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The Madras White Buffalos football team lost to Rainier 40-7 in a first round away state playoff game.

JAYSON SMITH - Keenan Miller scores on a 40-yard catch during Madras' 40-7 first round state playoff loss to Rainier Nov. 8.
Madras finished the year with a 6-4 overall record.The No 12 ranked Madras football team lost to No. 5 ranked Rainier 40-7 in a 3A state playoff away game Nov. 8. That was the first time since 1985-1986 that the Madras football program made back-to-back state playoff appearances.

Madras played Rainier for the fourth time in two years and the Buffs have yet to find a way to beat the elite Rainier Columbians.

"They just did what they do," head football coach Kurt Taylor said. "They have some dudes. They continue to reload. The most frustrating thing for me is playing a team four times and losing four times. It's a struggle for us as a staff because you go into that game and the boys are more confident than they have ever been and they just believe in themselves thoroughly."

"You lose to a team that is better than you, which I guess makes it feel better than some of the other losses this year, when we were losing because our boys were not completely there," he said. "We had mistakes, kids weren't completely doing their jobs fully, but at least they were confident and went into it with an edge of we're here for a reason, we deserve to be here and by golly we have a chance to beat these guys. We just ran into a team that was bigger, stronger and faster than us."

The White Buffalos started the game with confidence, energy and determination, moving the ball down the field, during a 10-minute drive. Madras was stopped in the red zone and a field goal by the Buffalos was missed.

"We started off, and from the first quarter it looked like we were going to win," Taylor said. "I have never seen our boys react that way. They had a great mindset and we took it to them immediately."

Rainier went to work in the run game and was able to score two touchdowns in the first half, taking a 16-0 lead over the White Buffalos to start the third quarter.

With both Madras and Rainier controlling the ball with the run game, the game clock kept running and the game ended quickly.

"It was a really run dominant, physical football game and it was over in a blink of an eye," said Taylor. "It was unbelievable how fast the game went, especially the first half, just because both teams ran the ball fairly well, chunking up time."

The White Buffalos were able to score in the fourth quarter. Liam White threw a pass to an open Keenan Miller for a 40-yard touchdown.

Rainier was able to get their running game going in the second half, scoring 26 points and defeating the Madras White Buffalos 40-7 in the first round of the state playoffs.

"The score isn't quite as reflective as what it looked like," Taylor said. "We played tough, but they were just a much bigger, stronger team than we are and it showed."

JAYSON SMITH - Senior Kody Zemke, left, stiff-arms a Rainier defender to the ground during the Buffalos' 40-7 first-round away game playoff loss. It was the first time the football program has made back-to-back state playoff games since 1985-1986. The Madras football program looks to be heading back to the 4A next football season.No official stats were recorded, but from broadcasts the Madras coaches heard, Madras had around 180 yards of total offense, and Rainier had around 320 yards of total offense. Rainier only completed one pass and Madras relied mostly on the run game itself. Madras did throw one interception in the game.

The Madras football program ended the year with a 6-4 overall record, finishing second in league with a 4-1 conference record. Madras started the season 2-3, but won four out of their last five games toward the end of the season.

"I think I am most proud of that later piece," said Taylor. "I was really nervous after the loss to La Pine (22-3) and the loss to Rainier (44-0), then we hit our stride a bit. We played opponents we should have beat no matter what, and then the loss to Yamhill-Carlton (27-7) was tough because the goal was to win a league championship and we thought and knew we could have beat them."

"It was tough to lose to them, but I am most proud of how our boys decided they were going to do what the coaches asked of them," he said. "We took a step back from the scheme of the game and focused on the mental part of the game, the confidence part of the game."

"They really responded to that and it shows. Even in the loss to Rainier, they were just a completely different team," Taylor said. "There was no quit in them the entire night. In years past, playing those guys, like in last year's playoff game, we just quit. We were mean to each other, there was no belief we could come back."

"This year, it was 24-0 in the middle of the third quarter and our boys still had the mindset that we could still do this. That is what I am most proud of because we can take that going into the future years and start developing kids with confidence," he said.

Several key players are graduating this year, but young, hungry Buffalos are ready to return for the next season.

"We are going to miss our seniors for sure," Taylor said. "They all had an intricate role, and they were all good football players and good kids. We struggled with some of them and their personality traits they had for a long time, but they will do anything you ask them to do. We are definitely going to miss them next year."

"Some of the juniors and sophomores are really, really excited and are ready to get back into it," he said. "They have kind of seen what they can do now. Last year, we were in the same boat, where we had about 15 to 16 seniors coming back, but we get to football season and we have six new seniors register to play."

"Hopefully, we can do that again to keep our numbers substantial," said Taylor. "I am really looking forward to the next football season, more so because we have a group of young men that will set the standard, especially in the weight room moving forward."

Madras, who has played at the 3A level, looks to be moving back to 4A competition next season.

"As of right now, we will probably be a 4A football team," Taylor said. "Where we would be seeded and where we would be in a league, we have no idea. I would like to be a 4A football team."

The football program played in the 3A-SD-1 East Conference this season, playing against league teams like Yamhill-Carlon, Scio, Corbett (4A), Blanchet Cathlolic and Salem Academy. Madras used to play in the 4A Tri-Valley conference, playing teams like North Marion, Estacada, Molalla and Gladstone. 5A Crook County, 5A The Dalles and former 5A Woodburn, all joined the former Tri-Valley Conference, now called the 4A-SD2 Conference for football the last couple of seasons.

"3A is super competitive," Taylor said. "It is one of the most competitive classifications I have ever coached at. I am glad that we did it. I think it gave us a ton of confidence and I don't want to call people out, but I think it is important that our community understands that 3A is tough football, really tough football."

"If you go back and look at some of the records over the last three to five years, 3A football teams playing 4A football teams, I would guess that most of the time 3A teams were beating 4A teams. Two years ago, a Scio team beat a semifinal Estacada team by a ton and it is really competitive. I hope our community understands and they're not taking anything away from our boys because we were in a smaller classification."

"We are super excited and so proud of our boys from this season, especially our seniors," said Taylor. "Really proud of them, but also really excited for the offseason and what the next football season can bring."

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