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Forest Grove can't keep up with McNary

Celtics pull away in the second half for a 51-28 victory over the Vikings

Two steps forward, one step back.

The Forest Grove football team seemed to be building some momentum over the last couple weeks with a close lose to Sprague and a galvanizing win over North Salem.

But the Vikings couldn’t carry that forward into last Thursday’s Greater Valley Conference matchup against McNary.

 - Forest Grove wideout Bailey Evers makes a jumping catch between McNary's Kyle Aicher (20) and Ty Penner (23) last Thursday night.

Early on, Forest Grove traded blow for blow with the visiting Celtics, but McNary rode a dominant third quarter to a 51-28 victory. The Celts scored on three of their four drives in the first half and four of their six in the second half, taking a knee on the last one to end the game.

The Vikings dropped to 2-4 overall and 1-4 in GVC play, while McNary improved to 4-2 overall and 4-1 in the GVC.

“Tough one to swallow right now, but we’ll see on film what happened in the second half,” said Forest Grove quarterback Taylor Jensen. “Their offense, I think, scored every time other than their last drive and the end of the second half.

“But we’re still confident in ourselves. We believe we can win these next three going into playoffs.”

After the teams resumed play in the third quarter deadlocked at 22-22, McNary scored on both of its possessions in the period to give itself some breathing room.

Trent Van Cleave gave the Celts the lead for good when he scored on a 5-yard quarterback keeper and then found Andy Sparks for a two-point conversion and a 30-22 lead with 5:48 left in the period. After the Vikings went nowhere on their next possession, McNary needed just seven plays to go 59 yards and score again when Sparks plunged in from the 1 with 36 seconds left in the quarter.

Forest Grove did end the stanza with a highlight — Jensen hit Tanner Heikes over the middle for 46 yards and Heikes just made it into the end zone ahead of his defender to make the score 37-28 with 12 minutes to play.

 - Forest Grove football coach Dwight Jensen addresses his team before the start of the second half last Thursday night against McNary.

But that wouldn’t be nearly enough, as McNary went right back to work in the fourth. Sparks ran in his third TD of the night from the 10-yard line at the 8:38 mark, and then the Celts recovered the ensuing kickoff when a Viking returner let the ball pass by him.

“We were just pushing hard, trying to keep steam,” said tight end Wyatt Andresen, who caught two touchdown passes from Jensen in the first half. “Things didn’t work out for us.”

The Vikings did eventually manage to get a stop when a push by Ronnie Thompson prevented Matt Aguilar from touching a foot down in the end zone on a pass from Van Cleave, but Forest Grove turned the ball over on downs on the next sequence. Then Van Cleave scrambled to score from the 7 on first down to make the margin 51-28 with 2:55 to play.

The second half took the air out of what had been a closely contested game early on.

The Celts needed six plays and barely more than a minute to open the scoring, when Van Cleave found Brendan Van Voorhis over the middle for a 30-yard TD at the 10:50 mark.

Jensen answered with the first of his four TD passes on the evening when he found a wide open Andresen on the left side for a 15-yard score with 7:37 left in the quarter. A successful two-point conversion made it 8-8.

McNary regained the lead at 14-8 after Sparks ran it in from the 1 on McNary’s next drive, late in the first quarter.

But Forest Grove took its one and only lead on its next drive, with Bailey Evers hauling in a 23-yard pass from Jensen about a minute and a half into the second quarter.

“They played a lot of one-high safeties and we thought we had some mismatches. We have a lot of receivers, so we got a lot of mismatches,” Jensen said. “I think they started to blitz more in the second half, which teams have done to us. In the first half they don’t blitz much, I don’t think, and then the second half they blitz, so we just gotta be ready for that adjustment.”

Another Van Cleave to Van Voorhis connection, this time for 28 yards, and a two-point conversion put McNary back on top with 8:29 left in the half, but Jensen made the score 22-all with a 3-yard strike to Andresen on fourth down with 3:23 to play.

In addition to his four TD passes, Jensen was 13-for-25 for 217 yards. He also was Forest Grove’s leading rusher on a night when the Vikings struggled to run the ball. He ran 11 times for 11 yards.

Evers caught four passes for 71 yards, A.J. Turner had three receptions for 59 yards and Heikes added a catch for that 46-yard TD. Andresen’s two TDs were his only catches of the night.

The Vikings will look to get back on track this Friday, when they travel to West Albany (1-5, 1-4) for a 7:15 p.m. game, while McNary hosts West Salem (3-3, 3-2) the same night.