Montoya picked off a pass from Barlow quarterback Jaren Hunter on the last play of the half, preserving the McNary lead. 

However, the Celtics couldn’t sustain the momentum once the second half begun. 

Early in the third quarter, Hunter found Nathan Amadio wide open on a broken play up the sideline, and the senior receiver cut back upfield and went past a pair of McNary defenders to reach the goal line for the score. 

The Bruins regained possession after a quick three-and-out from McNary and wasted no time moving the ball, using their physical rushing attack to get into McNary territory. 

“Instead of messing around so much with their downfield vertical passing game, (Barlow) decided to be physical and run the football,” Auvinen said. “That didn’t mix very well with us being fatigued and I think they smelled blood in the water. They really ran the football well in the second half and we didn’t rise up. We just kind of sat back and took it. We didn’t match their physicality.”

A 10-yard run from Barlow running back Jake Fay gave the Bruins their first lead of the game at 14-9 with 5:21 left in the third quarter. 

McNary got back in business when Barker found Nunez across the middle for a big gain into Barlow territory. 

However, the Barlow defense rose up with a big sack moments later to force McNary into a fourth-and-18 situation. In no-man’s-land at the Barlow 32-yard line, the Celtics decided to go for it. 

On the ensuing play, Barker bought himself time and connected with McNary running back Junior Walling in the corner of the end zone for what appeared to be a touchdown, but a holding call negated the score and pushed the ball back 10 yards. With it being fourth-and-28, McNary elected to punt. 

“We had a lot of mistakes. Plays were there to be made and we didn’t make them,” Auvinen said. “Our defense played their butt off tonight, and our offense gave us a chance early, but if they would have put the pressure on, it would have been a totally different game.”

Midway through the fourth quarter, McNary had a chance to take the lead once again. 

A pair of first down runs from Barker had the Celtics inside the Barlow 20-yard line. On third-and-one, Barker had his number called once again on a quarterback draw, but this time the Barlow defense stuffed him with a two-yard loss. 

Facing fourth-and-three, Barker sprinted to his right looking to throw to the end zone. But his pass intended for Noah Lelack was knocked down and the Celtics were forced to turn the ball over on downs with 5:41 remaining. 

The Bruins ripped off three chunk plays in a row to find themselves in the red zone. Eventually, Hunter scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak to put the game on ice with less than three minutes remaining. 

“I want to commend the kids. They played hard and they played physical. We just kind of lost it the last quarter,” Auvinen said. “We’re still a work in progress, but the good thing is that we are seeing strides.”

McNary will strive for their first win of the season on Friday, Oct. 4 as they travel to South Medford for their final non-conference game of the season. 

Matt Rawlings: [email protected]