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Madras team uses speed, experience to take down JV side from new 6A school in Bend

ANDY DIECKHOFF - Madras freshman Eben Tapia (22) was instrumental in the Buffs' attack along the wings.The Madras boys soccer team got back to their winning ways on Tuesday, topping the JV side from Caldera by a score of 4-0 at home. Steve Gonzalez and Gustavo Santellano scored for the Buffs in the first half, while captains Luis Benitez and Israel Estrada added late goals to seal the win.

"That was a better showing," said head coach Clark Jones, referring to how his team performed against Caldera in comparison to their efforts in a 2-1 loss to Sisters last week. "We responded really well."

Going up against a team made up solely of freshmen and sophomores, the Madras boys took control early and never looked back. When Caldera opened this month, it only started with ninth- and tenth-grade students. The school will add a third class next school year and will graduate its first class of seniors in 2024. Despite the lack of upperclassmen, the school is still categorized in the 6A division by the OSAA; however, it does not field a varsity team just yet.

"Caldera played well, honestly, for freshmen and sophomores," said Jones. "They played a solid game."

Still, they weren't solid enough to stop the Madras attack.

ANDY DIECKHOFF/MADRAS PIONEER - Freshman Steve Gonzalez (13) scored his second goal of the season in the first half against Caldera.The White Buffalos opened the scoring with a Steve Gonzalez strike from near the penalty spot in the 11th minute. The goal was Gonzalez's second of the season, after he scored in the team's opener against Crook County. Senior captain Israel Estrada provided the assist, his second of the season, after dribbling into the box against the Caldera defense.

Ten minutes later, Madras went up 2-0 when junior Gustavo Santellano blasted a shot across the mouth of the goal from the right side of the goalkeeper's box. The hard shot grazed off the underside of the crossbar and bounced into the back of the net, giving the Buffs a comfortable lead that they took into halftime.

In the second half, the White Buffalos continued to press the Caldera defense up and down the wings, with the speed of senior captain Luis Benitez and freshman Eben Tapia causing headaches for their opponents. It was common to see Benitez sprinting down the wing, dribbling into the box and sending a cross toward Gonzalez in the center or Tapia at the far post. The connection never quite hit on Tuesday night, but if the Buffs can get the timing down, it could prove a dangerous point of attack for the team.

The Madras defense, led by captain Ethan Tapia and fellow senior Jeremy Sanchez, rebuffed every move from the Wolfpack in the first 40 minutes. Junior midfielder Giovanni Diaz pressured would-be attackers and won a number of tackles in the open field. Golakeeper Ethan Nava was only forced into action a few times — mostly just to cut off crosses and errant long passes, though he senior did make four saves in the game.

Perhaps the most promising Caldera attack came in the 50th minute as Wolfpack forward Dane Giessler made a breakaway toward the Madras goal. Gilbert Palacios, a junior defender, made a great play to step in front and clear the ball to midfield before Giessler could fire off a shot.

Moments later, Benitez went down at midfield with a leg injury that forced the trainer to come out. He left for a brief spell but came back into the game just a few minutes later. After the game, the senior confirmed that he simply had a cramp in his leg and a bit of swelling in his ankle.

ANDY DIECKHOFF - Senior captain Luis Benitez (2) made good on his pregame prediction that he would score on Tuesday night.Before the game, Benitez predicted he would score against Caldera. In the 73rd minute, he made good on that promise.

Benitez made space for himself outside the penalty box and launched a rocket from about 20 yards out, leaving the Caldera goalkeeper helpless. It was Benitez's second goal in as many games after converting on a free kick against Sisters.

"It's another one for the place, you know," said Benitez of scoring in front of the home crowd.

The Buffs rounded out the 4-0 win in the 78th minute when Estrada converted on a penalty kick for his first goal of the season. The senior left no doubt as he placed the ball high and to the left-center of the net. He earned the penalty himself after being fouled in the box while driving toward the net.

Jones would not go so far as to say that Estrada is the team's full-time penalty taker. Instead, the coach offered a bit of sage wisdom.

"You know, there are some things I learned a long time ago," he said, "and one of them is you let your captains figure out who's going to do that. If you have trust in the captains, you should have trust in who they choose."

"They'll pick the right guy," he added. "I may not."

On Thursday, the team hosts another 6A school from Bend when the Summit Storm — the No. 1 team in the state as of Monday's OSAAToday coaches' poll — rolls into Madras for the teams' final non-league game. Despite Summit's lofty ranking, Jones did not place too much importance on the match.

"It's a preseason game," he said. "We just want to take something from it — win, lose or draw."

Luis Benitez was similarly unfazed by the upcoming opponent.

"We have talked about it," Benitez said about the Summit game. "We know it's going to be a tough game. We need to come out here and give it all we got."

"We know they're a pretty good team," the senior continued. "So, let's hope tomorrow's practice comes out good, and we can come with a good effort. And then meet them on Thursday and see how we play."

The teams kick off at the Madras High School soccer field at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday night.

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