Subscribe to get tough, fair journalism seven days a week.
Subscribe today

Author: Derek Wiley

McNary Boys Varsity Basketball Preview:

Starting lineup has four new faces

Of the Keizertimes

Last January, Boston Smith had his coming out party, posting a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds in a 61-54 win over West Salem.

With the graduation of the Celtics other four starters, McNary is going to need a similar effort from Smith every game.

“It’s a lot different with team chemistry and different players in different roles,” Smith said. “But I think we’re going to have a strong inside-out game. There’s definitely more pressure to step into a leadership role this year. I feel really confident.”

McNary head coach Ryan Kirch believes the 6-foot-7 senior, who averaged 8.24 points and 3.64 rebounds per game last season, is up to the task.

“I think Boston is ready to take that next step,” Kirch said. “He’ll be the best post player in the league by far. I’m anticipating him being a First Team all league player.”

Seniors Alfredo Villarreal and Griffin Oliveira, bench players in the Celtics regular rotation, return and should play much more this season.

“Fredo and Griffin had a lot of varsity experience last year but their roles obviously change,” Kirch said. “We’ll look to the three of them (Smith, Villarreal and Oliveira) for leadership and all three have done a really good job so far.”

Another senior, Noah Hudkins, was in the starting lineup to open the season but out of the rotation by the end of the year.

“He played a lot smaller than he is and this fall has worked at playing bigger and has done a nice job,” Kirch said of the 6-foot-6 senior. “I’d really like to see him get more minutes on the floor. If we can play him and Boston together, it gives us a height advantage.”

Junior Walling, who averaged nearly three rebounds per game off the bench last season, will also be a valuable asset in the post.

Nate Meithof, a sophomore who averaged nearly 30 points per game on the freshman team last season, will play his first varsity minutes.

McNary won the Greater Valley Conference championship last season and has averaged 19 wins over the past four seasons. But the Celtics can’t count on previous years results as they move to a new league.

“Having the success we’ve had now for four or five years, it’s sort of the expectation that everyone has when they come into our program and we’re proud of that,” Kirch said. “But it’s making sure that guys understand you just don’t roll the ball out and compete at the highest level. There’s a certain energy that it takes to put that in.”

With the success of the program, McNary also had more boys tryout this season, 77 overall, including 37 freshmen. Kirch was able to keep 34 for the three teams—varsity, JV and freshman.

“At the beginning of the year you don’t like to set anything in stone and put competition on everything and make guys earn it,” Kirch said. “Every year is so different with the personalities and the group of kids. The key is molding them together whatever way you can.”

While one of McNary’s strengths has been defense, the Celtics aren’t quite there yet.

“We’re going to need to learn to shoot a little bit better on the perimeter and I think this group defensively, we’re not as strong or as physical as we’ve been the past four years,” Kirch said.

McNary opens the 2018-19 season at Madison High School in Portland on Dec. 7 at 7:15 p.m.

The Celtics first home game is Dec. 18 at 7:15 against Mountainside.

McNary to host state champions

Of the Keizertimes

Two defending state champions, Roseburg in 6A and Dallas in 5A, are coming to McNary as the Celtics open wrestling season on Friday, Nov. 30 with the Jerry Lane Invitational.

“They’re tough, top of the line,” McNary head coach Jason Ebbs said. “We like wrestling them. We like setting the bar. We like believing that’s the level we’re going to reach and beyond.”

Ebbs has been impressed with what he’s seen in the McNary wrestling room.

“I’m seeing a better focus in the kids and I’m just seeing a better confidence in them,” Ebbs said.

“We’re going through drills faster. They’re catching on a little faster.”

As usual, he just wishes there was more of them.

“With a school of 2,000 kids, all I want is 10 percent,” said Ebbs. “If we can get 200, we’re doing our job right. We’re just trying to make wrestling accessible to everybody. We’re looking for kids to take on the challenge and to grow.”

McNary had a little over 60 attend the first week of practice, which Ebbs called “on the good side of typical.”

“We’re bringing out a nice solid young group of kids,” Ebbs said. “We’ve got a little bit bigger freshmen group. It’s the first group that had a chance to wrestle three years in middle school.”

The Celtics are led by senior Enrique Vincent, who has won back-to-back district championships and placed third in the state at 120 pounds as a sophomore and fourth at 126 as a junior.

“I’m excited because it’s my last year,” said Vincent, who weighed in at 140 pounds to open the season and hopes to improve his technique and cardio.

McNary junior Nicolette Parra leads a small group of girls.

Parra, who has wrestled since middle school, won the Sierra Nevada Classic in Reno last season and then placed fourth at the girls state tournament

Surgery to repair a broken knuckle kept her from wrestling much in the offseason.

“I was doing a lot better than I thought I would,” Parra said of the first week. “I was wrestling with some people that I had a hard time with last year and it’s been a lot easier than I thought it would be.”

While Parra enters her junior year more confident, she also knows she won’t sneak up on anyone.

“I know what I’m capable of now but also people know my name now,” Parra said.

“I feel like last year people wouldn’t take me as seriously but now people know what to expect.”

While the OSAA will have its first official girls state wrestling tournament this season, Parra isn’t ruling out wrestling with the boys and qualifying for the traditional state tournament.

“I want to see if I can aim for boys state because I feel like it’s more of a challenge,” she said.

Sophomore Grady Burrows is the only other Celtic who has wrestled at the state tournament after placing fourth at 106 pounds at the district tournament last season.

McNary does return Garrett Wampler, who finished fifth in the district at 170, and Daniel Hernandez, who placed sixth at 120 pounds.

Noah Gatchet, a junior who wrestled on the varsity at 106 as a freshman but sat out last season, is back.

“He’s a good kid and I’m happy to have him back,” Ebbs said. “He’s a good influence on our team. He’s done club wrestling. He’s been around the mat a little bit. The good news is when he was a freshman, I think he weighed about 80 pounds. He’s up to about 113.”

The Jerry Lane Invitational, which also features Cleveland, Grant, Glencoe and Jefferson, begins Friday at 4 p.m.

“That’s the time when we start taking advantage of what we’ve learned so far, put things to the test,” Ebbs said. “A tournament usually provides a little value to what we’re doing in practice, helps kids set goals, helps them understand what it looks like outside of the room.”

Lady Celts young but experienced

Of the Keizertimes

McNary’s seven sophomores, five of which played on the varsity as freshmen, spent last season getting out the nerves.

“At the beginning of last year I was terrified because being a freshman and starting I didn’t want to disappoint my team,” point guard Leah Doutt said.

Now, the young Lady Celts are ready to ball.

“I just feel more comfortable because this is my group now,” Doutt said. “A lot of our team is sophomores this year and we’ve been playing together for as long as I can remember. I feel like we have really good chemistry and we play well together. It should be fun.”

Thanks to the varsity minutes played last season, McNary will be young but not inexperienced.

“Normally when you have seven sophomores, almost everyone is new to varsity but we’ve got three of them ((Doutt, Mackenzie Proctor and Kennedy Buss) that played quite a bit last year,” McNary head coach Elizabeth Doran said. “It helps a lot. When you’re dealing with young kids, the first time they’re playing varsity, there are a lot of nerves and there’s no way you can resolve that other than playing more minutes and that’s good that a lot of the sophomores have quite a few minutes under their belts”

Proctor gives the Lady Celts an outside shooting presence while Buss will provide toughness.

Rebekah Grimmer, another sophomore who played varsity last season, can shoot and play inside.

McNary returns two seniors in Abbie Hawley, who averaged more than nine points and three rebounds per game last season, and Sabella Alfaro, who averaged four points and more than four rebounds.

“I’m really excited for this year,” Alfaro said. “I can’t wait to watch us grow. We have a lot of young girls this year and I like teaching them. I love learning stuff from them at the same time. I’m going to definitely have to score more points this year. The biggest thing I’m going to have to offer this year is leadership.”

The Lady Celts have two juniors—Kyah Witherspoon and Regann Donahue, who returns after sitting out last year.

“That was a pleasant surprise that she came out,” Doran said. “We’re glad to have her. She’s a good athlete.”

With its lack of height, McNary will again play fast.

