Huskies slip past Madras, beat Buffs 14-13
Madras football suffered its first loss of the season on Friday night as Sweet Home defeated the Buffs 14-13 at MHS. A late interception by Sweet Home set up a touchdown drive with just over a minute to play in the fourth quarter, and the extra point that followed proved to be the game-winning point for the Huskies.
"We should have won the game," said head coach Kurt Taylor after the game, "but we didn't."
The momentum of the game shifted dramatically late in the fourth quarter. With under three minutes to play, Madras led by a score of 13-7 and had the ball on the Sweet Home 19-yard line after the Huskies turned the ball over on downs. Despite success all night on the ground, the Buffs opted to run a screen play on first down, and the worst-case scenario unfolded.
As quarterback Dru Boyle rolled to his right and released the ball, a Sweet Home defensive lineman read the play and snatched the ball out of mid-air. To make matters worse, the interception was run back all the way to the Madras 19-yard line, putting the Huskies in great field position. Four plays later, the score was 14-13.
The Buffs had one more chance to move down the field, but a holding penalty on second down and a sack on third down pushed the team back deep into its own territory. One final heave from Boyle sailed incomplete over the head of junior wideout Cael White, giving the Huskies possession and a chance to run out the clock.
"Something like this fuels fire," said Taylor of the close loss. "Nothing is going to fuel a bunch of high school boys like losing on basically the last play of the game. One point, a game that we should have won."
"It's tough," he continued, "but those breaks happen. You've got to learn from them. We always have said in this program that we've got to fail forward. So, there's things that we can do to get better at this moving forward. It's one game."
Prior to the final two drives, the Madras offense looked in sync for the most of the night. Boyle and White connected for both of the Buffs' touchdowns, albeit on very short drives. White had five catches on the night, gaining 62 yards to lead the team. Running backs Johan Poland and Skytus Smith, meanwhile, combined for 92 yards on the ground. Smith, who was not able to play last week, was a welcome addition.
"It's perfect," said Taylor. "It's perfectly opposite to Johan. Johan's the slash-and-dash, Skytus is the ground-and-pound. It's fun to watch them. We just got to make sure that up front we're getting a good push and making sure that we're getting the blocking done.
"We clearly ran the ball really well," he continued. "We just got to keep sticking with it."
Smith was happy to be back on the field as well.
"It felt good," Smith said after the game. "That was the most times I've carried it this year. Just kind of frustrated with the (loss) though. Just got to keep improving."
The Madras defense was also firing on all cylinders for the majority of the game. Cael White and Maikel Poland both had interceptions, Ayden Holcomb recovered a fumble, and the team combined for multiple sacks and tackles for loss. Unfortunately for the Buffs, two costly mistakes gave Sweet Home incredible field position on their touchdown drives.
The Huskies' first score, which came in the second quarter, was set up after a botched Madras play. On fourth down, the Buffs were in punt formation when a high snap led punter Johan Poland to pick the ball up and scramble out of the end zone, in order to avoid taking a safety. However, Poland only barely made it out of the end zone, coming up some 20 yards short of first-down yardage. So while the Buffs avoided giving away the safety, they gave Sweet Home possession on the one-yard line. One play later, the Huskies were up 7-0 thanks to a quarterback keeper.
The ensuing Madras drive started in good territory after Cael White returned the kickoff past midfield. However, the drive stalled out in the red zone as the Buffs couldn't convert on a fourth-down play from the 13-yard line. White intercepted the Sweet Home quarterback on the following drive, but consecutive offensive penalties pushed the Buffs back from the 22-yard line to the 37. Madras eventually punted on the drive. Maikel Poland made an interception on the final play of the first half.
Madras linebacker Ayden Holcomb jumped on a fumble on the Huskies' first offensive play of the second half, giving the Buffs a quick red zone possession. After an eight-yard Skytus Smith run, the Buffs tied the score up when Dru Boyle found Cael White near the sideline for an eight-yard touchdown pass and Johan Poland converted the extra point.
After Sweet Home punted the ball back to Madras on the following drive, the Buffs marched the ball all the way down to a first-and-goal situation. Smith fumbled the ball on first down, though he managed to recover his own fumble. Boyle then tried twice unsuccessfully to run it in himself, and on fourth down, he could not connect with Reece White in the back of the end zone.
The Huskies' next drive was another three-and-out, which resulted in a punt that Reece White partially blocked. That deflection gave Madras great field position once again, and another short, two-play drive resulted in Cael White grabbing another touchdown from Dru Boyle. The extra point for this touchdown was blocked by Sweet Home, which proved to be the difference in the game.
After the game, Taylor noted that he was without his usual holder. With nobody else on the roster having holding experience, there were timing issues that altered how the team deployed its place-kicker throughout the contest. The team consistently went for it on fourth down deep in enemy territory, rather than kicking field goals, but went 0-for-6 on those attempts. The split-second difference in timing likely also contributed to the blocked extra point.
Madras moves to 1-1 on the season, with their final non-league matchup scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 24 in Klamath Falls. The Buffs will take on the Pelicans of Klamath Union High School, who were in Madras the previous Friday when they played Burns in a neutral-site game. The Pelicans lost that game at MHS by a score of 35-14. Klamath Union's matchup this past Friday with North Eugene was canceled due to poor air quality.
"We still have one more non-league," said Taylor after the game, "and then we have our league. So, we've got to make sure that we do everything right going into our league."
"The league play is what really matters," Taylor continued. "And we want a playoff spot. There are three spots coming out of the Tri-Valley, possibly four depending on the rankings, from what I believe. So, we have a very good shot if we take care of things that we need to take care of."
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