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Madras White Buffalo boys soccer team young, but still filled with skill and leadership

STEELE HAUGEN - Junior Leo Gutierrez, center, helps the new White Buffalo boys soccer team with footwork drills. Gutierrez scored 10 goals and assisted on three, earning honorable mention Tri-Valley honors last season.

The Madras White Buffalo soccer program made it to the semifinals game during the 2018 season, becoming only the third semifinal team in Madras boys soccer history. This season will have a different roster, as several key seniors graduated.

"Well, we did graduate a lot of people, however we did have a deep bench last year and a lot of the kids that did not get a lot of playing time last year are still really talented," said head coach Clark Jones. "If we come together as a team and work together, we are going to be a pretty solid team."

During the 2018 season, Madras led the Tri-Valley Conference with a 7-2-1 record. The Buffs have been the top team in the TVC three years in a row. Last year, a combination of injuries and a tough league saw Madras lose its first league game in more than two years.

The senior heavy team showed their skill and speed during the postseason, beating McLoughlin 3-1 and Newport 2-1, making it to the the state playoff semifinals game. They finished the season with a 12-4-1 overall record.

Madras lost to soccer powerhouse program Woodburn, 6-0. Woodburn moved from 5A to 4A during last year's OSAA reclassification. From 2010-2017, the Bulldogs won five 5A state titles and won last year's 4A state title, beating Madras' TVC rival, the North Marion Huskies.

The team was led by first-team all-state player Andres Acuna, who finished the season with 21 goals and three assists. Acuna and nine other Buffalos earned TVC honors last season.

Melchor Olivera, who defended and played midfield for the Buffs, also earned first-team honors last season, as well as goalie Byron Patt. Olivera and Acuna are now playing soccer at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton.

"We had a couple sophomores last year that I think are going to make a lot of impact this year," said Jones. "One is Jesus Alonzo and the other is Javier Sedano. There are some others that didn't start last year. Omar Diaz is a senior that is looking good and is a leader; Noe Palacios is stepping up in a spot he wasn't in last year. We only had room for 22 kids on varsity last year and we probably had 28 kids who were varsity material. We only lost 13 kids, so we know there is a still a lot of talent out there."

STEELE HAUGEN - Senior Tyriek Rodriguez will lead this year's boys soccer team as a leader and captain.
Rodriguez was named second-team Tri-Valley hononrs last season."Leo (Guttierez) is returning and so is Tyriek (Rodriguez) and he is going to be a captain," he said. "What I am finding is this group is holding themselves accountable. If everyone does what they are supposed to be doing and play hard, you are going to see those kids that we haven't heard yet. I think our scoring is going to be really spread out this year, not in huge numbers, but finishing the season with five goals."

Two White Buffalos who earned honors last season will be returning for the 2019 season — Tyriek Rodriguez and Leo Gutierrez. Rodriguez earned second-team honors, scoring three goals and assisting on two and Gutierrez earned honorable mention honors, scoring 10 goals and assisting on three.

"I am excited," Rodriguez said. "I have always wanted to take charge of this team and now it is my year to do so with my other senior friends. I am excited for this year and what is to come. All these kids are hungry. They are pushing themselves; I'm pushing them to be better. I have faith in these kids, whether they make the team or don't make the team."

"You always have to make your goals high, right?" he asked. "I am always hoping for a state championship. That is where my head is at and I am hoping that is where my teammates' heads are at right now. I want to win league again for the fourth time in a row, so that should be a challenge, but state championship is always the goal."

Seasoned head coach Clark Jones won Co-Tri-Valley coach of the year last season and even though he knows the team lost a lot of seniors, he also knows the Buffs are not lacking in talent this season.

"You have to be able to watch kids play at gamespeed," Jones said about finding what kind of team they will be. "The good kids will practice as hard as they play. Some won't and they will be surprised when facing competition. During the preseason, we are going to figure out which combinations are working, who is playing at gamespeed, who is helping make these cohesive, who the leaders are and who is moving the ball effectively."

"We are going to have to rethink how we are going to do things," he said. "Last year, we figured out where we needed place our defense and our pressure. This year, we are going to have to figure out the same things. We have some really, really fast kids and we are going to take advantage of that."

The Madras boys soccer team opens the season with a home game against Sisters at 5 p.m. Sept. 3. They will travel to 6A Mountain View Sept. 10, facing the Cougars at 4 p.m.

"I think we will be a much better team at the end of the year than at the beginning," Jones said. "There is not a whole lot of experience, but the will and attitude is there. Like I said, this group is talented; I like our chances."

"It's (TVC) is going to be tough," said Jones. "Molalla is still going to be there, the other teams are still there. We didn't roll over the top of anybody, but we did control the games. We need to figure out how to control these games again. It is going to be a competitive team and now we really have an opportunity to see what these new kids can do."

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