“We have to run people,” Doran said. “That’s no secret. We’re not a tall team. We have kids that can defend but we’re going to have to keep games full court to have success. We’re working on a lot of full court defense and pushing the ball in transition and turning it into a full court game. I want to get a lot of points out of our full court defense this year. I think that will be an area that we will be able to excel in.”

The Lady Celts open the season Thursday, Nov. 29 at home against Roosevelt.

The game tips off at 7 p.m.

McNary grad takes over Sprague hoops program

Of the Keizertimes

Jordan Graneto was voted the Greater Valley Conference’s boys basketball assistant coach of the year after McNary won the league title last season.     

But it was his experience as a player, where he won two league championships with the Celtics, that attracted Graneto to coaching.

He wanted to be like Jim Litchfield and Erik Jespersen, his varsity and JV coaches at McNary.

“I was on two really good teams when I was in high school,” Graneto said. “I just grew up around those guys (Litchfield and Jespersen) and they were the inspiration for me wanting to become a teacher and a coach. I loved basketball and those two were role models for me growing up.”

After graduating from McNary in 2009, Graneto earned a scholarship to play basketball at Corban University. After two seasons, Graneto stopped playing to become a volunteer assistant at Sprague.

Right out of college, Graneto got his first teaching job at North Salem, where he was the JV coach.

At just 22-years-old, Graneto was then named the head varsity coach at North Salem.

But after two years he decided to return home and accepted a teaching position at McNary, where he was also the JV coach and assistant varsity coach under Ryan Kirch.

“It’s always different going from being in charge of an entire program to being someone’s assistant,” Graneto said. “Ryan does a really good job and he gave me a lot of responsibility that I had control over with the varsity and JV team. I learned a lot from the different ways that he runs it.”

With Graneto as an assistant, the Celtics had two of their best seasons in the program’s history, winning 20 games last season and 19 the year before.

“The last three or four years are some of the best teams in McNary’s history,” Graneto said.

“I’ve been watching McNary basketball since I was eight or nine years old. They remind me a lot of the teams when I was in high school because they were a little bit undersized but they just moved the basketball so well and worked for good shots. A lot of times if you do that and play good defense then you’re going to be able to win.”

Making the extra pass and playing team defense will continue to be the focus as Graneto takes over the boys basketball program at Sprague, where his coaching career began.

“I’ve known Craig (Swanson), the principal at Sprague for a while,” Graneto said. “He was the athletic director when I was an assistant. We got to know each other a little bit then. I just felt comfortable with the situation with Craig being here and I trusted him.”

The Olympians will be one of the youngest teams in the new Mountain Valley Conference, after the graduation of Teagan Quitoriano, the leading scorer in the program’s history, and the transfer of Jailen Hammer to Clackamas.

“The kids have worked really hard so far,” Graneto said. “They want to get better, which is my main deal. I wanted to be somewhere where the kids really wanted to get better and so far they’ve done all that I’ve asked them in the offseason. They’re dedicated and I think they’re ready to go this year.”

Sprague opens the season on Friday, Nov. 30 at Canby. The Olympians first home game is Friday, Dec. 7 against Beaverton. They host McNary on Jan. 24.

Celtics eliminated in first round

Of the Keizertimes

LAKE OSWEGO—McNary’s football season ended the same way it started.

Riding high off a four-game winning streak and a league championship, the Celtics, who opened the season 0-5, came back down to earth in a 56-33 first round playoff loss to Lakeridge.

“We played slow and soft, not a good combination in the playoffs,” McNary head coach Jeff Auvinen said. “They (Lakeridge) played much faster. They played much harder than us. They were gritty and tough and they kicked our butt.”

The Celtics competed early as quarterback Erik Barker connected with Devyn Shurr for a 47-yard gain on the first play of the game. After the drive ended with a blocked field goal, Lakeridge went 23 yards on three plays to take a 6-0 lead with 9:24 remaining in the first quarter.

But McNary answered with a 12-play, 73-yard scoring drive to take its only lead, 7-6. Barker hit Nigel Harris for a 31-yard gain to get the Celtics to the 1-yard line, where Junior Walling then bulldozed his way into the end zone.

