Mecca of Madras
By: Grant Lucas
MADRAS — Chad Lindgren turns away to see the football mecca that rests several hundred yards behind him.
Off in the distance, the haven is undisturbed as the hissing of sprinklers provides a soundtrack to an idyllic setting.
“Just look at it,” says Lindgren, the Madras High senior quarterback. “There’s nobody in there. We need to fill that thing up so I can throw my first long bomb. Let’s go!”
Nearly two years after hosting its last football game, after virtually an entire season of road games, the White Buffaloes return home this Friday. And awaiting them is a fresh grass playing surface ringed by an all-weather track, new goal posts and a new scoreboard sprouting from the field — all overlooked by sleek steel grandstands.
“This is a big thing for us,” Lindgren says. “We don’t have very many nice things.”
“First home game in Madras in two years,” senior linebacker Ethan Short chimes in. “It’s going to be memorable.” Indeed, Lindgren agrees: “I’m going to remember this the rest of my life.”
As part of a $26.7 million Jefferson County School District bond passed in November 2012, Madras High’s nearly 50-year-old football facility was torn down — all the way to its foundation — to make room for this jewel of a complex.
A statue of the school’s mascot — a white buffalo — is on display behind the grandstands, welcoming spectators who enter the grounds. This is where the Buffs will gather before they burst through a tunnel that cuts beneath a new press box and deluxe seats — some red, some blue, all complete with arm rests and backs — that overlook the field from the high-center area of the steel bleachers.
Thinking about that moment, Short and Lindgren each glance at the distant stadium (the football team practices in an open field beyond the baseball diamond to the north of the new football facility), eager smiles emerging on their faces.
“With the tunnel, that’ll get us psyched up,” Short predicts. “The crowd is over us, and us running through the tunnel — I think that will get us pumped up real good.”
“They’ve got the electricity going,” first-year Madras coach Sean Cease observes of his players. “They’re kind of quiet and subdued. But you can see it in their eyes — they’re getting excited about it.”
How could they not? The White Buffaloes’ last true home game was November 2012. Sure, Madras played three “home” games last season, but they were staged 10 miles away at Culver High. And in Lindgren’s opinion, “It wasn’t really a home game.”
“No one was excited to play there,” the quarterback says. “That’s what it felt like.” There was no energy flowing through the team, Short recalls, and the Madras following just wasn’t what it is for a real home game. “There was no people in the crowd to get us psyched up,” Short recounts. “They weren’t cheering for us, really. They were just kind of sitting there. Quiet.”
The White Buffaloes look to change that this Friday night, when they play host to Sisters High. The stadium’s capacity of 1,156 is expected to be pushed to the limit, as admission will be free to all spectators — a “thank you” of sorts to the community that voted to pass that school bond two years ago.
The excitement has been building long enough, Short and Lindgren agree. The Buffs are ready for a true home game, a true home crowd, and perhaps a true home victory. These seniors, surely like all of their teammates, are eager for Friday — so much so that they have dreamed about the first Friday night lights at the new stadium.
“It’s one of those things that you’ll find it creeping up in your mind when you’re about to go to bed,” Lindgren says. “I just want to hear my name get announced at least once. I’ve never heard it.”
Cease vividly remembers the old Madras facility from his 12 years coaching football at the Portland area’s La Salle Prep, a Tri-Valley Conference rival of the White Buffaloes. And while he is as enthusiastic as his players are for Friday night’s unveiling of the new complex, the first-year Madras coach is trying to tame his team’s home-opener hysteria.
“I’m trying to teach them to be excited but let it build,” Cease says. “Don’t just go out there and be crazy and burn all your energy off. Let it build up as you go.
“I told the kids,” he continues, “‘Enjoy it. But don’t forget why we’re here.’”