By Jeremy McDonald
KEIZER, Ore.– With 68 seconds remaining in the ball-game and roughly 70 to 80 yards to go to in front of them, the McNary defense gave their offense one last crack to get onto the board.
And it’ll be the most important one as the Celtic JV defensive studs did what they had to do to get the ball back behind grit, heart and effort to keep the Wilsonville JV offense from converting that one first-down that would’ve sealed the 25-21 victory on Monday night.
“What was going through my mind was, ‘We can’t give up’, we have to start to have faith and keep fighting and stop them and give back to the offense, let them score,” said Nico Sandoval on the defense after he tacked on three scores on the ground offensively. “Put it in the hands off the offense to help us win this and I just try to keep my players cool.
“I didn’t want us to start losing our heads because that’s how we lose games.”
As the offense took over and trotted out after the short punt that pinned their backs against the wall and no time-outs left, McNary needed some Varsity Blues-magic to drive down the length of the field to steal sure victory from the Wildcats.
“It was crazy, I mean we thought…some people thought the game was over. I was like, ‘we have one more chance to score, we should try to put it in’ and we gave it our all on that last drive,” said Ryan Bamford on walking out there for the game-winning drive. “We put together a drive, it wasn’t the prettiest, but it was a good drive to finish a game and I’m proud of my team and my offensive line for driving the defense.”
They started with a hook-and-latter play, defensive holding gives the Celts a new set of downs with 53 seconds remaining. Bamford connects to Riley Flores and Nigel Harris to keep the drive going and them going out of bounds continued to stop the clock.
The offensive line, that blocked for Sandoval on his three-touchdown performance Monday, showed their versatility in the passing game in trying to give their junior QB an opportunity to lead them to victory.
“Oh I’m crazy proud of them, they’ve improved so much since the first week, they’ve done an unbelievable job,” said Bamford on the line in-front of him.
Bamford’s next two passes were incomplete and a sack started the clock, so McNary quickly got to the line and got a play off before it was too late with time entering it’s final seconds.
Bamford chucks it up to Noah LeLack on the home-sideline side of the field, a Hail Mary practically, and the call was answered as LeLack came down with the reception with a defender on him like his jersey and battled to get to the one-yard line with five seconds remaining.
“I don’t know, I was trying to get into the end-zone after that, I didn’t really expect it,” said LeLack on the catch. “But it was a ballsy play by our quarterback to throw the ball up on fourth-down.”
“It was, ‘oh we got a shot. We got to spike this ball and stop the clock before so we can get one more play off to get into the end-zone to win this game’,” said Bamford on the reception and running up to the line to spike the ball.
With the referees allowing both teams to get set before running the clock, it allowed Bamford to spike the ball with two seconds remaining and one last play to run with 36-inches separating McNary from winning-or-losing this game.
“It was all-or-nothing,” said LeLack leading up to the play. “It was a great play by him, it was a great play by him.”
Bamford got the call and delivers it in the huddle and they went out to line-up for all the marbles.
Bamford gets the snap and immediately goes right on a sweep-play, the blocks were picked up and he went inside as time-expired; he was hit, and as he was being brought down, he went Michael Jordan at the end of Space Jam or Inspector Gadget with his Go-Go-Gadget arm and stretched for the win…
He breaks the plane before he hits the ground, giving the Celts a 27-25 victory in a heroic effort Monday night.
“It was the best feeling in the world…to finally comeback and within a second, that mood of everyone who came out to support us tonight, everyone from the team who has been supporting and working hard, it was a great feeling to get this win tonight,” said Bamford on pulling off the win at the buzzer.
As the team celebrates as they gather as a team, they won’t forget what their coach said of not giving up until the end. For the players, this game has served just that in that it’s not over-until-it’s-over.
“That was a huge lesson for us. Usually we give up those games, once it’s down like that, down to the wire we give up,” said Sandoval. “But since this happen, since this can happen, I feel like we can keep fighting on in games if it’s like this.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald