On senior night, the Madras White Buffalos soccer team won its biggest game of the season after defeating the Molalla Indians ?3-2, thanks to a game-winning penalty kick by Tyriek Rodriguez.
Madras started the first half a little slow and Molalla scored a goal in the first three minutes of the game.
The White Buffalos and Indians both fought for possession of the ball for the majority of the first half, but in the last six minutes of the half, Madras turned on the heat.
Madras controlled the ball and was on the attack, keeping the ball in front of the Molalla goal. Jesus Alonzo found a wide open Leo Gutierrez, who kicked the ball hard and low as the Molalla goalie attempted to grab the ball. The shot went right past the Molalla goalie and right into the back of the net.
"I am feeling excited and happy that we pulled through and got the win and we got focused and got ourselves together," Rodriguez said. "We came to the realization that for the seniors, this was our last game. We needed to go all out for the fans and for ourselves to try and leave a mark here."
Madras and Molalla went into the second half with the game tied at 1-1.
"Our guys discovered that they were a lot faster than the defenders were," said Jones. "We worked on some things to exploit it and we moved the ball around, using angles and the sides of the field. Moving without the ball was a big thing. We had players move to open spots on the field, so we had players to pass to. We just clicked and we haven't clicked all year. If you are going to pick a game to do it, this was the game. We go into halftime and look over; they are sitting down and we knew we had this, which was a good feeling."
Molalla agained scored right away, this time early in the second half, taking a 2-1 lead over Madras.
Still early in the second half, senior Tyriek Rodriguez was left open far from the goal. Rodriguez took the deep shot and the ball floated right over the head of the Molalla goalie and into the net.
The score energized the Buffalos and gave them the momentum back as Rodriguez tied the game at 2-2 with 36 minutes left in the game.
Madras was on the attack, shooting several shots on goal, while controlling the ball on offense. With 18 minutes left, Rodriguez passed the ball high in the air to Manny Flores.
A hand ball was called in the box on Molalla and the White Buffalos were awarded a penalty kick. Rodriguez lined the kick up and the game was in his hands.
He kicked the ball to the right side of the net and the goalie had no chance of blocking the score as the White Buffalos took a 3-2 lead.
"I was only focusing on that kick and nothing but that kick," said Rodriguez. "(I was) focusing on putting it in the back of the net and putting us ahead. When it went in, I was ecstatic, excited and grateful for everyone that was here tonight, thankful for all the teammates that have pushed me to be here. It feels great."
Madras kept its pressure on Molalla until the end of the game, beating the Indians, who were undefeated in the Tri-Valley Conference, and the Madras seniors won their last home game of their careers.
"They (seniors) have been ones that have been with me, at least my starters, for a long time and some of them aren't getting to play as much as they want, which is a hard thing to do. They are all really, really good team players and to me to watch something like that, like Omar (Diaz), who developed incredibly since he was a freshman and not just as a player, but a person and leader. To me that is why I coach. Not to win or lose, but to develop young men to where they have enough skills that will be beneficial for life — that is why we play; that is why we coach."
"Tyriek (Rodriguez) has always been a performer," Jones said. "He and I don't always agree, but I do listen to what he says and what he says is usually good stuff. He will be somebody that will make an impact in life later. I can see him as a coach."
"Juan Huerta is kind of a golden boy in a lot of ways," said Jones. "He has developed through the years and has worked really hard. He knows the value of hard work and is incredibly trustworthy. He is a great student and will go a long way."
"I remember when Noe (Palacios) and Franklin (Pineda) were freshmen, they were the only ones adventurous enough to play with Jonathan Reynoso (former MHS first-team player) during open fields, so we have seen them grow up. Over the years, there have been many groups that have gone through and this group is as special as any of them are ever going to be."
The White Buffalos (7-4-2 overall, 4-4-1 in league play) moved up to No. 20 in the 4A ranking and are now on the brink of making a postseason game.
"I honestly think we have been underachieving all year and we haven't beaten a solid team yet," Jones said. "We came close to tying them (Molalla) at their house and my biggest question was if we had enough room on this field (football field) and I thought we adapted really well. We switched some people around, changed our focus, worked on a few things in practice, worked on shooting and we ended up with three goals after not scoring the last couple of games. The team took it to them and by the end of the game, they (Molalla) were beat, which is usually a pretty good sign."
Madras had one regular season game left on its schedule, playing at Estacada (4-7-2 overall, 0-7-2 in league play) Oct. 29.
"We were at the bubble, ranked 21 and you need to be at least ranked 20 to make a play-in game," Jones said. "Honestly, we haven't taken care of business this year. There have been various distractions throughout the year and we didn't have that this game. Regardless of what happens with the postseason, we beat a higher ranked team than us and that should bump us up."
"I think we can make some noise in the postseason," he said. "Sometimes, your goal is to make the state bracket and maybe win a game, but honestly, depending on how we get placed, we might do better than that. This is a very talented Madras team that didn't have quite the experience. We gained a lot of experience tonight."
If the White Buffalos stay ranked in the top 20 in 4A, they will earn a postseason spot.
"I love them," said Rodriguez. "I love this team so much, even though I get on their butt about things in practice, I love them. I see the potential in all of them and especially the seniors. Those are my guys, so I will always be there for them and they will be there for me."
"I am happy that I was able to play on this team, with this coach and thankful this was the way we ended our senior night," Rodriguez said. "For the younger guys, push for your dreams and don't let anyone doubt you. Push through adversity and don't give up. Keep going to be the best you, can be."
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