The Skyline has potential to be the most competitive conference top to bottom in all of 4A. After Klamath Union, who is widely seen as the frontrunner for the league crown and a potential state championship contender, it gets very messy. There are arguments to be had for multiple candidates for that second automatic qualifier spot. Here’s what we see:
- Klamath Union is loaded. Jacob Cook, Garrett Short, and Aaron Franklin are just the returning All-League talent. Adding then senior Krishin Taylor, tower-in-the-middle Jaxon Merhoff, and other returning contributors to the roster … it’s easy to see why the Pelicans are at the top of the heap.
- That isn’t to say there isn’t talent elsewhere. Not only are the Hidden Valley football and baseball programs achieving new heights in recent years, but the basketball program is rebounding as well. Last season’s 14-11 campaign was the Mustang’s winningest since 2016 and nearly yielded a tournament berth. Now, with returning all leaguers Jeremiah Noga and Lawrence Matusik, Hidden Valley seems primed for a return to glory.
- Henley lost an incredible amount of talent, but that alone doesn’t take them out of the conversation. Coach Luke Hammond consistently has the Hornets in position to contend even as talent fluctuates, and we don’t see this year being a drastic aberration. There is the potential for Henley to end up 4th or even 5th in the Skyline, but as one of the more established programs down south and with their reputation of consistent success, don’t count them out prematurely.
- There is an outside but prevalent chance any of the three remaining teams (Phoenix, Mazama, or North Valley) could make noise and possibly find themselves in the 3 spot challenging for a surprise playoff spot or a play-in game spot. The most likely of these is Phoenix, but all three have to be taken into account.
Skyline League Projected Final Standings (Bold – Playoff Birth)
- Klamath Union
- Hidden Valley
- North Valley
Far West League
There is considerably less to talk about in the Far West League. The only outstanding question for the FWL is: Who will take the second automatic bid spot? Here’s what we see:
- It’s likely three teams will come out of this league and make the playoffs. Both Sutherlin and St. Mary’s return enough all-league tallent to keep them competitive with the state at large and give at least something of a resistance to the juggernaut that Cascade Christian has suddenly become. The competition between these two, STM and Sutherlin, should be one of the better horse races in the state. Neither is the favorite to win the FWL—far from it—but both could find themselves a favorable matchup away from Coos Bay if the chips fall right.
- Cascade Christian…goodness, genuine preseason #1 material. The Challengers return the bulk of a roster that came within a called foul on OES’ Charles WiIlmott, and subsequent free throws, from possibly winning the 3A title as the #10 seed last year. Dominic Lewis is a very real candidate for state POY, and any team coached by Brian Morse will almost automatically be in contention for at least a state tournament appearance. Throw them together with an extraordinary supporting cast sprinkled in, and you end up with what could be the odds-on favorite to walk away wearing gold medals at the end of it all.
- Watch out for Douglas. Although maybe not a playoff team, they could be a surprise team that pushes for one. There’s some chatter out there about the Trojans.
Far West League Projected Final Standings (Bold – Playoff Birth)
- Cascade Christian
- St. Mary’s
- South Umpqua
Southern Cascade League
The Southern Cascade league will look drastically different now that Butte Falls, and specifically Devin Malcom, are out of the picture. Despite massive talent departures, the SCL still has some interesting trend lines. Here’s what we see:
- There is talent and competition to be had in the SCL despite the departure of Butte Falls, who will now play in the 1A ranks. Illinois Valley, as young as they were (only two seniors), had moments where they looked like a lower-level playoff team last season. Their record, 10-15, wasn’t enough to get them there, but with another year of maturation it’s very easy to see them taking the next step.
- Lost River can’t be counted out of the league title race. The Pirates have been on the rise for years now and seemingly had their moment last season. A disappointing end, losing in the first round to Santiam at home, can only provide motivation to a roster that will have to prove they can win and keep the ball rolling despite losing seven seniors. Maybe a repeat of the 22-5 season the Pirates had last year isn’t in the cards, but it would be misguided to suggest an immediate return to a sub .500 record for a program that’s come so far in recent years.
Southern Cascade League Projected Final Standings (Bold – Playoff Berth)
- Illinois Valley
- Lost River
- Rogue River