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The Madras defense came out hot and forced three turnovers in the season opener

ANDY DIECKHOFF/MADRAS PIONEER - Madras pass rusher Reece White (14) and safety Ethan Graeme (13) signal a turnover in the first quarter.Madras football got started on the right foot last Friday, beating Sisters 16-7 at home. The White Buffalos rode to victory on the back of a strong defensive effort in the first quarter. Madras junior Johan Poland led the way with two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

"Johan Poland is a great athlete," said Madras coach Kurt Taylor after the win. In addition to his contributions on defense, Poland also ran for 40 yards as the team's lead running back and handled the kicking duties for the team. He was 2-for-2 on extra points and 0-for-1 on field goals.

ANDY DIECKHOFF/MADRAS PIONEER - Madras junior Johan Poland was the player of the game for the Buffs. He had two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown, to go along with 40 rushing yards and two made extra-point attempts.Poland was just one part of a multifaceted defense for Madras — a defense that was being called by Taylor for the first time during his tenure at MHS.

"That's the first time I've called a defense in six years," Taylor said during a postgame interview. "I've been a managerial head coach the last six years. For me it's huge because I really need it in my life. Calling the defense was just awesome."

Whatever plays he called in the first quarter seemed to work perfectly.

The Buffs forced a three-and-out on the Outlaws' first drive and then junior Ayden Holcomb blocked a punt on fourth down. On Sisters' next offensive drive, Texas Arreola got a sack as part of another three-and-out — only this time, the Outlaws mishandled the snap on the punt attempt, causing their punter to fall on the ball in the end zone as senior Ethan Graeme led a pack of charging Buffs toward the fumble.

The safety opened up the scoring for Madras, who led 2-0 and got the ball right back in good field position after Sisters kicked the ball out of bounds. The Buffs' offense sputtered and punted back to the Outlaws. On the first play of the next drive, Poland jumped in front of a pass from Sisters quarterback Griffin Gardner and ran the interception back 17 yards for a Madras' first touchdown of the season.

On the second play of the ensuing drive for Sisters, Ayden Holcomb jumped on a fumble to force another turnover for the White Buffalos. The defense added three more tackles for loss in the first half, including one from Holcomb and the others from seniors Reece White and Angel Jimenez. Poland added another interception in the fourth quarter to help stymie the Outlaws' comeback attempt.

The Buffs' opportunistic defense is no accident. Turnovers are something that Taylor preaches heavily in his practices.

"We talk about that constantly," said Taylor about his team's knack for getting takeaways. "We didn't try to strip the ball as much as I would have liked, or as aggressively. But we're ball hawks. We go out and get the ball. We try to get them in the right coverages based on the pass concepts that we see on film."

While the defense came out firing on all cylinders, the offense took more time to get going.

The Buffs nearly scored on their opening drive, but junior wideout Cael White was called for offensive pass interference in the end zone, pushing the team out of field goal territory. In fact, the offense committed penalties on each of its drives in the first half.

"Stupid, first game stuff," said Taylor of the offensive penalties. He also gave a reminder that the team did not have a game last week, which would explain some of the mental mistakes.

"Those should have been things that happened in Corbett that didn't happen as much here. And they're discipline issues, so we'll take care of them. We have a lot of young guys playing football for us, especially on the line. So, we're going to see some of those mistakes."

The second half opened with a bang as Cael White returned the kickoff all the way to the Sisters 14-yard line. While the Buffs did not commit a penalty on this drive, they did lose a play to a fumbled snap. Despite the promising field position, the offense eventually walked away without any points after Poland's 38-yard field goal sailed wide right.

Sisters immediately capitalized, breaking the Madras defense open for the first time with a 59-yard run by Adam Madox-Castle that went all the way down to the one-yard line. After the Buffs defense stuffed the Outlaws' first attempt to score, Griffin Gardner hit Riley Sellers in the end zone for a five-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to two.

The teams traded fruitless possessions back and forth throughout the rest of the third quarter and into the fourth. Despite the close score, the game lacked excitement until Poland stepped in. In a near carbon copy of his first-half interception, the junior jumped another passing route and managed to get both feet inbounds deep in Sisters' own territory to secure the late interception.

ANDY DIECKHOFF/MADRAS PIONEER - Madras quarterback Dru Boyle falls forward for positive yardage. Boyle had the Buffs' only offensive touchdown of the night, a four-yard rushing score in the fourth quarter that sealed the victory for MHS.Poland followed that up with his longest run of the game, an 11-yard carry that put the Buffs within striking distance. Moments later, Madras quarterback Dru Boyle picked up a bad snap and trucked through an Outlaw defender at the goal line for a four-yard touchdown run. Poland hit the extra point, giving Madras a 16-7 lead that was never threatened again.

While Boyle did rush for a touchdown, he struggled through the air. The junior completed just four of his 14 pass attempts for a meager 35 yards. Ayden Holcomb led the receiving corps with 15 yards on one catch. Cael White had 12 yards on one grab, while older brother Reece had two receptions for 8 yards.

Madras moves to 1-0 on the new season, with two more tune-up games before league play begins in 4A Special District 2. The Buffs will host Sweet Home at Madras High School at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 17.

Taylor said of the Huskies, "Sweet Home is going to be tough, but we get them at home. They'll be very athletic. They've got a ton of wrestlers on their team. Tough kids. They like to spread it out, and they usually have a quarterback that is pretty good. We'll see how it goes."

Madras 16, Sisters 7

at Madras High School

Sisters 0 0 7 0 — 7

Madras 9 0 0 7 — 16

M — Ethan Graeme safety.

M — Johan Poland 17-yard interception return. Poland kick good.

S — Griffin Gardner 5-yard pass to Riley Sellers. Sean Alvarez kick good.

M — Dru Boyle 4-yard run. Poland kick good.

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