Sometimes in defeat, a team is able to walk away upbeat holding on to smaller victories.
That was the case last season when the Madras White Buffalos football squad opened their season at home against The Dalles.
The Buffs lost 14-0, and although their offense struggled, their defense held firm despite playing a losing battle with field position.
The outcome was a welcome sign to then-first year coach Kurt Taylor, but the following week brought him and the team back down to earth. Facing a Cottage Grove team that went on to play in the 4A state title game, before losing to North Bend, Madras was stymied in a 63-0 loss. Taylor said later, the Buffs could've lost by 100 points had Cottage Grove not eased up as the game wore on.
In defeat, Taylor and his coaching staff agreed to simplify practices, play-calling, etc., which in hindsight was a reactionary move and mistake, he said.
This season, the Buffs will draw The Dalles on the road Sept. 1, then travel to Cottage Grove the following Friday. No matter the outcome of either contest, don't expect Madras to change much of anything in the big picture. Although the first couple games of the season are important, they won't dictate the course of an entire season.
The Buffs saw that growth as the 2016 season continued. It took until their fifth game of the year to score a point, but they also replicated that mark for the final three games of the season. Still, the Buffs' primary struggle is on offense.
They graduated Aaron Winishut and Daren Shaw, both of whom spent time at quarterback last season. They do, however, return key linemen Damon Bentz, Tyrell Reynoso, William Lemus and Alex Hernandez.
Rising sophomore Treyvon Easterling could emerge as a force out of the backfield, adding to an already well-rounded group of Michael Kaltsukis, Brady Pattenaude and Catalino LeClaire.
Aside from the individuals, the Buffs appear to have steady participation numbers this season. That could change when fall camp gets underway, but the Buffs should have upwards of 50 players on the roster.
That in itself will be important for the upcoming season. Although Madras ultimately had another winless, 0-8 mark to end last season, its final two games ended much like the season-opener against The Dalles — competitive contests against Corbett and Crook County.
Like last season, Madras will play the toughest part of its Tri-Valley Conference schedule in late September and early October.
The Buffs open TVC play against a tough Molalla team on Sept. 22, before playing Estacada and Gladstone the following two weeks; Estacada advanced to 4A semifinals last season, while Gladstone qualified for the first round.
Those three weeks will be a particularly tough stretch for the Buffs. But if they find themselves winless through it, they have a fighting chance to beat one or both of Corbett and Crook County, which had a combined 3-14 record in 2016.
2017 Madras football schedule
Aug. 25: Madras vs. La Pine (jamboree), 6 p.m.
Sept. 1: Madras at The Dalles, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8: Madras at Cottage Grove, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15: Madras vs. Valley Catholic, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22: Madras vs. Molalla, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29: Madras vs. Estacada, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6: Madras at Gladstone, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12: Madras vs. Corbett, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20: Madras at Crook County, 7 p.m.