The Pacers then took control, scoring on plays of 45, 61, 14, 18 and 20 yards to take a commanding 42-7 lead at halftime.

After Lakeridge added another long touchdown to begin the third quarter, McNary’s backup quarterback, Ryan Bamford, connected with Jacob Jackson for a 17-yard touchdown.

An interception by Harris gave the ball right back to the Celtics and Barker out-jumped a Lakeridge defender to catch a 6-yard pass from Bamford in the end zone.

Bamford then threw his third touchdown of the game, on a 9-yard strike to Wyatt Sherwood, to get McNary within 49-26.

Robert Benson scored McNary’s final touchdown of the season on an 8-yard run with 3:20 remaining.

“We played a little harder, a little faster, like we should have played the whole game,” Auvinen said of the Celtics effort in the second half.

McNary finished the season 4-6. The Celtics won all four of their Mountain Valley Conference games but were outscored 307-113 in non-league games.

“We did not do well out of league,” Auvinen said. “I think we have the ability. I think we just have to get the mentality going that we belong and get after it.”

Walling, Schmeltzer lead all-league picks

McNary had 10 football players voted to the All-Mountain Valley Conference teams.

Junior Walling, a First Team running back and linebacker, rushed for 951 yards and 11 touchdowns while leading the Celtic defense with 79 total tackles, including 44 solo and five sacks.

Joshua Schmeltzer was selected to the First Team at both offensive guard and defensive line.

He finished the regular season with 22 tackles.

Michael Ridgway (guard), Griffin Oliveira (receiver), Nigel Harris (corner) and Jacob Jackson (safety) were named to the First Team as well.

Oliveira, who was also voted a Second Team safety, caught 30 passes for 334 yards and two touchdowns this season on offense and recorded 51 tackles and two interceptions on defense.

Jackson, who was also honorable mention at receiver and kicker, had 62 tackles and five interceptions.

On offense, he caught 31 passes for 354 yards and two touchdowns.

Harris, who was also honorable mention at receiver, recorded 27 tackles, seven pass breakups and two interceptions.

Dyami Rios, who had 69 total tackles and nine sacks, was voted to the Second Team at linebacker.

Erik Barker (quarterback), Nathan Young (center) and Noah Bach (linebacker) were honorable mention .

Jeff Auvinen was voted Coach of the Year.

West Salem quarterback Simon Thompson was named Offensive Player of the Year and linebacker Alex Hurlburt was Defensive Player of the Year.

Students make quick work of park clean-up

Of the Keizertimes

A group of about 60 Keizer students rose to a challenge that would cause many adults to cower Saturday, Oct. 27.

The group, representing, McNary High School and Claggett Creek and Whiteaker middle schools, removed about 50 yards of wood chips from a play structure, repainted a picnic shelter and generally cleaned up Country Glen Park in north Keizer.

“I love how we bring the community together in our schools and get a bunch of work done to make parks better and more presentable,” said McNary’s Miranda Coleman.

Coleman and Whiteaker students Kyler Carmichael and Tristyn Campbell were making repeat appearances at community service efforts organized through the schools.

“We have a lot of garbage laying around and it’s good to get out and pick it up,” said Kyler.

“I just like doing it and it’s a good workout,” added Tristyn.

Some of the chips removed from the play structure were spread around the trees in the park for weed control, the rest were hauled away. City staff planned to replace the old wood chips with relatively new ones taken out of the Keizer Rapids Big Toy last year.

Robert Johnson, Keizer’s parks supervisor, was grateful for the assistance, but he had larger goals in mind as well.

“This is a park where we’ve had some graffiti and vandalism and, if we get these kids involved in the community, then when they see someone doing something wrong they can speak up and talk about how they helped make it a better place,” Johnson said. “There’s about 60 kids here right now and that’s a lot of ownership happening.”

Aside from that, the students allowed Johnson to direct parks employees’ efforts elsewhere.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done in parks and help like this is crucial. For my guys to come in here, three or four of them, it would take a week just to remove the wood chips. We are going to, I hope, have it done in half a day. The kids will repaint the entire shelter in a few hours and that would take one of our employees a day or more.”

