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Buffs blown out by Gladstone

Playoff hopes hinge on homecoming

by: Billy Gates/The Pioneer - Madras’ Aurora Gerhardt goes for the ball in overtime of the Buffs’ 7-6 win against Class 6A Sunset on Friday at Madras Aquatic Center. Gerhardt scored the match-winning goal in sudden death overtime.

The Madras football team turned the ball over five times and paid for all of them in a 58-8 loss to Gladstone in a Tri-Valley Conference game on Friday in Gladstone.
   Every time the White Buffalos surrendered the ball, the Gladiators converted its takeaways into touchdowns because they always had a short field to go, Buffs coach Rick Wells said.
   "Our defense actually played pretty well, but the scoreboard didn't show that because Gladstone had a short field most of the time," he said. "We needed to play well against a team like Gladstone, but we just didn't execute offensively."
   Madras got on the board in the third quarter with a 20-yard pass to Devin Ceciliani from Steele Haugen, but that was all the scoring they could muster against the No. 2 Gladiators after the conversion.
   Even with the loss, Madras is still in prime position to make the postseason, but the season will culminate on homecoming Friday against the Estacada Rangers.
   The Buffs and Rangers are tied for third at 2-2 in the TVC. Only the top three teams make the state playoffs, so something has to give as the winner moves on, while the loser puts on basketball sneakers or wrestling singlets and preps for the winter sports season.
   "Essentially, the rest of our season is a one-week playoff," Wells said. "We have to play with reckless abandon for the rest of the season, whether it's one week, two or five weeks."
   The Rangers have beat the same teams the Buffs have, Molalla and North Marion, but both games went down to the wire. Estacada beat Molalla, 6-0, while they slipped past North Marion, 32-28.
   Madras, however, blew out both squads. They clobbered Molalla, 36-6, and pounded North Marion, 42-13. Even with the lopsided victories against like opponents, Wells said he expects Estacada to bring its best game to Madras and try to steal the final Tri-Valley playoff spot.
   "They are a solid, well-coached team," Wells said. "Talent-wise I think we match up with them pretty well. Estacada is really balanced; they can throw it and run it and play solid defense to stay in games."
   The big question mark for the Buffs is the offense. A team that put up 52 points earlier in the year against Crook County has scored a combined 21 points in the past two games. If the Buffs can snap out of its offensive funk, they should be able to make the postseason for the second-straight season.
   "We control our own destiny," Wells said. "The kids and the coaching staff understand that."
   Quarterback Steele Haugen ended the night with 12 pass completions in 23 attempts for 160 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw a pair of interceptions.
   Running back Joe Hisatake rushed for 59 yards on 19 carries, with two lost fumbles, while Ceciliani caught seven passes for 118 yards and a touchdown.
   Wells said Aaron Phillips played great defense for the second week in a row. He finished the game with 12 tackles, nine of them solo. Anthony Albritton also recorded 12 tackles and had a quarterback sack.
   Homecoming biggest game of season so far
   The tradition and pageantry associated with homecoming can do two things: it can loosen players up or it can be a gigantic distraction.
   Wells doesn't think it will be that big of distraction for his team, however, although he understands the chance of it turning into one.
   "Homecoming is always a concern, but I think we will be OK," he said. "The guys recognize this game is do or die. They don't feel like they are done playing football."
   Wells said the coaching staff is going to make some small changes, enough so the team doesn't "get stuck in a rut," as he put it, but from his standpoint, he's trying to approach this game like any other game he's coached.
   "I need to figure out a way for our offense to get first downs and our defense to keep our opponent from getting them," he said. "We have to make it happen this week."
   The Buffs have a chance to make the postseason for the second time in as many years, and given the recent history of the program, that's saying something.
   "Our kids, fans and community should be proud of that," he said. "Our program has won more games in the last two years than they have in the previous four."
   A win against Estacada would put them in, but they will have to travel for the play-in round and will probably be matched up against one of the tougher second-place conference finishers, making potential advancement rather difficult.
   At the very least, the final scheduled home game for Madras will have a playoff-type atmosphere and true high school vibe with the homecoming events culminating Friday night.
   "We will have our fans behind us in a situation where we can succeed," Wells said. "We have the chance to go get something really special."
   As far as Estacada goes as a team, Wells expects the game to be "entertaining," and went on to say the teams match up well.
   "We have to play more physical football," Wells said. "It should be a very competitive game."