By Tony Ahern
Congratulations to the 2004 Madras High football squad. They had a very good year, going 6-3, and they can proudly wear the crown of best 3A team not to make the playoffs.
The Buffs' only losses were to the state's No. 1, 4 and 9-ranked 3A teams, who all happen to be in the Tri-Valley League, and only three teams from each league make the playoffs. Often third-place teams have no business making the playoff, and much less-talented Madras teams have made state. This time out, a fourth-place team could have potentially made some noise at state.
Over the past several months, for our newspaper's 100th anniversary, I've had the pleasurable task of compiling the history as told through the Pioneer. One of the most interesting aspects of that is discovering the prep athletic history of Madras.
The biggest high school sporting event of those early years, between 1910 (Madras Union High School was established in 1912) into the 1930s, was the Central Oregon Field Day -- the one-day regional track meet. It was one of the biggest days of the year in what became the tri-county area.
Madras had a couple of outright studs on the 1918-1921 teams. The doctor's boy, Meurice Snook, was a standout sprinter for Madras, sweeping the short races in 1918. He eventually went on to Oregon Agriculture College (now OSU) and was one of the Northwest's best. Maybe he honed his craft, or at least his thigh muscles, running up the Snook Lane hill.
In 1920, Dick Young, one of three Young brothers at Madras, was the top point-getter for the meet, leading Madras to its first-ever event championship. He dominated the 1921 event, too, but the team finished second. Young was the Jim Thorpe of his time -- (Oh, wait, there already was one) -- a standout in football, basketball, baseball and track. He certainly belongs on the list of all-time best Madras prep athletes.
Everyone knows Madras has a strong history in basketball. Many don't know it started almost instantaneously.
Last year was the 50th anniversary of the 1954 team making it to the big school state tournament in Eugene, a team that captured statewide attention by beating two larger schools, including Portland's Benson High, before a key injury derailed their title hopes.
1954, however, was not the first time Madras reached the big school state tournament.
The 1920 team dominated the Central Oregon League, and earned an invite to the championship tournament held at Willamette University in Salem. There, they ran across powerful Albany High School, which won several games in the tourney, and Madras lost in the first round.
While the MUHS football team couldn't seem to beat Moro, Grass Valley or Maupin in football, from the outset, the boys who came off those Agency Plains farms were quite comfortable inside a gym playing roundball.