If you’re boarding a bus Friday as a member of a Central Oregon football team, chances are you’re in for at least two things: a long ride to your destination and, if the seedings are any indication, a short stay in the playoffs.
Bend High, Mountain View, Ridgeview and Madras are all on the road this week, which means all are the lower seeds — and underdogs — in their respective OSAA first-round playoff matchups.
As No. 16 seeds in 16-team fields, Ridgeview and Madras face the longest odds. Neither, however, appears daunted.
“As far as seeding goes … we’ll take it,” said Pat Pileggi, the first-year Ridgeview coach. He added that he believes the Ravens (4-5) might have received a far more favorable seed had they not followed a four-game midseason winning streak with lopsided road losses to Thurston (the No. 7 seed) and Crater (No. 8) to end the regular season.
At No. 16 in the Class 5A bracket, Ridgeview draws top-seeded Wilsonville, which Pileggi called “very deserving of that No. 1 ranking.”
Few would dispute that. In piling up a 9-0 record, the Wildcats have outscored their opponents 484-144, which works out to an average winning margin of 53-16. It stacks up to be a monumental challenge for Ridgeview, a seventh-year program that has not reached the postseason since winning the 4A state championship in just its second season in 2013.
The Ravens are coming off consecutive 1-8 seasons, so Pileggi and his squad are relishing the opportunity to extend a turnaround campaign.
“We’re looking at rebuilding, and this is a step in that process,” Pileggi said. “We play the No. 1 team — they’re where we want to be, our end goal. To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. This will be a good gauge to see where we’re at.
“And you know, every year somebody steps up and beats one or two of the top seeds,” he added. “Why not us?”
In Madras, the White Buffaloes have taken a similar approach to their David vs. Goliath meeting with Rainier.
“We’re incredibly blessed to be in the postseason,” said Madras coach Kurt Taylor this week as he prepared his 6-3 team to take on No. 1 Rainier in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs. The Columbians are a perfect 9-0, but one of their most competitive games of the regular season was a mid-September meeting with Madras, which Rainier won 28-6 on the Buffs’ home field.
“Having already played them, we have a lot of confidence,” said Taylor, who noted that Madras held Rainier to its lowest point total of the season. And, he added, “we gave them the ball four times in the red zone.”
The Buffaloes won four of their last five games to secure the program’s first postseason berth since 2012. Taylor, in his third year at Madras, knows the school has a rather unremarkable football history. He pointed to OSAA records showing that before this season, White Buffaloes teams had made the state playoffs only 10 times dating back to 1947.
“Two years ago, we didn’t win a single game,” Taylor recalled. “We had two wins last year.” He added that, according to school records, the current Buffs are the first Madras team since 2004 to win six games in a season.
The seedings suggest that a seventh win is not in the cards for the 2018 White Buffaloes. But that won’t stop them from getting on that bus for a 165-mile ride to Rainier.
“Who knows what happens Friday?” Taylor said. “But we know we’re definitely doing some things right here, getting things going the right direction.”
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