Gopher running game will test Celt defense

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Members of the Celtic defense pile on a Hillsboro High School running back during the game Friday, Sept. 7. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

When the McNary High School varsity football team takes the field against Gresham High School Friday, Sept. 14, Head Coach Isaac Parker is going to be looking for something that won’t be readily apparent to fans and spectators.

“It will be the trust. There’s indications that the kids don’t quite trust their job or don’t quite trust their buddy next to them. We need to start seeing it in the execution,” Parker said.

The Celts (1-1) travel to Gresham (2-0) and will face their first big offensive threat in the Gopher running game. Game time is 7 p.m.

“Our defense has been solid, but we’ve let some big plays go. If that happens with Gresham, they’re going to take advantage and go for six,” said McNary running back Brett Hildebrand.

The Gophers field two powerhouses on offense in running backs Devauntae Hoffman and Micah Tolai. In just the first two games of the season, Hoffman has piled up 306 yards of offense and two touchdowns. Tolai has 238 yards and four touchdowns.

Parker is anxious to see how McNary’s defense holds out against such an assault.

“I think they’re good, but this will be the first test against a really good offense,” Parker said. “We won’t be changing anything, but we can’t give [Hoffman] space because he’s really good with space.”

Celt Zac Fegles said he thinks McNary is up to the challenge.

“We’ve got to keep causing turnovers and limit ours. It’s going to be tough, but our defense is tight,” Fegles said.

The Celts reeled in two interceptions at the hands of Daniel Brattain and Perry Groves last week in their match with Hillsboro High School and recovered two forced fumbles.

McNary is still finding its legs with a new run-first offense that hasn’t had a breakout moment yet this season.

Hildebrand is averaging slightly less than five yards per carry during his first two games and he’s been the backbone of McNary’s running game.

Celt quarterback Hayden Gosling has completed 15 of 30 passes for 201 yards during McNary’s first two games, but Hildebrand hoped the team’s pass protection would improve during practices this week.

“All of us, including me, need to be better on pass protection. We didn’t give Goose [Hayden Gosling] enough time to throw the ball or make accurate passes last week. He was having to scramble,” Hildebrand said.

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