By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The lead changed hand sthree times in the last quarter of a game between the McNary and West Salem high school varsity football teams Friday, Oct. 16. The tumultuous quarter ended in a 43-40 loss for McNary.
“I think we did a little of everything. We ran the ball well and passed the ball well,” said Jeff Auvinen, McNary head coach. “Defensively we had trouble with consistency, we’d get a three-and-out and then let them march down the field.”
As the third quarter ended McNary had just failed to convert their last drive leading to a punt attempt in their own red zone. A high snap left the punter without many options other than falling on the ball which he did and the Titans took over at McNary’s one-yard line. Two plays later, Titan quarterback Brody Wittman rolled around the outside of the pack to get the touchdown. A successful two-point conversion made the score 37-34 in favor of West.
After two unsuccessful drives, McNary took control of the field at West’s 31-yard line. A trio of rushing attacks by Celt running back Brady Sparks and quarterback Trent Van Cleave took the ball to West’s nine-yard line. McNary spread the defense on a fourth-and-goal attempt that let Van Cleave take a snap between the legs and dive into the end zone for the 40-37 lead.
Unfortunately for McNary, the Titans responded by returning the kickoff for a touchdown to take a 43-40 lead with 1:18 left on the clock.
McNary was at second-and-15 after a penalty when Van Cleave ran into the middle of the pocket looking for a receiver. As he drew back to fire it off, the ball was stripped and West recovered, ending the drive and allowing the Titans to run out the clock for the win.
The Celts started off scoring in the game with a touchdown pass from Van Cleave to Brendan Van Voorhis at 8:29 in the first quarter. An extra point by Victor Zavala made the score 7-0. The Titans took back control, and an 8-7 lead, less than two minutes later.
With 3:39 left in the first, McNary struck again on a 17-yard touchdown rush by Kyle Aicher making the score 13-8.
“We’ve been really working hard in practice and we’ve really found our weapons. If you look back at that game with West it wasn’t like we had one receiver dominating or even one runner,” Aicher said.
It took West only two plays to reclaim a 15-13 lead on a long, perfectly timed bomb.
Sparks was the next one to the board on a 25-yard touchdown run at 8:04 in the second quarter. With a successful point after, McNary led 20-15.
Three drives later Van Cleave connected with Aicher for another touchdown and the 27-15 lead going into the half.
“I think we handled everything as best we could up front. They did bring a lot of pressure from the outside in the first half, but we made a few adjustments at halftime and I thought we did well with that,” said Celt Jason Sperle.
The Titans made a steady march to the Celtic end zone to score at 7:34 in the third frame for a score of 27-22.
“It really came down to discipline,” said Van Cleave. “On that touchdown we only had 10 guys on the field, and there’s little things like that we need to take care of.”
McNary punted away its first drive after a steady rain started to fall, but West fumbled on the first play of its return and Celt Hayden Sader recovered the ball at West’s 45-yard line.
The Celts extended their lead again when Van Cleave ran in a touchdown from the Titan four-yard line to make the score 34-22. However, West jumped right back into the fray on its next drive and made the score 34-29 and setting up the fourth quarter.
Despite the loss, Auvinen said the team had the right mindset going into the game, it was simply little things leading to touchdowns that broke down over time.
“On offense we executed well and came out pretty strong. It wasn’t that great at the end, but we started good,” Van Cleave said.
McNary faces the Greater Valley Conference leaders, South Salem High School, Friday, Oct. 23.
“Offensively, we just have to keep moving the ball and doing what we’ve been doing. Defensively, we really have to pick it up this week and study lots of film. If we catch them on an off day, it’s a game that can go our way,” Aicher said.