Celtic quarterback Kyle Ismay

Celtic quarterback Kyle Knight looks for a receiver during McNary’s scrimmage Saturday, Aug. 28. (Keizertimes/ERIC A. HOWALD)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

If there’s one thing senior Wes Heredia wants out of McNary High School’s gridiron clash with Crater High School Friday, Sept. 3, it’s redemption.

“I’m looking forward to proving some people wrong. I think we’re a better team than we’re being given credit for,” Heredia said.

McNary will travel to Central Point, Ore., for the game beginning at 7 p.m.

The Celtics finished last season with a whimper rather than a bang. In the season finale against North Salem only 12 of 23 seniors suited up for the game, the other fell victim to injury, illness or ended up on suspension for code of conduct violations.

Those looking for lingering portents in the Celt camp didn’t have to look long or hard as daily doubles got underway. Runningback Tim McDowell dislocated his thumb the third day of practice, but planned on playing against Crater in a splint, said Rick Ward, McNary head coach.

“Crater is a team that graduated a lot of kids, and some of their fastest, last year. They’ve got a really good quarterback and running back, but they’re a little more basic,” Ward said.

He felt McNary would have an advantage in speed over the Comets team.

“Garren Robinett and James Lowells are our fast guys and hard to cover,” Ward said.

Crater was looking particularly vulnerable this year especially for a hard-working Celtic team, said Kyle Ismay, McNary quarterback.

“We’re look crisp on offense, things look good on defense and the line is working hard. I’m really optimistic and excited to get out there and play,” Ismay, a senior, said.

On Crater’s side of the field, head coach John Beck was anticipating the debut of his offensive line, where he boasts more than a few returning players.

“We’ve been prepping a spread offense and a multi-front defense that we’ll be ironing the wrinkles out of before the game,” Beck said.

Beck’s shot caller, senior Tyler Turituri, passed for nearly 1,200 yards (70-114, with 18 TDs) last season. He also expected a big performance out of Comet kicker Austin Sigel.

Crater isn’t expected to finish in the top of Southern Sky Conference this season, but Ward isn’t taking anything for granted.

“Southern Oregon teams are tough and they get after it. Everybody is good down there,” Ward said. “We’re a little inexperienced in the line, but the kids are coming along. I like what I’m seeing and everyone’s working hard.”

The Celtics were fine tuning the details and tightening up the slack throughout practices this week. Ward was planning to pay special attention to special teams work the night before the game, Heredia said that’s one are he was eager to to begin work on.

“Our defense is going to be a big key, especially working out blitzes,” he said.

Ismay felt the team was meshing better than last season’s, but there was still some heavy lifting to be done.

“The thing we need to work on is making sure every player feels comfortable with every play,” Ismay said.