Matt Lawyer, a member of the Keizer Parks Advisory Board, was helping lead the volunteer effort alongside Johnson. The parks board was a driving force behind getting a parks services fee instituted to bolster maintenance and improvement efforts, but there is a long backlog of parks-related work to chip away at. It means volunteers are still needed to make the most of available resources.

“This project, specifically, speaks to the pride, spirit and volunteerism. We got the parks fee put in place, but these are the type of volunteer activities that we want to encourage people to do. Especially students at McNary,Whiteaker and Claggett Creek,” Lawyer said. “I think it’s still a very important part of why Keizer is awesome and the fee is a mechanism to continue doing these sorts of projects because now the parks department can pay to sponsor them.”

While students represented all corners of the three schools, McNary’s Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and Latino Club made concerted efforts to bring out their groups’ members.

Life of Wiley: OSAA rankings out of whack

McNary won its first league championship since 2005 last Friday.

The Celtics reward?

A road first round playoff game against one of the best teams in the state.

While the OSAA power rankings have never been exactly accurate, this season’s schedule, which featured five non-league and four league games, has shown a brighter light on its imperfections.

McNary finished seven spots behind West Salem, a team it beat handily just two weeks ago. The Titans have one more win and are benefiting from playing games against No. 1 Lake Oswego and No. 3 Sheldon. But neither of those contests was close and overall the Celtics played the tougher non-league schedule as two of West Salem’s wins came against No. 29 Grant and No. 23 Bend.

Of course, McNary also defeated Bend, in a league game.

North Medford didn’t do the Celtics any favors. After blowing out McNary to open the season, the Black Tornado lost six of their final seven games to finish No. 32 and barely make the postseason.

But the Celtics other non-league games came against No. 6 West Linn, No. 9 Tualatin, No. 13 South Medford and Tumwater, who finished 8-1 in Washington.

The Bend schools also have to be scratching their heads as Bend finished one spot ahead of Mountain View even though the latter just won 24-7 last Friday. Even more ridiculous, Sprague, who missed the playoffs after finishing No. 36, trounced No. 23 Mountain View 34-6 on Oct. 19.

The Olympians, who played an even tougher schedule than McNary, could not overcome a one-point loss to South Salem on Sept. 21.

How did McNary and West Salem’s non-league schedules prepare them for the playoffs?

My picks:

Southridge at West Salem

Neither of these teams enter the playoffs with a lot of momentum. While the Titans did blow out Sprague last week, they are just two weeks removed from falling at home to McNary. The Skyhawks ended the regular season with a 30-14 loss at home to Aloha. On paper, West Salem and Southridge have similar resumes. Both defeated Mountain View. The Titans lost at Beaverton by two points while the Skyhawks won at Beaverton by five. Southridge hasn’t won a playoff game since 2014 when it then lost by 42 points to West Salem in the second round. I’ll take the team coming off a win and playing at home.

Pick: Titans 38, Skyhawks 28

McNary at Lakeridge

Before Tom Smythe ever won a state championship at McNary, the legendary head coach won the title at Lakeridge in 1987. Smythe went a remarkable 157-32 in his first stint as head coach of the Pacers. But Lakeridge hasn’t had the same success as of late, posting a 7-20 record over the previous three years before finishing 6-3 this season. The Pacers, who last won a playoff game in 2014, were riding a four-game winning streak this season, before falling to No. 1 Lake Oswego 30-14 last Friday. That stretch included a 48-38 victory at No. 5 Tigard. Like McNary, Lakeridge also has wins over Sprague and Bend and lost at West Linn. This game will definitely test just how much the Celtics have improved after 28 and 44-point losses at West Linn and Tualatin in September. McNary is riding high after going 4-0 in league play. But the Celtics still haven’t played their best game.

Pick: Celtics 44, Pacers 40

Derek Wiley is the associate editor of the Keizertimes.

Last week: 4-0, Overall 30-16

Whiteaker falls to Parrish in championship game

Of the Keizertimes

Whiteaker’s varsity football team didn’t get its storybook ending, falling to Parrish 20-6 on Thursday, Nov. 1 in the Salem-Keizer Middle School Championship game.

