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Judd Stutzman, whose previous stops include Clatskanie HS and George Fox, will step in to lead the MHS football team.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Judd Stutzman, center, jokes with members of the Madras High School football team during his introductory meeting with players and parents on Saturday, June 11. Stutzman was recently hired on as the school's new head football coach after two seasons in the same role at Clatskanie High School.

The Madras High School football team has a new head coach.

Starting next season, the White Buffalos will be guided by Judd Stutzman, who held an introductory meeting over the weekend at MHS. Stutzman takes over for Kurt Taylor, who resigned his post last month after six seasons and will take on a new position at the school.

For Stutzman, the new coaching gig provides him with a new opportunity to build relationships with his players, his fellow coaches, and just as importantly, with the places they call home.

"I'm excited to build relationships with everybody that lives in the community and is involved in the community," said Stutzman, who comes to MHS after two seasons at the helm of Clatskanie High School. "And that includes Warm Springs. I want to build relationships with the people that live in the Warm Springs community just as much as I do with the people that live in Madras."

Stutzman, 35, is a native of Lincoln, Nebraska, and a former college football player at Nebraska Wesleyan University. After receiving a bachelor's degree in social work, he held a position as a juvenile probation officer in San Antonio before returning to Nebraska and getting his master's in education. After a brief stint teaching fifth grade in Colorado, Stutzman moved to Newberg, Oregon, where he joined the coaching staff at George Fox University in 2017.

In four seasons at George Fox, Stutzman worked with defensive backs and wide receivers; however, he realized that the year-round recruiting schedule of college was not for him. With that, Stutzman looked for opportunities at the high school level, where he was eventually hired on at Clatskanie.

Stutzman faced dire participation numbers there, with his first season at the helm taking place during the shortened spring season in March 2021. Even as things returned to some normalcy at the school this past season, Clatskanie still struggled to field a full team — the official OSAA roster for 2022 shows just 21 players, not even enough to field a full scrimmage in practice. Stutzman had the added struggle of trying to install a new playbook as his athletes navigated re-entry back into in-person classes.

As a result, Clatskanie went 0-11 over the past two seasons. However, while reasons for the turmoil may be plenty, Stutzman is a solution-focused person. Rather than make excuses for the past, he is solely geared toward finding answers for future success.

"The biggest thing I learned throughout that is that you have to adapt and evolve with what's going on outside of your control," Stutzman explained. "Getting rid of that book of excuses and starting to live in a world of solutions, no matter what happens."

There is good reason to believe that Stutzman will find those solutions in Madras.

First, there is already a healthy group of returning players for Madras — both from last year's varsity roster and from JV athletes ready to make the leap. That group includes a number of all-leaguers at the skill positions, including the Buffs' leading passer (Dru Boyle), rusher (Johan Poland) and receiver (Cael White) from a season ago.

That said, Stutzman made clear that his depth chart remains blank — and it will stay that way until he has seen the team practice.

"The message is going to be, 'There is no depth chart,'" Stutzman emphasized. "Nobody has a guaranteed spot. You've got to come in and earn it — nothing is just going to be given to people."

Second, the schemes that Stutzman is bringing to the table are not all that different from what the team ran under Kurt Taylor.

The offense will still be run by coordinator Jerry Shaw, so look for the Buffs to establish the running game while deploying a balanced passing attack to keep opponents honest. On defense, the Buffs will continue to run a 3-3-5 defense, with Stutzman leading that brigade himself.

"That's been huge in releasing some of the tensions and doubts of some of the players," said Stutzman of the relative stability between the two coaching staffs, signaling an understanding that there may have been some concern among the team about upsetting the proverbial apple cart.

Another similarity between the old regime and the new one is that both are based on a six-letter mantra.

Under Taylor, the keyword was "D.E.S.I.R.E." — discipline, effort, service, integrity, respect, excellence — and it was a word that ended up defining the program for six years. Now, Stutzman is asking his players to "I.N.V.E.S.T." in his philosophy, which demands of its players integrity, navigation, valor, effort, service and togetherness.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Judd Stutzman takes a service-based approach to his role as head coach, noting that his main desire in the job is to 'use football as a vessel to help young men become better adult men.'"Our football program's mission," said Stutzman at the introductory meeting on Saturday, "is to create high-character, honorable students and first-class citizens, while creating a championship-caliber football program through instilling the core values of I.N.V.E.S.T. in each and every young man."

In a phone conversation following the meeting, Stutzman expanded on that mission statement.

"My desire to use football as a vessel to help young men to become better adult men is definitely the driving force," Stutzman explained of what draws him to coaching. "Obviously, I love the game of football itself, but the desire is to create better young men by the time they're done with high school."

With these core values staying mostly the same — a small riff on the same note — there should not be much culture shock among the team.

One issue that has faced the team in recent years, however, and one which Stutzman will try to address as early as he can, is a relative lack of size on the roster. Especially as Madras begins turning eastward to face off with schools like La Grande and Pendleton, the Buffs will need to beef up before next season.

Once school starts back up in the fall, he will also serve as a physical education and health teacher at MHS, in addition to his coaching duties. Until then, Stutzman is opening up the weight room to the team all summer long — while also starting to study up on his future opponents.

"I haven't done any quote-unquote scouting," said the coach, "but I've started watching some film on Sweet Home. They're our first game."

As for the rest of his summer, Stutzman is still gearing up for the big move over to Madras. He and his wife, Crystal, have a three-month-old child named Duke, and the young family is in the process of selling their St. Helens home.


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