Having already faced each other last season, Madras football had a good idea of what Cottage Grove would run. Stopping it, however, was a tall order.
The White Buffalos were steep underdogs against a Lions team that contended for a 4A state championship last season. Although the final score, 49-13, was an improvement from a year ago, Madras head coach Kurt Taylor said his team didn't play particularly well until late, when the Buffs scored two touchdowns in the second half.
Before that, however, most every advantage in the game belonged to Cottage Grove.
The Lions took a 42-0 lead into halftime, which prompted head coach Gary Roberts to pull most of his starters in the second half.
A combination of speed and strong outside blocking left White Buffalo defenders in bad pursuit angles, which Taylor said stymied his team.
Cottage Grove racked up 309 rushing yards, 125 passing yards, while holding Madras to 216 yards of its own.
"It's tough, (but) they're a good ball club," Taylor said.
Although Madras was shut out in the first half, its offense did have some successful drives, before costly mistakes ended any chance at scoring points.
Sophomore running back Treyvon Easterling found success on the ground en route to 54 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown, but drives stalled on avoidable mistakes — penalties, errant snaps and fumbles. The Buffs also uncharacteristically dropped six passes in the first half alone, all of which were catchable balls.
"They were pretty timid," Taylor said. "They just weren't quite ready for what they went up against."
In the second half, Madras finally found the end zone. Quarterback Liam White hit Robert Pacheco for a 70-yard touchdown to put the Buffs on the board. For the second week in a row, Pachecho led Madras in receiving with three catches for 95 yards.
"He catches every dang ball that comes his way," Taylor said. "In traffic, he gets drilled (and) he keeps the ball."
With White and Pacheco forming a nice tandem early, Madras has a passing game that can open up running lanes for Madras ball carriers.
"We're gonna start throwing the ball a lot more, because we can," Taylor said. "We've got guys that can do it."
Despite the blowout loss, Madras is determined not to let it linger as it prepares for its home opener against Valley Catholic, which has a 2-0 record, on Friday at 7 p.m.
"We tell our kids that we always fail forward," Taylor said.
"We'll say, 'That was last week, this is this week.' We're still the same team. We just need to play our game and not be timid."