Sometimes, the most challenging battle in sports is just getting kids on the field. Madras football participation numbers are on a steady decline and looking for change.
Fortunately for the program, an Oregon School Activities Association Ad Hoc committee made a suggestion.
“We believe we can be a little bit more competitive at 3A,” said Madras High School Athletic Director Walter Stahl. “Last year alone, we were outscored 267-68.”
The OSAA recently suggested the White Buffalos go down from 4A to the smaller 3A classification.
“We can get our participation numbers up. (That) is really what we’re trying to accomplish here,” said Madras High School head football coach Judd Stutzman. “We’re not trying to go down to 3A and cakewalk our way to a league title. That’s not our perspective on that. Our perspective is how can we benefit the program by getting the participation numbers back to competing at the 4A level.”
Not only does OSAA’s suggestion mean a move down for Madras, but it also puts them in a conference with Sisters and La Pine, reducing travel time tremendously.
“Last year alone, we traveled 2,775 miles on a bus for our JV and varsity programs,” Stahl said. “And, perspective, that’s going to Washington, D.C., from Portland, Oregon.”
Madras was in a league that had them travel five-to-six hours to Eastern Oregon two to three times a year.
“We had some athletes who would travel to Ontario and we didn’t get home until five in the morning,” Stahl said.
“It’s going to be a huge benefit to our native students,” Stutzman said. “Definitely, that have, you know, 45 minutes to an hour-long drive outside of our home base at Madras High after those long games.”
The coaching staff said kids didn’t want to play between losses and travel time. But this new league and classification could be the spark to change all that.
“It starts with giving ourselves a chance, you know, a chance to find a little success again to alleviate that hardship and travel distance for both our players and our families,” Stahl said.
The OSAA Ad Hoc committee expects to have final recommendations for football leagues ready for the OSAA executive board meeting on Feb. 6. The executive board has the final say on the committee’s proposal.
The suggested 3A conference includes Madras, La Pine, Sisters, Elmira, Pleasant Hill, Creswell and Harrisburg.