KEIZER – The McNary High School football team twice came from behind and scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to defeat the McMinnville 27-21 on Friday night.
Celtics senior quarterback Trent Van Cleave ran for a 20-yard touchdown with 1:12 remaining to carry McNary (3-2, 3-1 Greater Valley Conference) to victory.
The Grizzlies (0-5, 0-5 GVC) led 21-14 early in the final period but the Celtics tied the game on a 69-yard touchdown reception by Matt Aguilar, then withstood a McMinnville drive inside the Celtics’ 10.
McNary got the ball back with 5:50 left on the clock and drove 80 yards on 11 plays for the winning score, which included a fourth-down conversion run by Brady Sparks.
“This is a turning point in our season,” said Aguilar, who referenced a difficult defeat a week earlier at McKay. “We came out tonight wanting to fight and we proved ourselves.”
Celtics coach Jeff Auvinen echoed those comments, saying this was close to a must-win game for his team.
“You don’t want to build up something too much but it was a tough, gut-wrenching loss (last week), and to our credit we could have gone belly-up down 21-14 but we dug in and found a way back,” Auvinen said.
Prior to Van Cleave’s burst up the middle for the finishing touchdown, he and Aguilar hooked up for two passes for 29 yards. The pair finished the night with 11 pass connections for 181 yards.
“He was huge for us tonight,” Van Cleave said of Aguilar. “We have really good chemistry together. I think this was his breakout game.”
The 69-yard tying TD with 8:15 left in the fourth quarter came on the first play of the Celtics’ drive after giving up the go-ahead touchdown to the Grizzlies.
Aguilar had been running short hitch routes all night, but on this play he ran straight down the sideline and Van Cleave dropped in a perfect throw. Aguilar shed his defender and went untouched the rest of the way to the end zone.
“We’d been running those hitches all day and we wanted to see if they would bite up,” Van Cleave said of the McMinnville defense. “They bit up so we threw it up top. It was a great call by our offensive coordinator.”
The score was tied at halftime, 14-14.
Sparks put the Celtics ahead 7-0 at the 3:24 of the first quarter on a 3-yard run that finished off an 11-play drive spanning 64 yards.
The Grizzlies answered in the second quarter by tying the score on their next possession when quarterback Wyatt Adams read a blitz by the Celtics on third-and-goal from the 25 and threw to Odin Thorson for a touchdown.
McMinnville’s drive took 15 plays and was aided by 30 yards of McNary penalties.
The visitors then took a 14-7 lead with 4:29 left in the half thanks to another mistake by the Celtics.
With McNary attempting to punt near midfield, the snap sailed over the kicker’s head and resulted in a 26-yard loss that gave the Grizzlies the ball at the Celtics’ 27.
Four plays later McMinnville had the lead on Adams’s second TD pass of game, this time nine yards to Justin Trimble.
Twenty-three seconds before halftime, McNary tied the score on a 23-yard pass from Van Cleave to Brendan Van Voorhis. On the drive, Van Cleave rushed for 35 yards and threw for 34.
Both teams had would-be touchdowns denied in the third quarter, starting with McNary.
The Celtics drove 79 yards on their opening drive to the Grizzlies’ 1 before Sparks was stuffed on fourth-and-goal.
On McMinnville’s ensuing drive, Adams threw to Trimble for what looked like a 97-yard touchdown catch and run only to have the play called back for a penalty.
The Grizzlies kept the drive alive and eventually took a 21-14 advantage on a three-yard touchdown pass from Adams to Kadin Wilson on fourth-down.
McMinnville got the ball back with about a minute left and a chance to tie or win the game, but Adams’s threw long and had his pass intercepted Tanner Gordon.