>   Watching the grisly scenes of Sandy on TV last night and this morning, thinking about what those million of Americans back East are having to endure gave me some extra appreciation of where we live.
   With devastation everywhere back East, I drove into work treated with a balmy late-October morning, the rising sun punching some pink through the clouds hovering over the eastern ridges. This is a pretty great place to live, I couldn't help but think. Not that we're immune to disastrous weather, but it seems unlikely here in the high desert.
   Catastrophic fire is about our biggest weather-caused challenge, and while it can ravage property, people are usually afforded enough time to get out of its way.
   While the Deschutes River could be (and has been) a flood problem for Warm Springs, the Madras area is safe from catastrophic flood. Though flood maps of the powerful Willow Creek have impacted where and how people can build in Madras, outside of a few flooded storefronts and basements, Willow Creek isn't going to threaten anyone's life.
   We all know and appreciate the beauty of our views and countryside. But what we might not appreciate as often is that - while almost anything can happen almost anywhere - our high desert country is also a relatively safe place to live.
   There's nothing like seeing the devastation of Sandy to hammer that home.
   It's an exciting time for many of our prep athletic teams in Madras and Culver. The Bulldogs have one of the state's best 2A volleyball squads and are gearing up to make a serious run at a state title. With the tournament hosted at Redmond's new Ridgeview High, it should allow plenty of Bulldog fans to go cheer them on and witness potential Culver sports history - if everything falls into place.
   Meanwhile, the MHS volleyball squad is also outstanding, with a great mix of senior leadership and plenty of talented underclassmen. They could make a run in the playoffs. A win this weekend puts them in the final eight tourney, a heck of an achievement.
   How's the Madras Aquatic Center impacting our kids? Lots of ways. For one, it's allowed a group of them to become water polo powers. The girls team is heading to state after dispatching several larger schools last weekend in winning the district title. The boys may also make it to state, if they can beat Bend this weekend.
   Rock on and swim strong.
   And this Friday night, we have a rematch. Madras and Crook County met in midseason and entertained a large crowd with a 60-52 shootout. The 'Boys won. Can the Buffs exact some revenge?
   These schools have a long history, of course, of gridiron battles. Back in the late 1950s, these games were so rough and violent that the Madras school board, after one specially tough game had sent a couple Buffs to the hospital, officially voted to no longer schedule the Cowboys. That lasted a few years. Thankfully, order (kind of) was restored and the games were reinstated. There's been a ton of hot ones in the half-century since.
   This Friday night - for the first time ever, I believe - they're playing in a postseason matchup.
   Madras has played some excellent teams this year - Redmond, La Salle and Gladstone - so they should be toughened for this challenge. And they're at full strength and improved defensively since they lost the shootout.
   This may not be one of the best MHS football teams ever, but it's likely one of the most exciting. Certainly wideout Devin Ceciliani is one of the best players Madras has produced. If he isn't the best Class 4A receiver in the state, I'd like to see who is.
   Come out and give the Buffs some backing Friday. You'll enjoy it.
   Speaking of top football players Madras has ever produced ... One of the school's first-ever football stars, Loren "Peewee" Corwin, passed away at age 80 on Oct. 26.
   Corwin roamed the halls of Madras Union High back in the late 1940s, before prep sports (especially those at smaller schools) was as well-organized and followed statewide as it would soon be. But he was an excellent all-around prep athlete.
   His brother, Gale, mentioned that Loren had offers to play football at the University of Oregon and Notre Dame, but instead went into the Army. While serving, he continued to play organized football and basketball for his base and terrorized opponents. He'd eventually return to Central Oregon and spend most of his working life on horseback and working the in the cattle industry.
   Legend has it that, in a Sports Illustrated story, pro football hall-of-famer Dave Wilcox, the former 49er great and Vale High School product, was asked in an interview if someone in particular was the best player he'd ever seen.
   "No," Wilcox replied. "The best football player I've ever seen was a guy named Loren Corwin" ... or something similar to those words.
   I've only heard this story, and have never seen the actual copy. But others have told me they have, so I believe it. If you enjoy your Madras prep sports history, that's pretty cool stuff.
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