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Celtics fall on homecoming

Of the Keizertimes

McNary came from behind last season to defeat McMinnville on its homecoming.

A year later, the Grizzlies got their payback.

With 9 seconds remaining, McMinnville quarterback Samuel DuPuis broke a tackle to score a 2-yard touchdown as the Grizzlies stunned McNary 39-35 on Friday, Oct. 6.

After a squib kick gave the Celtics the ball at midfield, Erik Barker completed a 16-yard pass to Jacob Jackson to give McNary one last chance with 4 seconds left to play. However, Barker’s final throw sailed out of the back of the end zone.

After the game, McNary head coach Jeff Auvinen told his team McMinnville simply made more plays.

The Celtics led 35-24 entering the fourth quarter after Barker and Junior Walling connected for a 36-yard touchdown, the Grizzlies fumbled the following kickoff, Alex McGrath recovered, and then Walling added a 5-yard touchdown run.

With 7:29 remaining in the game, McNary failed to convert a third-and-1 and decided to punt, which McMinnville senior Odin Thorson returned 65 yards for a touchdown to get the Grizzlies within 35-32 after a successful two-point conversion.

“We kicked it low, we kicked it short and right to him,” Auvinen said. “He caught it moving forward and he was gone. That was good play by him and not a very good play by us.”

Auvinen said McNary coaches had discussed faking the punt before deciding to kick it.

“You don’t expect that to happen,” Auvinen said of Thorson’s return. “That’s about the worst-case scenario.”

The Celtics went three-and-out on its next possession, giving the ball right back to McMinnville with 6:07 left to play. Starting at their own 41, the Grizzlies completed a 7-yard pass and then ran the ball eight straight times to set up a third-and-1 from the McNary 7-yard line.

The Celtics stopped McMinnville short of the first down marker to set up a fourth-and-inches but then jumped offsides, giving the Grizzlies a first-and-goal inside the 4-yard line.

On second-and-goal from the 1, McNary linebacker Brayden Ebbs tackled Ray Jacob for a 1-yard loss. But DuPuis got into the end zone on the next play for the game-winning score.

McMinnville scored the first points of the game on a 34-yard field goal with 3:57 remaining in the opening quarter. But McNary quickly answered as Barker and H-back Jakoby Doke connected for a 7-yard touchdown with 1:41 left to play. Barker then found Jackson for a 25-yard touchdown to extend the Celtics lead to 14-3 early in the second quarter.

However, McMinnville closed the first half with two touchdowns as DuPuis and Thorson connected for an 11-yard score with 6:09 remaining. DuPuis then found Colton Smith for a 4-yard touchdown with just 3 seconds left in the half to give the Grizzlies a 17-14 lead.

“We lost our swagger for some reason,” Auvinen said. “At 17-14, we dropped our heads. I don’t quite understand it. I really preach to them to play that next play and forget about that one. We need to have that confidence that it’s going to be okay. We need to be able to play the next play.”

Barker threw a perfect pass to a streaking Jonny Williams for a 40-yard touchdown early in the third period. However, McMinnville immediately answered with a 64-yard touchdown pass on an underthrown ball the Celtics defense couldn’t make a play on.

“We didn’t cover anybody all night,” Auvinen said of his defense. “We at times tackled very poorly, not a very good effort in any aspect.”

Barker had his most efficient game of the season, completing 18 of 22 passes to eight different receivers for 274 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Walling caught three passes for 64 yards and rushed for another 83 yards and 24 carries. Robert Benson gained 50 yards on seven attempts. Jackson caught four passes for 63 yards.

The Celtics had four penalties for 35 yards and no turnovers.