By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Turnovers continued to be a problem for the McNary High School varsity football team in a 44-28 loss to West Salem High School last week.
“We put up 28 points, but we had an opportunity to have 42,” said Rick Ward, McNary head coach. “We had a fumble at the one-yard-line and dropped eight passes that might have given us better field position.”
The Celts had a shortened week of practice with a homecoming game against South Salem High School Thursday past press time. It meant a day less to practice as competition in the Central Valley Conference reaches a fever pitch. The league has three teams at 2-0 and three at 0-2, including McNary and South Salem.
“A win would help and if we’d be the only team to take that win in that bottom three, it would really help our confidence,” said Celt Perry Groves.
After a huge performance a week prior, Celt Justin Gardner often found himself under double coverage by the Titans, cutting off the Celtics’ short passing game. On the other hand, it left Celt quarterback Justin Burgess to connect with receiver Garren Robinett for three touchdowns in the win.
“I thought we did a good job offensively, we were able to move the ball pretty well,” said Celtic senior Corey White. “On defense, we were able to recognize and call out the plays a lot on the field, we just kept missing tackles. It was a big thing and we need to be able to tackle in the open field a little bit better.”
McNary’s first drive ended in a punt and the defense stepped in to hold the Titans until their third down. A screen play gained the Titans a first down and the Titan quarterback Andy Siemens connected with Brandon Groat in open field for a 57-yard touchdown.
“Most of the time our defensive line was holding our own. Our outside containment was an issue, they got a lot of yardage on the outside,” said Celt Bruce Isabell.
West Salem recovered an onside kick, but the Isabell picked up a stripped ball as the Titans made their next drive. He ran it back to the three-yard-line before the Titans got a hand on him.
The Celtics made it to the one-yard-line when a missed handoff was scooped up by one of the Titans.
The Titans went up 14-0 at 9:36 in the second quarter. Helped along by a pass interference call, the Celts scored on a six-yard touchdown pass from Burgess to Jake Sperle at 6:47. The 14-7 gap didn’t last long, however, as West Salem responded with another touchdown drive re-extending its lead to 21-7.
McNary’s next drive ended in an interception that slipped through the hands of Celt receiver Mike Gerasimenko. West Salem wound down the clock on a slow drive punctuated by timeouts and put a field goal through the uprights for a 24-7 lead at the half.
“We had a lot of struggle with getting double teamed in the first half, we have to work on getting past that keeping our feet down and not getting pushed back,” Isabell said.
West Salem scored twice more for a 38-7 lead before Burgess made his first connection with Robinett on a 15-yard touchdown pass at 7:43 in the third, a blocked kick kept the score to 38-13.
White came up with an interception on the Titans return drive that would set the stage for another Burgess-Robinett touchdown pass at 2:32 in the third quarter. Burgess hit Austin Hejny on the two-point conversion to close the spread to 38-21.
West Salem found the Celtic end zone on a 19-yard run in the final minute of the quarter and the Celtics last points came on an 11-yard pass from Burgess to Robinette with 2:37 left in the game.
While the Celts didn’t escape with a win, there were some good things happening, Ward said. Offensive line discipline led to several offsides calls against the Titans. Robinett managed 171 yards on 11 catches.
“The offensive line did a great job protecting Burgess, he had time to throw all night. They have improved a ton, it’s just getting rid of simple mistakes,” Ward said.
Lineman Tyler Brown said there was still room for improvement.
“It’s a matter of getting where we need to go,” Brown said. “Hitting from the hips and getting to the right gaps. Just making sure we’re doing our jobs right.”