Madras football on the rise
The Madras football program is coming into the season with the fourth year of head coach Kurt Taylor at the helm. This year will be the first where all the football players only know his style of coaching and the D.E.S.I.R.E. — Discipline, Effort, Service, Integrity, Respect and Excellence — core values throw program aims for.
"I think it is critical," Taylor said about his players only knowing his way of coaching. "It has set the tone, especially with our seniors. Even though we have some bad habits from programs before we got here, they are completely bought in, they know the game better than they ever have, they understand how we practice, what we expect and the effort that goes along with that.
"They understand our schemes better," he said. "We have run this offense and defense for two years now, so we are much farther along and it is nice to be able to have that prior knowledge, so we can really focus more on the opponents. That's something myself and the staff have always wanted to do, but had to put it on the back burner a little bit, to get the boys to understand our stuff and the game."
Last season, the Buffs dropped down to 3A, playing in the 3A-SD1-E conference. The program had one of its most successful seasons, finishing with a 6-4 record and making the 3A state playoffs.
"We set our goals this year and our biggest goal this year is to travel well and become a good traveling football team," Taylor said. "Yes the teams we lost to last year we could have won. We play much better at home, so we need to travel well. The team travels to Scio, Rainier, Yamhill-Carlton this season and those teams are all much better. It will be interesting to see they accept that challenge and goals we have put in front of them.
"If we can get them to understand what the other teams are doing, at the end of the day, their effort is going to dictate if we win or lose some of those games. We have athletes across the board and depth, so it is all going to be about their mindset, attitude and how they are willing to embrace a grind that could last several weeks."
Madras was 4-1 in league play, scoring 246 points and giving up 182. That was the smallest margin in conference play. The White Buffalos traveled to No. 1-ranked Rainier during the 2018 state playoffs, but lost to Rainier, who would later become the 3A state champions.
The White Buffalos will have 20 seniors on this year's roster — a big senior class for a growing football program.
"Senior leadership is going to be everything," senior defensive player Liam White said. "The whole season will be dedicated on if the seniors want to continue. As in, we are going to go as far as we want to go. We have the talent, now we need to make sure the younger group and the whole team has the same mentality as these seniors."
"Last year was as a bit of a shock," White said about last year's state playoff game. "You could tell it was something new, no one had been there before. Now playing in a full game, getting comfortable we know we can beat every team in 3A."
Madras saw 14 White Buffalos earn all-league honors and lost a few to graduation, but the team also has several key athletes returning for their senior years. Robert Pacheco took the job of quarterback playing the position during all of last season's league play.
Pacheco earned first-team all-league, finishing the season with 459 passing yards, five passing touchdowns, while having a 49.09 completion rating and 102 passer rating. The dual run-pass QB also ran for 357 yards and five rushing touchdowns, averaging 5.67 yards per carry.
Also returning on offense, is senior running back Treyvonn Easterling. Easterling earned first-team Tri-Valley honors (4A) his sophomore year and second-team 3A-SD1-E conference honors his junior year. Last season he ran for 578 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 4.52 yards per carry and 64.22 yards per game.
"We need to get the younger class ready, teaching them DESIRE and core values," Easterling said. "Our offense is looking good. We still have some things we need to work on, but that is always to happen. The Line is working hard, receivers, quarterback, we are all doing what we need to do. I want this team to make and go deep in the playoffs. I am expecting the best out of everyone, making sure we all have DESIRE and are making an impact at school and in the community."
"I think we just need to work hard and giving it your all on every play," he said. "That one person not working hard is all it takes to ruin a play. We need to go hard every second, every play, every moment."
On the defensive side of the ball, senior middle linebacker Kody Zemke is coming off first-team honors after a tremendous defensive season. Zemke ended the year with 87 tackles, 16 for a loss, four sacks, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one interception.
"The seniors need to be extensions of the coaching staff if we want to be a championship team," Zemke said. "Coach Taylor's positive attitude and leadership skills will not let this team slack. We all know we are not just a football team and we can't just do what we want. We need to give back and be a role in this community."
"Kids need to stay healthy, have the right mindset and give full effort this year," he said. "The defense looks really good. We have a lot of returners that haven't played yet. It looks as strong as it has ever been. I really connect with these other guys like never before and I am really excited for it."
The White Buffalos start the season on the road this year. They travel to McLoughlin High School, playing at 7 p.m. Friday. Sept. 6. Madras has their first home game at 7 p.m. Sept. 13, for a Central Oregon showdown against La Pine.
"I really want to win every game on the road," Taylor said. "I want to give them confidence going on the road and learn how to take care of business. Even if we get a home playoff game, you are still going to go on the road for those late playoff games. We have to teach them how to respond to long bus rides, different routines, getting them fed, things like that."
"We classified our goals this year into three-fold," he said. "Our expected goals, which everyone has expected goals, win a state championship, a league championship. Those are expected goals. Our program goals are winning every away game, staying as healthy as possible, and we want to make sure that we are retaining all of our junior varsity players moving forward."
"At the end of the day we want to win a state championship, win league, we want to do those things," said Taylor. "We want to do those things because we want to prove to everyone that the hard work we have done is paying off. We want to reach those goals, but we also want to make sure we are doing everything right to make sure these young boys are becoming young men and doing the right things."
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