“We came out flat,” Whiteaker head coach Tom Larimer said. “I think the kids were super nervous. We didn’t block well in the first quarter. We started to play better in the second quarter. We got close a number of times and just didn’t execute when we had to execute.”

The Wolverines tied the game at 6-6 when quarterback Braiden Copeland scored a 4-yard rushing touchdown with 55 seconds remaining in the first half.

Whiteaker then recovered an on-side kick and Copeland connected with Johan Singh-Sanchez for a 34-yard gain to get inside the Parrish 5-yard line. However, three players later, Copeland was tackled at the 2-yard line as time expired.

Parrish running back Josiah Davis then broke free for a 53-yard touchdown run on the second play of the third quarter to give the North Salem feeder the lead for good.

The Wolverine offense again drove inside the Parrish 10-yard line but weren’t able to score any points after a holding penalty set up a fourth-and-long at the 21.

Whiteaker’s defense then produced a turnover when linebacker Hunter Ruberto blitzed through the Parrish line and intercepted a handoff from Pioneers quarterback Nevin Zeller.

But even starting at the Parrish 14-yard line, the Wolverines failed to add any points.

“It was tough to run the ball against them,” Larimer said. “They’re big. They’re strong. They were putting eight or nine guys in the box and they were making it tough to run. They have some really good athletes up front.”

Micah Richter added an 88-yard touchdown run for Parrish with 6:52 remaining in the game.

Copeland got Whiteaker back into the red zone on a 59-yard run but the drive ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down at the 13.

Copeland finished with 99 yards rushing and 144 passing.

The Wolverines entered the game 7-0.

“I love these kids,” Larimer said. “They try so hard and I told them win or lose I feel exactly the same about them. I love these kids. They’re like my own kids now. I just feel grateful to be involved and to have this kind of interaction with these kids. Parrish has a bunch of good athletes and when they needed to make plays they made plays and they deserved to win that game.”

Celtics win Mountain Valley Conference championship

Of the Keizertimes

McNary has spent the last four years under head coach Jeff Auvinen focused on getting better, not just every season or even every game, but every play.

That work paid off last Friday with the football program’s first league championship since 2005.

The Celtics defeated South Salem 40-33 to clinch the Mountain Valley Conference title.

McNary made no more progress within a single season than this one. After starting 0-5, the Celtics won all four of their league games.

“We stayed the course and got better,” Auvinen said. “That’s all you can do is play the next play.”

McNary appeared like it would roll over the Saxons when the Celtics led 25-6 and recovered an on-side kick with 5:40 remaining in the first half.

But South Salem took advantage of a McNary fumble and turnover on downs to score 14 straight points on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Elijah Enomoto-Haole to Diego Fulmaono and then a 10-yard touchdown run by Enomoto-Haole with 27 seconds remaining to get within 25-20 at halftime.

South Salem sophomore Gabe Johnson then returned an interception 89 yards for a touchdown to give the Saxons a 26-25 lead with 6:05 remaining in the third quarter.

“I think we might have came in a little over confident,” McNary senior lineman Wyatt Sherwood said. “We tried to keep that out of us this week. It’s going to happen. When they took the lead, I think we realized that we needed to step up and finish this.”

Junior Walling put McNary back up by two touchdowns with a 13-yard run at the end of the third quarter and a 1-yard run with 7:49 remaining in the fourth.

“We just lost our toughness,” said Walling, who finished with 210 yards, three touchdowns and a two-point conversion on offense to go along with nine tackles and two sacks on defense. “We battled that in the beginning of the year and we knew we could bounce back from it.”

Quarterback Erik Barker ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns and connected with Noah Bach, who broke a tackle and ran down the McNary sideline for a 52-yard score.

“We knew we were the better team and if we just did our jobs and didn’t make stupid plays, we’d come back and win the game,” Barker said. “Our O-line was making big holes all day and Junior was running great and he blocked for me when I would run it.”

McNary linebacker Dyami Rios had 12 tackles and two sacks.

The Celtics (4-5) finished No. 22 in the final OSAA power rankings and will travel to No. 11 Lakeridge (6-3) on Friday, Nov. 2 for the first round of the state playoffs.