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Glads prevail in defensive battle; Buffs get No. 16 seed, date with top-ranked Marshfield

PMG FILE PHOTO - Madras head coach Kurt Taylor talks strategy with junior quarterback Dru Boyle. Madras (4-4, 3-2 Special District 2) earned the No. 16 seed in the 4A Football State Championship after losing 15-6 at Gladstone on Friday, Oct. 29. The White Buffalos travel to Coos Bay next week to take on No. 1 Marshfield.The clash for second place in 4A Special District 2 between Madras and Gladstone turned into a battle of stout defense, turnovers and penalties, and the host Gladstone Gladiators prevailed 15-6.

The loss dropped the White Buffalos into third place in the league, a spot earning the Buffs a state playoff spot for the first time at the 4A level since 2012. But it means the team will start the playoffs on the road at No. 1-ranked Marshfield High School in Coos Bay Friday.

On Friday night, Oct. 29, both defenses excelled on the Gladstone artificial turf, bending but not breaking throughout most of the game. The defenses combined to force five fumbles, three interceptions and three failed fourth-down conversions. Gladstone committed eight of those 11 turnovers, yet still won the game. They outgained Madras 253 yards to just 110. When sacks were factored in, MHS had minus-24 yards rushing. Gladstone had 221 yards on the ground.

The Gladiators got on the board first, scoring a touchdown on the first series, sparked by a nice runback of the opening kickoff. As the Madras defense found its footing, the Gladiators stayed on the ground, with Garrett Finch scoring a touchdown at the 8:44 mark. The extra point kick was good, and it was an important point.

The Buffs were stuffed on their first offensive position, going three and out. But the Buffs got the game's first turnover on Gladstone's next position when Brady David picked off a Brayde Owen pass and MHS took over on the Gladstone 34.

Madras then put together its only scoring drive. Quarterback Dru Boyle hit Cael White for seven on third and 10, then Skytus Smith bulled his way up the middle for five and a big first down. On third-and-five, Boyle's option pitch to running back Johan Poland was wild, but the Buffs recovered. However, it left them facing a fourth-and-12.

No problem, though, as Boyle hit fellow junior White on one of their patented "go" routes, where White out battles the defender for the ball. White rose for the pass, grabbed it and fell backward into the end zone for a touchdown. The ensuing kick, though, was swarm-blocked by Gladstone, and Madras still trailed 7-6.

The TD was one of nine catches for White that night, for 107 yards. Boyle was 10-18 passing, with one interception and 134 yards. A late 27-yard catch by junior Wade Simmelink was the only pass caught by a Buff outside of White.

A pass interference call against the Buffs kept Gladstone's next possession alive, but they then stalled after a holding penalty — one of several called on both squads — pushed them back.

A poor punt set the Buffs up at the 33. White made a couple of big catches on the drive, but a holding call brought up third-and-24. Boyle's deep pass to White fell incomplete and brought up another punt. The Buffs' Alex Arreola introduced himself to Gladstone with a tough tackle on the return following a good Johan Poland boot. Poland punted consistently all evening, having a long of 48 yards.

The Buff defense forced a third-and-seven, but then Gladstone's senior running back Tate Brechbiel broke one of his many solid runs for a first down near midfield. A QB keep set Gladstone up at the 39. Then Finch got loose for an apparent long TD run. However, a block in the back brought it back. The Madras defensive line toughened to force a fourth and 10. Owen went to the air, short over the middle, but the ball was tipped and defensive back Poland picked it off for the Buffs.

Madras had it back with 2:36 left in the half but couldn't move it. A holding penalty followed by a sack put the Buffs inside their own 10. On third down, Boyle kept it, running inside to give his squad more punting room. However, the ball was stripped and Gladstone recovered on the 15.

But the Buffs' defense, which battled all night, shut the door. After a holding call and a big hit by Angel Jimenez on a run, plus an incomplete pass on third down, Gladstone faced a fourth-and-long. Owen threw to the end zone and Poland made an outstanding play to stretch and bat the ball away.

The Buffs had to be feeling good after the long homecoming halftime break — the defensive was playing stout and the offense was due for some plays. They'd get the ball to start the second.

A block in the back on the return set the Buffs back deep inside their own territory. Two middle runs didn't gain much, but Boyle hit White over the middle for a first down, then White took a fly sweep around the right side for seven. Another big holding call, though, shut down the drive.

Poland's punt put Gladstone inside their own 20 to start their first series, and they came out running strong. Brechbiel busted a couple carries for big chunks, and after a few plays, Gladstone had it on the Madras 27. But that's when the Buff D made another big play, forcing a fumble that the Buffs recovered.

Dodging another bullet, the Buffs went back on the attack, hoping to score and get a lead. Boyle scrambled to avoid negative yardage. On third-and-three, he kept it again, had first down yardage, but the ball was again stripped and Gladstone recovered, taking over at the MHS 44.

The Glads stuck to their now-effective running game and marched to the Madras 17, where again the Buffs forced a fumble. Sophomore Noah Vibbert jumped on it for Madras, who took over on their own 7. From there, the offense couldn't produce a first down.

But Gladstone again gave it back to Madras, following a muffed punt that Simmelink recovered. Madras had it at their own 35. But two sacks had Madras facing another third-and-long. Boyle hit White for 15, but it still left them with a fourth-and-six and another Poland punt.

Gladstone then put together a series that iced the game. A QB keep brought it to midfield at the 8-minute mark of the fourth quarter. Gladstone attacked the right side of the Madras defense with some runs. A short pass took it the 15, then a run play to the one, and from there Brechbiel scored standing up.

Gladstone set up for the extra point kick, which, if good, would have made it so Madras could only tie with a touchdown and two-point conversion. But Gladstone gambled and essentially put the game away by pulling out of the kick formation and the holder keeping it and running around the right end for a two-point conversion, giving Gladstone a two-possession lead inside 5 minutes left.

Desperate to move the ball, Madras again went nowhere. Boyle threw his lone interception on third and long. Gladstone got the ball, likely figuring they'd punch in an exclamation point touchdown. The Buff D, though, again rose up. Vibbert and Ayden Holcomb combined on a sack to drop Owen to force a third and 12. Gladstone picked up 11 then went for it on fourth and one, and the Buffs held, with Vibbert and Jimenez teaming for the stop.

The Buffs needed a miracle in the final minutes and didn't get it. But they did produce their longest drive of the night. Two sacks and an incomplete pass to Reece White made it fourth and long again for Madras. Boyle then hit Simmelink over the middle for 27 yards and a first down. A personal foul was called on the tackler and 15 yards were added on. Two more passes to White brought the ball to the 28, but with the final seconds winding down, Boyle was sacked and the game ended.

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