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The Vikings turn the ball over three times in the first half, but stay close for much of the game before a fourth quarter Celtic touchdown seals their fate

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove's Cole Smith carries the ball during the Vikings' game against McNary September 29 at Forest Grove High School.Rinse and repeat.

Forest Grove lost another game Friday night, Sept. 29, this time to McNary by a score of 35-14. But like last week and the week before, the Vikings continued to grow as a program and, despite their undeniable shortcomings, are building a foundation for what head coach Perry Herbst hopes will be increased success later this season and in seasons to come.

"These kids are fighters," said Herbst. "Things didn't go great for us in that first half, but we picked up some things they were doing in the locker room and the kids played much better after halftime. I like where we're headed."

It was an ugly first half. Between Forest Grove's three turnovers, countless McNary penalties — a few of which came after the whistle — and a second quarter Viking safety, mistakes were aplenty in a game no one seemed to want to win.

The Celtics drew first blood when —after a poor Viking punt gave the visitors the ball at the Forest Grove 30-yard line — McNary's Jose Solorio capped a seven-play drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge to give his team a 6-0 lead. The Vikings' Harrison Weems blocked the ensuing conversion attempt, but Forest Grove committed its first turnover of the game when the Celtics' Devyn Schurr intercepted Vik quarterback Jarod Miller. However, McNary was forced to punt and pinned the home Viks inside their own one-yard line on the last play of the first quarter.

But the momentum from that late first quarter stop didn't last long. Forest Grove running back Cole Smith was snowed under by a wall of McNary defenders on the opening play of the second quarter, bludgeoning the sophomore in the backfield and ringing up two Celtic points to make the score 8-0.

After the two teams traded interceptions and Forest Grove's Kurtis Van Dyke fumbled away another Viking drive, McNary made it 15-0 when Jacob Jackson caught a quick pass from quarterback Erik Barker and darted 36 yards for the Celtics' second score.

"We killed ourselves with those first half turnovers," said Herbst. "If we just stop that stuff we'll be OK."

And they were.

The Vikings got on the board two drives later when Smith scored from two yards out to cap a drive ignited by 24- and 17-yard pass plays to Weems and Smith. After a successful conversion by Forest Grove kicker Tanner Mannen, the Vikings heded to the locker room trailing just 15-7.

Neither team moved the ball on the first three possessions of the third quarter, but McNary opened up a 22-7 lead with 3:07 remaining when sophomore running back Junior Walling sliced through the Viking defense for nine yards and the third Celtic score.

After a subsequent Forest Grove punt, the game appeared to be on the verge of getting away from the Vikings before senior Drake Littlefield single-handedly brought his team back from the dead when he intercepted a deflected McNary pass attempt and sped 70 yards for Forest Grove's second score with 1:05 left in the third quarter.

"I really didn't know what was happening," said Littlefield. "I just saw the ball in the air and when I caught it I was like, 'let's go!'"

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - McNary's Kyle McCallister reaches for a pass with a Forest Grove defender grabbing on to him during their game September 29 at FGHS.With the score 22-14, the Vikings really grabbed momentum when Weems intercepted his second Barker pass attempt of the night on the first play from scrimmage on the Celtics' next drive, setting-up Forest Grove at McNary's 37-yard line with a chance to tie the game.

"Those were my first and second picks of the year," said Weems. "It felt really good to help my team."

But the Viks could do little from there, losing yardage on the first of three plays and punting back to McNary prior to the game-clinching drive.

A poor punt set the Celtics up near mid-field, where they ran seven times before Walling scored on the eighth on a 21-yard touchdown run with 7:07 remaining in the game.

Forced to throw, the Vikings' Warner moved his team down the field and appeared to be on the verge of getting his team back within a score, but the sophomore signal-caller was sacked on a third down play and McNary's Freddy Jimna scooped it up to seal Forest Grove's fate.

"Our defense played really well and kept us in the game," said Herbst. "But we just couldn't make the big play when we needed it to get over the hump."

Littlefield felt similarly.

"We're getting much better and we don't back down at all," said the senior. "We fought as a team, but it came down to some little things and it didn't work out."

Forest Grove travels to Sprague to play the No. 6-ranked Olympians next Friday, Oct. 6, and heads to Crescent Valley Thursday, Oct. 12, before senior night Oct. 20 , when the Vikings host arch rival McMinnville.

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