With first place in the Tri-Valley Conference on the line, the Madras football team just made too many mistakes against a solid La Salle Prep team and lost, 42-13, Thursday night at Madras High School.
>La Salle Prep just too much for Buffs
The dynamic spread offense of the Falcons, led by 2011 all-state performers quarterback Mark Holenstein and tailback Colin Meisner, lived up to its billing as one of Class 4A's best and seemed to capitalize on every miscue the White Buffalos made.
While the loss definitely stung, the fact that Madras was actually playing for an outright claim of the conference lead tells the story of a program that, in the past six years, has gone a combined 6-31.
"Our message this week was what a great, special opportunity we had to be in this situation," Buffs head coach Rick Wells said. "But when you play a great team, you just can't make as many mistakes as we did."
Madras's high-powered offense sputtered in the early going of the game, due to false start penalties at exactly the wrong times and the swarming Falcon defense rallying to the ball very quickly.
With 7:30 remaining in the second quarter, the Buffs got on the scoreboard. Set up by a 30-yard pass play from Steele Haugen to Aaron Phillips, Haugen stepped up in the pocket and fired a pass to Jack Fine for a 17-yard touchdown.
With the point after, Madras trailed 21-7 and seemed to gain some momentum, but Holenstein and the Falcons had other ideas.
Not even three minutes ticked off the clock and the Falcons were in the end zone on a 30-yard pass from Holenstein to 6-foot-7 tight end Sean Hays to take a 27-7 lead and quell the Buffs and their thoughts of an upset.
Madras marched down the field in the game's final drive and put one in the end zone as time expired. Haugen lofted a pass to the front corner of the scoring area that Devin Ceciliani came down with to account for the final score.
For senior wide receiver Ceciliani, it was more than just having the chance to take the conference lead.
"It's a big deal playing for first place, but we'd rather just be in first," Ceciliani said. "La Salle is a great team and they might be playing for the state championship, but we just need to practice harder."
La Salle scored its first touchdown before the offense ever took the field. The Falcons' multi purpose back Colin Meisner returned the first punt of the game 72 yards for a touchdown.
Holenstein's speed and agility gave the Buffs fits, too. In the second quarter, three Buff defenders were chasing him and it looked like he was going to go down for a 10-yard loss, but after a jab-step and a nifty spin move, he turned the potential big loss into a 7-yard run up the far sideline.
"He's the best quarterback at the 4A level," Wells said of Holenstein. He led the Falcons to last year's Class 4A state championship in a 45-40 win against Siuslaw.
For the Buffs, this one might not be that easy to get over because of the expectations they had of themselves, but they are going to have to forget about it because they travel to Gladstone on Friday - and the Gladiators are just as good as the Falcons.
"We have to have a real good week of practice if we want to take them down," Ceciliani said. "Gladstone is going to be tough."
Ceciliani led the Buffs with 38 rushing yards on seven carries, and he caught five passes for 38 yards.
Senior receiver Jack Fine caught seven balls for 73 yards to lead the team in receiving.
Quarterback Steele Haugen completed 14 of 26 pass attempts for 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns, along with an interception.
On the defensive side, Wells praised the play of Aaron Phillips. Phillips recorded 11.5 tackles, six solo and 11 assists, along with a quarterback sack.
Madras' Stephen Leader-Bowles blocked a La Salle Prep extra-point attempt in the second quarter.
With two games on the TVC schedule, Friday in Gladstone then homecoming Oct. 26 against Estacada, a pair of wins would definitely put the Buffs in the postseason. A split probably would do it, too, but Ceciliani doesn't want to take that chance.
"We have to win out," he said. "That way we can go into the playoffs on a little bit of a streak and try to make a run."
Can the Buffs do it? The senior captain thinks so, but it's going to take a gut-check.
"We have the athletes and the skills to do it, but it's about having the players that really want it," he said. "You can have as many athletes as you want, but there needs to be chemistry and guys that really want to play."