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Buffs stick to the ground, overcome bad start, but late first-half TD gives Baker 14-point lead that Madras can't overcome

TONY AHERN  - Cael White looks for an opening on a counter play in the second quarter of the Buffs' 41-14 loss to Baker. White took this play 60 yards to the 2-yard line. The senior had a strong game offensive and defensively for Madras.Baker's speed and near-mistake-free play led them to a 41-14 victory over the Madras White Buffalos Friday in Baker.

The Buffs, conversely, started slow, failed to score points twice when inside the 5-yard line, and made several key penalties that killed their drives or kept Baker's alive.

But what the score doesn't indicate is that Madras controlled much of the action with a strong running attack. 

Now ranked fifth in the state, Baker —  which has only lost to 6-1 Homedale, Idaho, and 5-2 La Grande this year — came out flying for their Homecoming game. They received the kickoff and, following a short pass then a 35-yard run, had Madras on its heels. Their third play was a pass to their right flat. A catch, missed tackle and a sprint down the sideline and Baker had its first touchdown less than two minutes into the game.

The Buffs moved the ball when they got the ensuing kickoff, and appeared to show that their game plan was to establish the run, which worked for them most of the night. They bogged down near midfield, though, and punted on fourth-and-four. Johan Poland boomed a punt that rolled inside the 5, and it looked like Madras would down it. However, it sneaked into the end zone. 

After just two long pass plays, Baker had another touchdown.

Madras didn't quit following the early Baker fireworks. They went on a long drive, using running plays and short passes to get to ball to senior Cael White. Quarterback Dru Boyle also kept the ball for a couple effective runs, and running back Poland made big plays, including converting a key fourth-and-11 screen pass for a first down. Madras bullied it to the 1-yard line, where they faced fourth down. From there, Boyle kept it for a TD.

After the bad start, Madras was within just a touchdown .... until freshman Lasean Jones received the kickoff. The receiver-returner got to the Bulldogs' sideline and then made a hard cut to center just past midfield and went untouched for another touchdown. The Madras defensive line hadn't a grass stain and Baker had 21 points.

But just moments later, White, who had a huge game for the Buffs, provided Madras some of their own fireworks when he took a reverse up the Buffalo sideline about 60 yards before being pushed out inside the 2. Madras ran it in from there and trailed again by just a touchdown.

Not wanting Jones to touch it on the kick, Poland drilled the boot to a front lineman, who made a great catch of the ball, but when he was tackled, he fumbled and Madras recovered.

From there, it was more ground game for Madras. Poland made 15 yards in two carries up the middle, and a Boyle keep set the Buffs up first-and-goal inside the 9. On third-and-goal from the 6, MHS tried a reverse to White, but he got the pitch very deep, near the 20, and lost yardage of the play. With Baker scoring seemingly at will, MHS coach Judd Stutzman went for it on fourth instead of trying a Poland field goal. Boyle hit White over the middle, but he was dragged down at the 2 and Baker took over.

Madras would get the ball back when White picked off Baker quarterback Paul Hobson and Madras had control on the Baker 35. Another score before the half would have potentially tied it at 21. But Madras came up just short in sustaining the drive. On fourth-and-14, Boyle hit Wade Simmelink for 13.

Worse, they left Baker with just enough time. Baker took over on their own 26. They quickly got to midfield but a holding penalty set them back. That was followed by one of the key plays of the game. Facing a third-and-27, Hobson hit Kayden Garvin over the middle for a 30-yard gain, to the 35. Hobson then hit Jones for 25 yards, setting them up inside the 3 with just 3.2 second left. From there, Hobson ran it in, scoring a crushing late TD.

On their first drive of the second half, Madras threatened to make it a one-score game again. Poland, White and Boyle each effectively ran the ball on a time-eating drive. But inside the 10, the drive faltered again. On fourth-and-goal from the 7, Boyle hit junior Tyler Clarkson, who made a great catch in the end zone. However, a flag dropped near where Boyle released the pass, and the crowd knew holding would be called. It was. On fourth-and-long, Boyle's desperation pass was picked off by Hudson Spike.

The Buffs ate up 7:28 in clock but got no points.

Knowing they had to shut the Bulldogs down in order to stay in the game, the Madras defense came out aggressive, but Hobson was sharp. The Bulldogs steadily marched downfield. Facing third-and-10, Hobson hit Spike and got the ball to the MHS 6. From there,  Hobson threw a perfect pass to Jones, who'd ran an excellent quick-out route. That put the Bulldogs up three TDs by the end of the third quarter.

Early in the fourth, Baker sealed it with a pick six by Malaki Meyer, and Baker's lead was 41-14.

But Stutzman's Buffs never quit in what turned into a very physical, hard-hitting game. In their ensuing drive, Boyle threw to Clarkson for a first, then ran twice to convert fourth downs. But the drive ended with a Baker interception on a deep pass.  

Following three wins to open the season, the Baker game was the last of four Buffalo games against teams all in the 4A top 10, and all were losses. Even after losing four straight, Madras is still ranked 13th in the state, and is the highest-ranking four-loss team. In fact, no team with three losses is ranked higher. The Buffs now will look to close out the season with two victories and a winning record. That push will start Friday with The Dalles (1-5, 0-3) in town for Homecoming Friday in a 7 p.m. game. The Buffs then finish the season with a showdown with Crook County (3-4, 1-2) in Prineville on Oct. 28.


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