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Trailing at the half just 14-6, Madras falters in the second and falls 32-6 to league champs Gladstone

LON AUSTIN  - Cael White cuts upfield against Gladstone April 2. White made a leaping catch of a 21-yard Dru Boyle pass for a touchdown in the second quarter of the 32-6 Buff loss. The Madras White Buffalos played their best game of the season Friday. Unfortunately, it came against one of the toughest 4A teams in the state, unbeaten Gladstone, champions of the Tri-Valley Conference.

The White Buffs fought the entire game, but Gladstone's size eventually proved to be too much as Madras fell 32-6 to the Gladiators on senior night.

"I loved the effort," said Madras head coach Kurt Taylor. "That was the biggest goal was to see what they could do if they just came out and just applied everything that we've taken in the last few weeks and just laid it all out. We told them just lay everything you have on the field and see what happens, and by golly I thought we had a chance, I really did."

The surprises started immediately when the Buffs pulled off a nice onside kick to start the game. They didn't get much offensively from there, but it seemed to inspire confidence.

With the White Buffalos playing stout defense, neither team was able to score in the first quarter. Early in the second, the White Buffalos were forced to punt. Gladstone's Ryan Lee caught the short punt in full stride and raced all the way down to the Madras 12-yard line.

On the next play, Lee took the ball around left end and went all the way to the Madras 1-yard line. However, the Madras defense stiffened and tackled Gladstone runners for losses on each of the next two plays. Then, on third and goal from the 4-yard line, the center snap went over the head of Gladiator quarterback Brayde Owen. Owen raced back to the 27-yard line, picked the ball up on the run and threw a perfect strike to Jude Ashpole in the back corner of the end zone. The 2-point conversion attempt, another pass to Ashpole, failed, but the Gladiators were ahead 6-0.

Finding it tough to move the ball all night, three plays later, the White Buffalos punted again. The kick was downed on the Gladstone 38-yard line. Four plays later, Owen hit Ashpole again, this time for a 45-yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion was good as Owen hit Ashpole in the end zone, giving the Gladiators a 14-0 lead with 5:59 remaining in the first half.

That's when White Buffalos fought back and put together a nice drive, from their own 27-yard line all the way to the Gladstone 21. Then, on third and 10, sophomore quarterback Dru Boyle dropped back to pass and lofted a perfect strike to Cael White in the end zone. White was well covered but he leaped and caught the pass for the touchdown.

The extra point attempt by Hayden Smith smacked the left upright and fell back instead of through. However, the White Buffalos were within striking range at 14-6 with just over a minute left in the first half.

Madras took the kick to start the second half but was unable to move the ball. A booming 48-yard kick gave Gladstone the ball on their 19. Three consecutive runs by Sebastian Peiffer moved the ball to near midfield. A pass from Owen to Ethan Finnigan moved the ball to the Madras 20-yard line. Then, two plays later, Peiffer scored from 12 yards out. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, but the Gladiators had some breathing room, leading 20-6.

Madras struggled to move the ball in the second half, while Gladstone scored on their next two possessions. First, Owen hit Ashpole for a 37-yard touchdown, then Owen carried the ball across the goal line from the 2-yard line. Both times, the 2-point conversion attempt failed — the Buffs were stout against inside runs all night — but the damage was done, and the Gladiators pulled away for the 32-6 win.

"We really looked like we were going to get to them," Taylor said. "But there's something to be said about sometimes the Jimmy's and Joe's are just a little bit better than the Xs and Os, and they had some guys and they caught us off guard. And, Ashpole, we really couldn't stop him. By far this was the best game we have played this year. I'm very proud because it's the last game, and I think if we play that way the last four games, I think a lot of those outcomes are very different. Very different."

Following the game, the White Buffalos spent several minutes with the coaching staff talking to the players about life lessons they could learn from the season.

"It was hard not knowing if we would have a season or not," said senior Michael Belgard. "It was hard to adapt because most of the guys weren't expecting a season, but it was great to at least be out here with all of these guys for my last year. It was a great experience with the coaches, what I learned about football and life. I learned a lot of things about life. We gave it our all. We may have made mistakes, but we did what we could."

Although Taylor was disappointed with the loss, he believes that the team grew a lot during the season.

"I think it proved to our boys what we are trying to do," he said. "And I think it proved to them, hey, if we do the things that we need to do, we can be successful, and I think it opened their eyes a little bit to that point. I'm excited about what we can do the next couple of years."

With the win, Gladstone improved to 5-0, while Madras fell to 1-4.

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