KEIZER — Anthony Nunn and Dane McKinney each ran for more than 100 yards for the Sprague High football team in a 21-14 win Friday night against McNary in the final regular season game for both teams.
Coming into the Greater Valley Conference contest, both teams were assured of a spot in the OSAA Class 6A state playoffs starting next week, but for the Olympians (7-2, 7-1) the win against the Celtics locks up a home game in the first round, while the Celtics (4-5, 4-4) will go on the road.
“We kind of knew to seal in a home playoff game for our seniors we had to get a good win,” McKinney said. “You could just tell on the bus ride over and in the locker room that everyone was more mentally prepared than we have been for a lot of the year.”
It was McKinney who made the first big play of the game on a fake punt early in the first quarter.
On Sprague’s first possession, the Olys faced a fourth-and-10 at midfield and lined up to punt. But the snap instead went to the junior running back and he was able to run 49 yards to the Celtics’ 1-yard line.
Two plays later, Nunn scored the first of his two touchdowns.
The play call caught the Celtics totally off guard.
“We practice it every week and we haven’t used it yet,” said Sprague coach Jay Minyard. “If we had been back a little further maybe I wouldn’t have called it, but you know, it’s fun and the kids like that kind of stuff, and if you can convert it can be a big momentum boost.”
The Olys weren’t finished with their bag of tricks. On the first play of their next possession, quarterback Justin Culpepper faked a handoff and gave the ball to Nick Brotton on a reverse in which he broke three tackles running down the sideline for a 75-yard score to make it 14-0.
It looked like that might be all the points Sprague would need to win as the Celtics were stymied on offense by a combination of defense and the wet and windy weather.
McNary got on the board with less than two minutes remaining in the opening quarter as Trent Van Cleave ran for a 5-yard score to cap off a 7-play, 55-yard drive in which Brady Sparks carried the ball five times for 37 yards.
But that was the only time the Celtics would be in the end zone until late in the game, mostly because they didn’t have the ball that much.
After a first quarter in which the hosts ran 13 plays, they only got 34 more snaps the rest of the game compared to Sprague’s total of 61.
“We had two possessions in that second half, so that’s pretty tough,” McNary coach Jeff Auvinen said. “Their power running game keeps the ball out of your hands and when you’re down two touchdowns that’s tough to overcome.”
Sprague led 21-6 at halftime after Nunn scored his second TD of the game on a 2-yard run a minute into the second quarter.
That’s where the score remained until late in the fourth when McNary made a comeback attempt.
After stuffing the Olys at their own 2, the Celtics took over and went 98 yards on 14 plays, finishing with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Van Cleave to Josh Benson.
It was the second of Benson’s two catches on the drive. He also made a 23-yard reception to convert a fourth-and-9.
Brady Sparks ran for a 2-point conversion and with 3:54 to play the Celtics were back in the game down 21-14.
McNary still had all its timeouts, but the Olys wouldn’t give the ball back.
The final big play came on a third-and-3 from the Sprague 27 when Culpepper threw to Teagan Quitoriano for 44 yards to the Celtics 29.
“Justin Culpepper had a great game,” Minyard said. “He made some really good clutch throws at key times, and especially on that last drive.”
Culpepper ended the night 6-for-8 passing for 100 yards, all coming in the second half.
Nunn finished with 142 yards on 31 carries while McKinney added 123 on 16 attempts.
For the Celtics, Van Cleave threw for 116 yards and the one interception. He also ran for 77.
Sparks led McNary in rushing with 96 yards on 12 carries.
Sprague finishes the year in second place in the GVC, a game behind undefeated South Salem. McNary, which tied Forest Grove with a 4-4 conference mark, edges out the Vikings for fourth by virtue of a head-to-head victory.