By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Games when a football team’s kicker is the standout player aren’t the most common ones, but McNary High School’s Hayden McCowan made the most of his minutes on the field with an onside kick, a 43-yard field goal and one of the most brutal tackles of the night in the Celtics’ first-round playoff win.
“You have to be confident, I just wasn’t thinking I would slip. I knew I had the distance, I just didn’t know if it would be left or right,” said McCowan of the kick that marked a turning point as the Celts put the game out of Roseburg High School’s reach.
The Celtics hosted the game with the Indians Friday, Nov. 8, and walked away with a 30-14 win. It was the team’s first win in a playoff game since 2008. McNary will now travel to face the Central Catholic High School Rams in the second round Friday, Nov. 15.
The night started off worse than it ended for the Celtics. A fumble on the team’s first drive was recovered by Roseburg at the McNary 34-yard line. Celts Jake Burrus and Kyle Torres joined forces on a sack that put the Indians at second-and-28, and Roseburg found no traction, resulting in a punt.
McNary’s second drive started on its own 40-yard line on a return by Tanner Walker. McNary running back Brett Hildebrand reset the downs on a run to Roseburg’s 45-yard line and a pass from quarterback Hayden Gosling to Torres put the team at the Indian 25-yard line. Hildebrand took the ball to Roseburg’s red zone, but a pass from Gosling intended for Devon Dunagan bounced off the receiver’s helmet in the end zone and landed in the hands of the Indian’s Noah Avery.
Celtics Lacroix Hill and Frank Rios helped stymy the return drive at Roseburg’s own 27-yard line. McNary would make it all the way to Roseburg’s one-yard line on the next drive. Hill took the handoff and looked to have made it into the end zone, but somewhere in the fray the ball got loose and Roseburg ended up with the recovery at their own three-yard line.
The Indians made a nearly seven-minute drive pay off with a touchdown pass from the 30-yard line. With five minutes remaining in the half, Roseburg led 7-0. McNary punted away its next opportunity, but the Celt defense gave up only four yards on Roseburg’s drive.
“We were just trusting each other. We came together and we took responsibility for our assignments,” Rios said.
Walker took the punt return to Roseburg’s 47-yard line and Hildebrand notched two first downs before making a touchdown run from the 28-yard line. He spun into the end zone after dodging a handful of tackles.
McNary juniors Trent Van Cleave and Drew McHugh ended Roseburg’s final drive of the half when Van Cleave batted away a pass attempt and McHugh grabbed it for an interception.
The teams went into halftime knotted 7-7.
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