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Following the cancelation of the Corbett game last Friday, the team moms stepped up

ANDY DIECKHOFF/MADRAS PIONEER - The Madras football team gathered on Friday for a pregame BBQ, even though their opponent canceled.When news came down last Thursday that the Madras home opener was canceled, the immediate response from the team was utter disappointment.

"I hardly had the heart to tell them," MHS athletic director Daniel Barendse said of informing the team that Corbett was forced to pull out of last Friday's game due to COVID-19 protocols.

Madras varsity head coach Kurt Taylor confirmed that the news was just as bad on the receiving end.

"The guys were truly, truly disappointed," said Taylor.

After having last season — and the last two schools years — negatively affected by the pandemic, the team thought they might be in the clear as they prepared for the new fall season. Instead, they were thrust back into the familiar feelings of confusion and frustration.

Taylor described in detail how his team has, as a group, gone through more than its fair share of emotional trauma and personal adversity. The sixth-year head coach described the mood following this latest cancelation as one of mourning.

With a long holiday weekend ahead and the team in despair, the coaching staff decided that they would simply cancel all team activities on Friday. Instead, they wanted to give the players some bonus time off to help wash the sour taste out of their mouths.

The boys' mothers had other plans.

Rather than letting the team go their separate ways to sulk, a group of team moms banded together and decided to go forward with the team's traditional pregame barbecue before home games.

ANDY DIECKHOFF/MADRAS PIONEER - Team moms Kim Stout, left, and Heidi Boyle serve barbecue chicken, as is tradition before MHS home games."We had it all planned out already," said Kim Stout, whose son TJ is a senior on the team. "So, we thought, 'why not still do it?'"

After talking it over with the coaching staff, everyone was in agreement that the best way to heal from this most recent setback would be to spend time together instead of apart.

So, they did.

Armed with two kinds of barbecued chicken, some borrowed tables and chairs from the school district office, and a healthy dose of optimism, the team managed to beat back the blues by bringing in a little home cooking.

In addition to Stout, other moms working the buffet line included Heidi Boyle, Karla Simmelink, Dee Poland and Heather Alford. On their end of the serving table, Stout and Boyle joked about which of the competing chicken recipes was liked best by the team.

"Our moms are amazing," Taylor boasted between bites of a drumstick. "You hear it a lot, but this team is a true family. That's what makes this place so special. It all starts with them."

Taylor went on to explain just how much this team means to him.

"There is true love on this team," he said. "I get hugs from players after practices. I get texts from guys just saying, 'I love you, Coach.' We say 'I love you' during practice."

"I know it sounds weird," he continued, "but it feels like there's an aura around this team. There's just something special."

"(The families) are the reason we're here," said assistant coach Jerry Shaw, who also coaches the MHS baseball team. "They asked us to do this today," he added, referring to the team luncheon.

Shaw noted that by the second or third year of Kurt Taylor leading the football program, the parents of the players had truly embraced the coach.

"They're the glue that holds this team together," said Shaw. "Until you have the support of the families, it's hard."

That support was readily apparent on Friday as the pregame barbecue felt more like a family gathering than a booster club fundraiser. The family atmosphere hit hardest when the birthday cakes came out — one for Kurt Taylor and the other for a member of the rally team. After the team finished its off-key rendition of Happy Birthday for their head coach, Taylor admitted that he had not eaten something so rich in quite some time.

ANDY DIECKHOFF/MADRAS PIONEER - After filling up on barbecue chicken, the team broke out into a game of flag football.In the end, the gathering had all the trappings of a family get-together. Music blared through the speakers of the on-field P.A. system while the team ate, talked and laughed together. Varsity players horsed around with the coaches' kids in the concourse, before taking the act onto the field. Minutes later a handful of upperclassmen were going shirts-and-skins for a surprisingly organized game of flag football. Meanwhile, a few grumbling freshmen were relegated to the kids' table, so to speak, as they ran routes on the nearby practice fields.

No game? No problem. Even when Madras football had every right to feel down, the Buffs' football family was able to come together and lift each other up.

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