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Madras White Buffalos football program most likely heading back to the Tri-Valley Conference for next season.

STEELE HAUGEN - The Madras football program has moved back to playing at 4A classification after a short two-year stint down at the 3A level.The Madras football program is back to playing 4A competition for this upcoming (2020) season.

The White Buffalos played at the 3A level for the last two seasons, having a combined record of 12-8. Madras made the state playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1985-86.

The Buffs were in the 3A Special District 1 East Conference, playing teams like Yamhill-Carlton, Scio, Corbett (4A), Blanchet Catholic and Salem Academy. Madras finished second in the 3A-SD 1-East Conference both years at the 3A division.

In 2018, Madras finished second behind Scio, and in 2019 the Buffs finished second again, this time to Yamhill-Carlton. Madras lost to 3A powerhouse, Rainier in the state playoffs both years. In 2018, Rainier won the 3A state championship, and in 2019, Rainier lost in the semifinals game.

The White Buffalos were not forced to move back up to 4A, but instead head coach Kurt Taylor and the football program chose to go back to 4A.

"I want to be at 4A," head coach Kurt Taylor said. "I believe we should be at 4A, and we look like a 4A team. We did not four years ago. We didn't even look like a 2A football team four years ago, but now we are there. The boys are ready, excited, we have 4A and 5A type numbers in participation, our youth programs are cooking and doing awesome. We are now seeing the kids that started in the youth program are now 9th and 10th graders, which helps tremendously. We are ready to be a 4A team."

According to the Oregon School Activities Association, teams are only forced to move back up to their normal classification if they have a two-year in-classification winning percentage of 66.67% or higher. Also, any team that wins an OSAA football championship game, regardless of round, is automatically moved to their originating classification after the two-year period.

The White Buffalos finished both of their seasons at the 3A level with a 60% win percentage and a first-round 3A state playoff exit.

Ten teams are going back up to their original classification. The Dalles (5A), Hidden Valley (4A), Warrenton (3A), Lowell (2A) and Pilot Rock (2A) all played down a classification and are now required to move back up in classification for the 2020 season.

Four teams asked to move back to their original classification even though they were not required to. Cleveland (6A), Wilson (6A), Madras (4A) and Oakridge (2A) have all decided they want to play in their original classifications. Also, Jordan Valley, the 1A eight-man champions, are required to go back to 2A due to enrollment.

Of the 27 schools that met the criteria to move down in classification for the next two seasons (starting in 2020), 14 schools have decided to make the change.

Canby will play at the 5A level, Milwaukie and North Eugene will play down in 4A. Junction City, Philomath, McLoughlin and Central Oregon's Sisters High School will play at the 3A Classification. Salem Academy, Irrigon and Umatilla will be at the 2A level, and Gold Beach (eight man), North Lake, Prospect and Pine Eagle will play six-man football at the 1A level.

STEELE HAUGEN - Madras football will most likey go back to the 4A Tri-Valley Conference for the 2020 season.The Madras White Buffalos football program will most likely return to the Tri-Valley Conference, playing teams like North Marion, Molalla, Estacada, Gladstone and Crook County (5A).

Last season, The Dalles (5A), Crook County (5A) and Woodburn played in the Tri-Valley Conference as Madras and Corbett were playing 3A football. The Dalles made it to the 4A state playoff semifinals game. Corbett, like Crook County, will continue to play down a classification.

In the last 15 years, Madras football has played at 3A, 4A and 5A level. Head coach Kurt Taylor is confident the 4A level is where the Madras football program belongs.

"We are in a tough league with Gladstone, North Marion, Estacada and Crook (County), but we should be able to compete, and that is what I am most excited about," Taylor said.

"This is where we belong. We are kind of pigeonholed as far as being in Madras, the location of the town. It is easier for us to go over the pass. I think where we are at is perfect, and we belong in this league. It is best for travel, best for the other competitions."

Coach Taylor became the Madras football coach at the 4A level in 2016, right before the season started and Madras finished the season 0-8. In 2017, the football team won two games and broke one of the longest losing streaks in 4A.

The 2018 and 2019 seasons were both played at the 3A level and the White Buffalos were very successful, winning 60% of their games while also making the state playoffs. The last time Madras made the state playoffs in 4A was in 2012.

"The biggest thing is the size of the programs," Taylor said about the difference between 3A and 4A teams. "The 4A level, you have more kids playing in the program, therefore you are going to get more talent. In 3A, you get like Scio, who runs things like a diesel package, which an in tight set, running behind big dudes. At the 4A level you don't really see too much of that. It is more of a dynamic offense with multiple formations. We will see more spread-out offenses.

"The type of competition we were seeing at the 3A level were just as good as some of the teams we were seeing before we dropped down," he said. "There is not much of a difference in competition. Program size, more teams with college type athletes, which is why we fit into that model."

The program has continued to improve and has increased the number of football players at a tremendous rate.

Since coach Taylor took over the program, Madras football has broken one of the longest losing streaks in 4A, has been awarded $10,000 worth of football equipment, has made back-to-back state playoff appearances, has seen a decrease in the number of concussions and has changed the culture of Madras football through his D.E.S.I.R.E. core values. The core values stand for Discipline, Effort, Service, Integrity, Respect and Excellence.

Coach Taylor was also selected for a United States Marine Corps Semper Fidelis Coach award, given to Taylor to honor high school football coaches who display faithfulness to the mission of their team and exemplify the Marine standards of excellence in developing leaders. This was a national award, given to only 32 coaches in the nation.

"Why stay in 3A?," Taylor asked. "What benefits us from playing in 3A? It is just as good of competition. Our records would have probably been somewhat the same, when you are playing the state champion team every year or the semifinals team, also playing six teams that made it semifinals or quarterfinals. It is good for us to see how we do against Gladstone and Estacada again."

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