Madras football hopes athleticism, added strength can help mask problems caused by smaller roster

By Paul Valencia

SBLive Oregon will break down every 6A, 5A and 4A team in the state leading up to the 2021 fall football season. Here’s our look at the Madras White Buffaloes of the Class 4A Tri-Valley Conference.

MADRAS TEAM PAGE

HEAD COACH 

Kurt Taylor, sixth season (15-27) 

PAST 3 SEASONS

2021 (spring): 1-4 overall, 1-4 in Tri-Valley

2019: 6-4 overall, 4-1 in 3A Special District 1 East (lost in first round)

2018: 6-4 overall, 4-1 in 3A Special District 1 East (lost in first round)

KEY PLAYERS DEPARTED

Jacob Hulsey, tight end/defensive end

Seth Colton, offensive line/tight end/defensive end

Jeremiah Smith, H-back/linebacker

Nathan Stout, running back/defensive back

Yiesen Popoca, offensive line

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

Dru Boyle, quarterback, junior

In the spring, Boyle prevailed in a three-way race for the starting nod at quarterback. All of the candidates showed they were talented, but Boyle stood out with some intangibles, Taylor said.

“Dru has the leadership qualities,” Taylor explained. “The kids follow him. He’s the hardest-working kid on the team. He didn’t miss a workout. He’s gotten so much bigger, so much stronger, so much faster. I’m really excited to see what he does this year — and next year, as well.”

Cael White, wide receiver/defensive back, junior

One of the most athletic players on the team, White has great hands and a knack for ensuring he gets the ball.

“If there is a jump ball, you just know he’s going to get it, somehow,” Taylor said.

White had several highlight grabs in the spring.

“Defensively, he’s such a good athlete,” Taylor noted. “You put him in man-to-man coverage, and you just never worry about a man getting behind him.”

Reece White, defensive end/tight end, senior

“A tall, skinny drink of water,” is how Taylor describes the 6-6 White.

White also is a standout wrestler who knows how to use leverage. He wreaks havoc from his defensive end position.

“It’s fun to watch him,” Taylor said.

Ethan Graeme, defensive back, senior

An aggressive safety and a smart one, too. It’s not just about going fast. Gotta know where to go, why to go, and get there in a hurry. That’s Graeme.

“He just knows how to get himself in the right spot at the right time,” Taylor said. “A great ability to find where the ball is and get there.”

Johan Poland, defensive back/running back, junior

There were some great signs as a sophomore. A three-sport athlete, Poland also showed improvement in basketball as well as track and field, Taylor said. Since then, Poland has attacked the weight room.

“From what he’s done this summer, I’m really excited to see what he can do carrying the ball,” Taylor said. “He is going to have a significant role on offense.”

Alex Arreola, linebacker, senior

It is night and day, the difference between Arreola during the spring season and going into this fall season.

“Last year, he was just skinny. Now, he’s filled in with muscle,” Taylor said.

Arreola has great speed and knows how to use his leverage. He has worked hard to make his senior season a special one. 

OUTLOOK

All programs have had to struggle with pandemic protocols and restrictions. Madras certainly is no exception. Still, while participation numbers are down, Taylor expects a quality team on the field on Friday nights.

“We want to compete in the league,” Taylor said. “I want to make the playoffs, in the top two or three spots. That’s very manageable.”  

Madras has a young team. But the team is athletic.

“Having a preseason before we go into league is going to help significantly,” Taylor said.

Last season, the White Buffaloes faced league rival Molalla in their first game — a 21-0 loss.

“I’m just excited to have a full season,” Taylor said.

About those participation numbers, though. The Madras community is not, by and large, fans of mask mandates. Taylor said many student-athletes are no longer in school because masks are required by the state.

The White Buffaloes went from 60 to 72 to 87 football players in the previous years, but they had 41 in the spring. That makes it difficult for a program to reach its goals.

COVID was just one of the issues. Taylor acknowledged that last season would have been a rebuilding season regardless. A bunch of sophomores received a lot of playing time in the spring, however, so it’s time to look forward.

“Our defense is our strength. It’s controlled chaos, for lack of a better term,” Taylor said.

The team started eight sophomores in the spring. The coach is excited about what the defense will do with a little bit stronger, more mature group.

Going into August practice, Madras had question marks up front. Taylor still was not sure about the numbers, how many linemen will be on the team. There will need to be good news there for the White Buffaloes to succeed.

COACH SAID 

“For our boys, I think it’s going to be huge. For our community, it should be huge. We’re not necessarily known as a football town, but on Friday nights, our community comes out to support us. For us, it’s going to be a breath of fresh air. I’m so excited. I’m just excited to have it be normal … hopefully.” — Kurt Taylor

MORE TEAM PREVIEWS

2021 SPRING FOOTBALL

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