by: BILLY GATES/THE PIONEER - Madras defensive lineman Bodi Mitchell zeros in to make a tackle during the Buffs' loss to Gladstone on Friday. Madras plays 'best game of year' against TVC first-place Gladstone

Despite what the scoreboard said at the end of the game, the Madras High School football team played well against the league-leading Gladstone Gladiators on Saturday in Culver.

The White Buffalos lost 48-19, but they scored more points than any of the Glads’ previous league opponents combined. Tri-Valley Conference teams La Salle, Estacada and Molalla combined to score 16 points against Gladstone prior to Saturday.

The injury-depleted Buffs had to rely on many players to play both sides of the ball, and the effort level the team had throughout the game made coach Rick Wells proud.

“This was the best game we’ve played this year,” Wells said. “We played against a great team that has weapons all over the field, and because we played so hard, we even took one of their best guys out of the game because we beat him up so bad.”

by: BILLY GATES/THE PIONEER - Madras receiver Howard Bell-Raines leaps in an attempt to make a reception during the Buffs' loss to Gladstone on Friday.That wasn’t before Gladstone running back Handsome Smith could make his presence felt, however. With seven seconds left in the first quarter, Smith took an option pitch and showcased his elite-level speed with a 76-yard run to give the Glads a 21-6 lead.

Smith was running down the Madras sideline early in the second quarter when three Buff defenders converged and put a big hit on him. He left the field on his own, but didn’t return to the game.

The Buffs dug themselves a hole to start the game before Smith’s big run with two fumbles, both of which led to Gladstone touchdowns and a 14-0 lead before anyone knew it.

“We made those two critical mistakes and let them score twice early, and that’s tough to come back from against a great team,” Wells said. “The most important thing of this entire season happened at that point, though. Our kids didn’t fold, and I’m so excited and proud to coach these kids.”

Instead of throwing in the towel and giving up so early in the game, the Buffs were able to hang in there against on the state’s best 4A teams with a passion and fight that Wells hadn’t seen all season.

That passion came to a tipping point on Wednesday at practice, Wells said.

“We had a couple players almost get into a fight,” he said, “but it wasn’t because of anything bad. They were just fired up. And because of that, it flipped the switch for our football team.”

Wells said the team went like “gangbusters” the rest of the practice, and it was one of the best practices the team had all season.

“We cooled it off a bit on Friday, because you don’t do that kind of thing before a game,” Wells said. “But I can think of 15 guys that are playing through bumps and bruises that earlier they would have sat out for and said they couldn’t go. They force themselves to go out and perform and bust their butts.”

With players being shuffled around to different positions to help fill gaps with all the injuries Madras has — nine starters were out — along with “eligibility concerns,” as Wells put it, the Buffs have had to mix and match more this season than they ever have.

“It was really nice to get a bunch of guys opportunities to play, especially some of the younger guys,” Wells said. “We had some guys that couldn’t practice much, and the other guys stepped up to fill in.”

One of those players being shuffled around was linebacker Ethan Short. He has been playing fullback in the Buffs’ I-formation set on offense, and took a 1-yard plunge into the end zone for Madras’ final touchdown of the game.

Short is just one of the examples of players adapting to roles they aren’t necessarily used to playing this season, and doing it with a selfless attitude and wanting to help the team in any way possible. Short is one of Madras’ best defensive players, but Wells’ hand is being forced, and he needs to use his athletes all around the field.

Along with Short’s touchdown run, starting tailback Jered Pichette hit the end zone for the Buffs, and quarterback Chad Lindgren opened up the scoring for Madras with a touchdown pass to Howard Bell-Raines.

Bell-Raines could have hade another touchdown catch, but after he slipped behind a Gladstone defensive back, he took his eyes off the ball just a little bit and dropped what was sure to be a touchdown-scoring catch and run early in the second quarter.

Madras (0-4 TVC, 2-6) will take on Estacada (2-2 TVC, 2-6) in both teams’ final regular season game. Last week, Estacada edged La Salle Prep 21-14, and Wells said he should have a few of his injured players available to play the Buffs’ final game. They are already eliminated from postseason play.

“At least half the guys that were out should play Friday,” Wells said. “That’s just going to add to our depth, which will help us tremendously against Estacada.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday in Estacada.

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