Estacada too much for Madras
Penalties and turnovers frequently cost teams football games; last Friday in Madras was no exception.
Estacada forced Madras into four turnovers and capitalized on them to defeat Madras on homecoming night 46-21. The comfortable margin of victory was due in large part to the Rangers' rushing attack, which yielded 298 yards and stymied the White Buffalos for most of the evening.
To the Buffs' demise, three interceptions and one fumble prevented them from keeping pace with the Rangers' high-powered offense.
"We knew they were going to run the ball and it was going to be tough for us to stop, because they're such technicians with the option," Madras head coach Kurt Taylor said.
Taylor recalled watching several plays during the game and afterwards on film in which the Rangers were shifty enough that he couldn't see where the ball was.
"You know you're playing a good option team when you can't find the ball on film and on the ground," Taylor said.
Madras (1-3, 0-2 Tri-Valley Conference) scored the first points of the game when quarterback Liam White found Harrison Manu open for a 50-yard touchdown pass, giving the Buffs a 7-0 lead.
But Estacada (3-1, 2-0 TVC) took little time to respond, as it marched down the field and scored on Asher Bufton-Gifford's 6-yard run, and took an 8-7 lead following quarterback Nick Keller's successful two-point conversion run.
The following Madras possession, Estacada stopped Madras on third down, and blocked the ensuing field goal attempt. The Rangers returned the ball near midfield, and continued to keep the Buffs on their toes defensively.
Estacada hung 22 points on Madras in the second quarter, and took a commanding 30-7 lead into halftime. Wyatt Riedel scored another touchdown from the red zone, from six yards out, before Justin Drury ran in a 23-yard touchdown and Cameron Hegar scored from 43 yards out.
Even with Estacada's offense humming, however, Madras was also moving the chains offensively. The Buffs committed to throwing the ball, which resulted in White throwing for a season-high 207 yards and three touchdowns.
But White was also picked off three times, targeting three different receivers — a deep ball to Manu, a pass in the flat to Coty Simmons, and a throw in the end zone intended for Cameron Rodriguez.
It was the fourth night in five games this season that the Buffs have lost the turnover battle. Not so coincidentally, the one time they committed fewer giveaways, against Valley Catholic, is the lone game they have won.
"Turnovers were the name of the game again for us," Taylor said. "It's so funny, because every week we keep saying it — turnovers this, turnovers that — and we're trying to figure out how to get them to not turn the ball over … whether it's through the air or on the ground. This week it was all through the air."
The latter attempt, in which White and Rodriguez didn't have the right timing with one another, was particularly costly in putting a sudden end to a drive in the fourth quarter. After Manu hauled in two additional touchdown passes in the third quarter, Madras kicked off and forced Keller to fumble thanks to a Rodriguez hit.
"From there on, we're thinking, 'Now we're just going against the clock,'" Taylor said.
The Buffs marched down the field in a few plays, but in the red zone, got careless with the ball. White's pass, deflected off Manu's hands, was intercepted by Keller, but he was called for defensive pass interference. The very next play, Rodriguez was unable to locate the ball and White threw shallow of him in the end zone.
Estacada's fourth forced turnover of the game led to Keller scoring on a 30-yard run, which put the game out of reach for Madras.
With three games remaining in the regular season, Madras is still looking for its first league win. Estacada's victory, combined with Molalla's 13-10 win over Gladstone on Friday, have put those two teams at the top of the TVC standings.
Madras would have to beat its final two league opponents — Gladstone and Crook County — to earn a playoff spot.
Taylor believes the Buffs have a fighting chance, in large part because the league appears to be wide open based on results from the last two weeks.
"It's like we're telling the kids, 'We're giving you the tools; we're giving you everything you need,'" Taylor said. "You need to go out and execute and trust your teammates, and we'll see what happens."
Madras next plays at Gladstone (2-3, 0-1) on Friday. The Gladiators boast blowout wins over North Marion and Woodburn, and have lost to Banks, Astoria and most recently, Molalla.