KEIZER One of the signs of a wise coach is to play to your team’s strengths.
The strength of the McNary High School football team – if you are the type of person who follows statistics – should be in its receiving corps.
The trio of senior receivers Kyle Torres (26 receptions, 489 yards, four touchdowns), Devon Dunagan (29 receptions, 342 yards, two touchdowns) and Tanner Walker (24 receptions, 296 yards, three touchdowns) is the team’s greatest known quantity on offense and with a host of younger, quick receivers, expect to see more of an aerial attack out of the Celtics this season.
“We got a lot of catches coming back from last season and we want to make sure that they get involved early and often,” third-year McNary coach Isaac Parker said. “Even (quarterback Drew McHugh) was saying it makes his job easier knowing that he can make simple throws and get them the ball in space and let them make him look good. I was really pleased to hear the quarterback say that.
“Our tight ends coach and our fullbacks coach keep telling us every day that we’ve got really good tight ends and we’ve got really good fullbacks. We are going to involve them at some point, but definitely right now the experience is in our receiving corps, and I wish we could put a six-receiver set in because there’s kids that I really like six, seven players deep. That’s a pretty nice problem to have.”
When McNary opens the season at 7 p.m. Sept. 5 at North Salem, the Celtics’ opponents will find out that not only are the Celtics’ receivers experienced, but they’re fast.
Torres was the Central Valley Conference runner up and placed ninth in the state in the 200 and 400 meter dashes, Walker ran a 12.04 second 100 meter dash and back-up Anthony Nguyen was the district runner-up and was ninth in the state in the 100 (11.00 seconds).
“I think it’s good that we have so much depth and athletes at the receivers, and we have a good quarterback, too,” Dunagan said. “I think we’re able to spread teams out and work with them, and we have good running backs who can run the ball, too.”
The team’s starting quarter McHugh, also a track speedster, was a second-team all-league cornerback as a junior and saw some playing time at quarterback, completing 61 percent of his passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns.
Don’t be surprised to see him take off running if plays break down.
Members of the McNary High School football team practice on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, in Keizer, Ore.
“Pretty confident,” McHugh said. “A lot of the guys I have around me are just making it easy on me. Good line, good receiver and a good running back.”
Stepping into the running back spot is expected to be Brady Sparks, but senior Jeremy Williams also should get some carries.
They’ll be running behind an experienced, skilled offensive line led by returning starters in senior guards Steven Wilkerson and Tevita Maake, junior center Jason Sperle and senior tackle Jaime Garibay, who is recovering from a knee injury.
Junior Kyle Bonn and senior Jake Burrus will play tackle, and a group of sophomore linemen also will spend time up front.
“With those four returning, this is probably the best group of offensive linemen I’ve worked with as a high school football coach so far, those returning four,” Parker said.
“I think I’ve had some pretty good offensive lines in my years coaching. Kids love following them. They hoot and holler and have fun.”
Defensively speed again will be a focus with players back like Torres, Dunagan, Walker and Riley Moore contributing so far.
In the front seven, senior Connor Goff is the only returning starter at linebacker, but defensive linemen LaCroix Hill, Maake and Burrus were all starters last year and should be tough to move around.
“We got a lot of guys that got some good size,” Torres said. “We got some good wheels, too. We can keep everything in front of us and we can rally up to it, good with a lot of guys who cover ground.”
This year’s senior class made a big impact on the program as juniors last year, and that experience should be a major asset to the team.
They’ll prove a tough matchup for opponents, and have the potential be a contender in the Greater Valley Conference.
“This year we have really high expectations,” Maake said. “We have a lot of guys returning for us. A lot of high expectations for us.
“The coach has told us already he has really high expectations for us. He said that we really believe in us. We just go with what they say. We trust in the process they have laid out for us.”
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6701 or follow at twitter.com/bpoehler
Coach: Isaac Parker, third year.
Offensive coordinator: Josh Vanlue
Defensive coordinator: Craig Nicholas
2013 record: 6-5 overall, 3-2 Central Valley Conference, lost in second round of 6A state playoffs.
Sept. 5 at North Salem, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 vs. Westview, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 at West Albany, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 vs. McKay, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 at McMinnville, 7 p.m.
Oct 9 vs. Forest Grove, 7 p.m.
Oct. 17 at West Salem, 7 p.m.
Oct. 24 vs. South Salem, 7 p.m.
Oct. 31 at Sprague, 7 p.m.
Base offense: Multiple formation spread
Base defense: 3-4
Starters returning: Eight on offense, seven on defense
Kyle Torres, sr., WR/DB/R: Caught 26 passes for 489 yards and four touchdowns as a junior and was a second-team all-Central Valley Conference selection at receiver and was first-team all-league as a special teams return man.
Drew McHugh, sr., QB/CB: A second-team all-league defensive back as a junior, he completed 61 percent of his passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns against two interceptions as a back-up quarterback as a junior.
Devon Dunagan, sr., WR/DB: Caught 29 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns as a junior and was an honorable mention all-league player at receiver.
Tanner Walker, sr., WR/DB/R: Caught 24 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns last year and was an honorable mention all-league receiver as a junior.
Connor Goff, sr., LB/TE: An honorable mention all-league player on both sides of the ball, he will be a key link of the defense.
Tevita Maake, sr., OL/DL: A returning starter at offensive guard where he was honorable mention all-league as a junior.
Steven Wilkerson, sr., OL/DL: Emerged as a first-team all-league guard as a junior and will be a key again.
Jason Sperle, jr., OL/DL: The returning starter at center, he will be heavily relied on again.
Brady Sparks, jr., RB/LB: Rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in limited action as a sophomore, but will be relied on heavily to carry the ball this season.
LaCroix Hill, jr., FB/DL: An honorable mention all-league player on defense as a sophomore.
Outlook: The Celtics have a strong nucleus of players returning with varsity experience, including leadership in the senior class. The team has the potential to place in the top third of the league and could surprise favorites West Salem and Sprague.