Celts tackle undefeated Titans in final regular season game

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McNary’s Perry Groves races down the sideline for a big gain in the Celtics game with McKay High School Friday, Oct. 19. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

BY ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

In their first four Central Valley Conference games, the undefeated West Salem High School varsity football team hasn’t put fewer than 30 points on the board. It’s been left up to the Celtics to determine whether or not the team finishes the CVC unblemished.

McNary (2-2) faces West Salem (4-0) Friday, Oct. 6, at home. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. and the game is preceded by tailgate party hosted by the McNary Fine Arts Department beginning at 5 p.m.

The Celtics plan to draw on experiences a few weeks ago facing the higher-ranked Sprague Olympians.

“We realized that Sprague is a really good team and we had moments when we were hanging with them. We tried to focus on the positive aspects of that game and I think we’re going to be in that same area with West,” said Celt Kelly Cowan.

Linebacker Grant Gerster added that it will come down to mind over matter.

“They have the same athletic ability, it’s going to come down to the technical things like getting the right snap count so we don’t go offsides,” Gerstner said.

The Titans have a potent passing attack led by sophomore Cade Smith, the younger brother of current University of Wyoming starter Brett Smith.

Headed into last Friday’s squeaker of a win over South Salem High School, 30-29, Smith had completed more than 68 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns and ran for nine more. He led the team to an upset of the Sprague Olympians in the Titans’ first league game five weeks ago.

To combat Smith’s prowess in the pocket, McNary Head Coach Isaac Parker said the team would be focusing on consistency and improving on its more disciplined game they showed in a win over McKay High School last week.

“If we can consistently play good football, we will have a chance in this game.  West executes so well that once we lose consistency, we get behind in the ball game,” Parker said. “They are so well coached I doubt we can catch them off-guard on anything. I think they might underestimate our physicality and how much we’ve been improving.”

Lineman Perry Groves said the team will also be prepared for the Titan rushing attack.

“Their run game isn’t horrible either. We just need to make sure we’re doing our job. When we don’t, the whole thing is going to fall apart,” Groves said.

Regardless of the outcome, McNary is likely headed for a play-in game to secure a spot in the state title tournament, but Parker was eager for that opportunity.

“We have so much to improve on still and every week we play we get better so I’d rather play that week than not,” he said.

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