By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Isaac Parker, head coach of the McNary varsity football program, was looking to deliver a punch at the outset of the game against South Salem High School to set the Saxons on their heels.
It played out when quarterback Hayden Gosling lateraled the ball to Devon Dunagan, and Dunagan sent a precision-pass into the hands of Kyle Torres on the run. The maneuver moved the Celtics from their own 35-yard line to North Salem’s 15-yard line on the second play of the game.
“I think fun things like that help our kids to ease their nerves at the start of the game, and helps them remember it’s a game and it’s meant to be a fun experience. If the play actually works, that’s just a bonus,” Parker said.
But what might have been an uppercut turned into a glancing right cross after the Celts incurred two penalties and settled for a Hayden McCowan field goal from the 16-yard line.
McNary’s struggled frequently near the end zone throughout the night after drives that highlighted the team’s potential.
“We have to learn to focus more down there and capitalize on the opportunities. I think we could have easily had at least 28 points in the first half without those mistakes,” Parker said.
McNary’s 31-15 win over the Saxons on Friday, Sept. 27, saw the Celts spread the ball around en route to the win and the Celtic defense offered up plenty of key stops.
“We played some pretty good defense. Everything is starting to make sense, I think,” said junior Connor Goff.
South took its only lead (6-3) of the night on its return drive, and Celt Tim Hays caught a bobbled attempt at a two-point conversion.
On the Celts’ next drive, Gosling made three connections with DJ Wilson to move the ball to the Saxon red zone. The Saxons stopped a run attempt by Brett Hildebrand, but Kyle Torres took the next snap and tucked it under his arm for a touchdown run and 10-6 lead with McCowan’s successful point-after.
Daniel Brattain, Brayden Taylor, Perry Groves and Wilson all contributed with big tackles to foil the Saxons’ next drive.
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