Five games have been played, and it’s pretty clear where everything sits right now. Few things require explanations now, but one of the things that does is massive: Why La Grande is in the 1 slot.
Frankly, it’s been a long time coming.
In our “way too early” top 10 we posted on June 23rd we had La Grande #1, Gladstone at #2, Banks 3rd, and Marist 4th. In our preview articles we talked about how these four teams would all be contenders, as they’re all well coached, have talent, and have ‘it’. But we singled out La Grande, as their senior heavy and all-state talent rich roster was more than enough to put them at #1. The pure talent was undeniable. The only question was if La Grande itself could sustain a winner.
La Grande hasn’t been a front runner since the 1970’s. They’ve been talented at times, and in some years have had good playoff runs, but a team of this magnitude hasn’t called La Grande home since 1974. We weren’t sure what La Grande, with its tough non league schedule, would look like at this point of the season. That, and there was a pretty compelling case for Banks to be number one.
Defending state champions, returning talent, returning coach, the real home field advantage that exists at Banks, and the ‘until they lose they’re #1 rule’ had us put Banks at number #1 to start the season. Following the parameters of the ‘until they lose’ rule, Banks is 5-0, and a good 5-0 at that. Banks has looked dominant as ever, shows no signs of slowing down, and is still the defending champs. As much as La Grande looks like the best team in 4A, Banks had a foothold and an argument. Hence, 1A and 1B.
La Grande and Banks are on their own tier right now. In solestial terms, they’ve cleared out their orbit. Banks has taken out Gladstone and Marist, and La Grande has taken out Baker. There are no competitors as of this moment. Marist, Gladstone, Baker and Cascade are talented teams with really good coaches that could under the right circumstances possibly take La Grande or Banks out come playoff time, but for right now they’re in a lower tier. Amongst all this, however, remains a wildcard.
The Vikings are geographically isolated, bounce around the state a lot, and often are a hard team to project to the average fan. However, like we stated in the preview article we did on Mazama, it’s actually quite simple. If Vic Lease is their coach and there is any semblance of talent, Mazama will be in the conversation. Lease is still in town, and there’s definitely talent. But it’s hard to get a read on just how good the Vikings are. If they’re top tier with Banks and La Grande, one would expect a larger margin than 2 against Cascade at Home. If they’re in the second tier, one would expect a smaller margin than 42 against North Valley, 45 against Phoenix, and allowing more than 5.4 points per game.
Mazama looks good. Really, really good. This week @ Marist we should get an answer on where they fit in.
Beyond that, Marist gets its own tier as well, but for a different reason. Marist held within 5 of Banks, the closest margin the Braves have had in a football game since Seaside part one in October of last year (10-7 final score). Marist is really, really well coached by Frank Geskie. Under the right circumstances, they’re a trap game for a top tier team in the playoffs.
Baker and Gladstone don’t have any common opponents so it’s hard to differentiate them. What we do know is they’re both really good, only have losses to top tier teams, and would be the favorites against pretty much everyone ranked below them in a theoretical playoff game.
Cascade, Estdacada, and Henley make up the 7-9 tier, but for very different reasons.
Cascade is up and down. They look fantastic against Cottage Grove (who hasn’t) and then go on the road to give Mazama all they can handle, but then give up a total of 68 points to Stayton and North Marion, only winning those two games by a total margin of 11, only to then wake up in week five and completely obliterate Sweet Home. Mazama is a potential top tier team because their defense is top 3 in the state, and their offense is good enough to merit a #3 ranking. Cascade has a fantastic offense, but a defense that can’t get off the field at times. Cascade and Mazama aren’t that far apart, as shown in their 15–13 slugfest of a meeting in week two, but defense travels. Mazama will never get blown out because of their defenses strength, the same statement can’t be made for the Cougars.
Estacada and Henley have been relative surprises. Both have come on strong in the last few weeks, with Estacada holding within three of Gladstone, and Henley taking KU and Phoenix behind the woodshed, these look like top 10 teams. Henley and Estacada look like teams that could challenge for first round home games, and could even see each other in the opening round. We didn’t expect either to be anything special going into the season, as shown by the fact we didn’t even do a preview article for either. In the muck and mash that has become the middle tier of 4A football, Henley and Estacada sit on top.
There was a large internal debate on who to put at 10 between Marshfield and North Marion. In the end, both teams are beating who they should beat, and keeping it close with the teams they theoretically shouldn’t. The eyeball test says that North Marion looks better on film, so they get the nod. It’s as simple as that.
It’s crunch time now. We’ll be there every step of the way.
It’s gonna be fun.