A pair of 4-0 wins moved the Madras boys' soccer team into the middle of the Intermountain Conference race.
The White Buffalos won at Pendleton on Tuesday, Oct. 10 and then beat Hermiston on Saturday. The victories, each worth three points, give Madras seven points in IMC play.
"We're in second place, at least right now," said Buff coach Paul Brown right after the Hermiston win.
Madras is tied with The Dalles, a 5-2 Saturday winner against Pendleton. Both teams are 2-1-1 with three matches remaining (see IMC standings on Scoreboard).
The Buffs played at Mountain View on Tuesday, Oct. 17 (match after press time). The home finale is Thursday against Crook County and the regular season finishes up at The Dalles on Tuesday.
The top four IMC teams advance into the playoffs with first and second places receiving first-round byes. Those teams, along with the third-place finisher, open the playoffs with home matches.
Madras 4, Hermiston 0: The wait was worth it for the Buffs.
Hermiston's bus arrived 10 minutes after the rescheduled noon start time. When the match started, Madras was ready against a team owning a scoreless tie against IMC playoff pursuer Mountain View.
"We kept practicing hard to be ready," senior midfielder Jovany Medina said. "We knew their bus would show up."
The Hermiston players had nearly 30 minutes to use the restroom and go through their warm-up routine. The Buffs showed they were warmer.
Madras had 12 shots in the first half, most after deflecting a Bulldog direct kick eight minutes into the match.
"The guys were loose and ready to go," Brown said. "They played a great all-around match."
Madras essentially clinched the win by scoring just before halftime and then early in the second half. The Buffs were already up 1-0 on Medina's close-in goal off a pass from Palbo Felix.
Then Felix scored in the 39th minute with an assist from Julio Ruiz. It came just after a Hermiston shot on a breakaway was high.
Three minutes into the second half, Felix sent a pass in front of the Bulldog goal to Felipe Reynoso. It was six feet high, allowing Reynoso to head it in.
A highlight goal finished the scoring.
Madras keeper Efren Diaz started it with a kick as high as a baseball fly ball, going past midfield. Junior midfielder Elmer Felix, stopped it, dribbled and launched a shot 30 feet from the Hermiston goal.
The shot went over the Bulldog keeper's outstretched hands and dipped under the cross bar.
"During halftime, our coach mentioned their keeper liked to play up in the box," Felix said. "So, we could take a shot from farther out if we were open. That's the longest goal I've ever had in high school."
Diaz earned his second consecutive shutout, and third in IMC play, by making five saves.
Madras 4, Pendleton 0: The visiting Buffs used a quick start and good passing to earn their first IMC win.
Madras scored all four goals in the first half. Pablo Felix converted a penalty kick in the sixth minute to put the Buffs ahead.
Jansen Harrington followed with crossing passes to Reynoso for two goals five minutes apart. Imer Gutierrez scored on a header in the 37th minute off a corner kick by Julio Ruiz.
Buff keeper Efren Diaz earned the shutout with 15 saves.
Notes: The state playoff bracket has the IMC's No. 4 team traveling to face the Midwestern No. 3 entry while the IMC No. 3 hosts the Northwest Oregon's No. 4 team. Both those matches are on Saturday, Nov. 4. The winners advance to the round of 16 on Tuesday, Nov 7. The IMC No. 3-Northwest winner would meet the Southern Sky champion while the IMC No. 4-Midwestern winner faces the Mid-Willamette champion. Also on that day, the IMC champ faces the Southern Sky No. 2 entry while the IMC's second-place finisher hosts the Mid-Willamette's No. 2 entry. The quarterfinals are Saturday, Nov. 11. The semifinals are Tuesday, Nov. 14 and championship is Saturday, Nov. 18 at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.