Sky Em League –
It’s no contest: the Sky Em is by far the most talented in all of 4A and is likely the deepest from top to bottom in all of 2A-4A. The depth of coaching, talent, and historical trend lines point to possibly four of the six teams finding themselves in the playoffs,. The best possible outcome for this league, which isn’t terribly unlikely, could put all four of the top teams from the Sky Em in Forest Grove. Here’s what we see:
- Marist isn’t going anywhere. We always talk about the relationship between coaching and talent and how each dictates the results of a season. It’s common knowledge that coaching can take a team places, talent can take a team places, but the pair can win titles. Marist is preseason #1 material, if only because of the coaching-talent relationship carrying over from last season.
- Bart Pollard has proven time and time again to be one of the state’s best coaches dating clear back to his days at Cottage Grove. Pairing ‘A’ level coaching with returning all state talent Ben Morehouse, First Team All-League Alec Vendetti, Second Team All-League Treysen Harbert, and a core of five additional seniors: that’s what contenders are made of.
- Junction City could have a seriously loud return to prominence this year. Yet another ‘A’ level coaching + talent pair, Craig Rothenberger brings back First Team All-League Riley Sangermano and Second Team All-League Chris Ohman and Ben Heitz. The Tigers will feature seven upperclassmen, which by no stretch is a large haul but is enough to consider JC a very real Forest Grove contender. There’s also something to be said about Coach Rothenburger and his place in history. Few coaches become synonymous with their school/program like Coach Rothenburger has. Few within that subgroup end up with a ‘storybook ending’, which could mean anything from winning a state title immediately preceding retirement or just a magical run of some sort. Some sort of ‘farewell tour’ besets most legends, whether or not they end at the state tournament. We have no inside information about Coach Rothenburger’s intentions in terms of how long he intends to keep heading up the Tigers, but one would think there is one last run in the JC program before he gives up the reigns. As the second winningest active coach in the state of Oregon and sixth all-time, if there was anyone ever deserving of a ‘farewell tour’ ending on the highest stage, it would be Craig Rothenburger. This season, in whatever fashion it might come, may provide that opportunity.
- Marshfield is a boom candidate, and by now you can probably guess why: they had a young roster last year and are upperclassman-heavy this year. Nine upperclassmen return from last year’s varsity roster including First Team All-League Mason Ainsworth, Second Team All-League Pierce Davidson, and All-League Honorable Mention Dominic Montiel, all of whom are currently Juniors. There’s a lot of buzz around the Pirates right now, and we could see a 4A first round game interrupting the 3A state tournament once again.
- It’s a safe bet to say Siuslaw will have their first winning season since 2007 this year. Eight juniors and four seniors return from a roster that regularly showed flashes of being a trap-game playoff team … this one explains itself.
One anonymous coach went as far as to say to us, “It will be more of a fight than ever for the top three spots in our league, those three teams might all match up in Forest Grove. The talent of the top four in the league is off the charts. Marist, Marshfield, Junction City, and Siuslaw all have a kids who could end up League Player of the Year”
Sky Em League Projected Final Standings (Bold – Playoff Berth)
- Junction City
- Cottage Grove
The Sunset, simply put, was murderer’s row last year. Three teams came out of the first round and made Pendleton, and Toledo ended up winning the whole thing. No, this won’t be repeated in full. There’s been too much turmoil and turnover for a copy-and-paste repeat to occur, but there’s still a shot at a multi-team Sunset representation at the state tournament. Here’s what we see:
- Toledo is the odds-on favorite to win it all, right? Despite the departure of POY Conner Marchant, the Boomers return the bulk of their championship roster. Yes, Eddie Townsend is now coaching at Newport, but few would call Bart Rothenburger (son of previously mentioned Craig Rothenburger) a considerable downgrade. The Boomers will rightfully be included in most preseason top-10’s and will probably end up winning the Sunset comfortably.
- One or both of the other two Pendelton participants, Bandon and Coquille, will likely end up in or near the top-10 again. The ceilings, for obvious reasons, have been diminished for both. The question isn’t about their ceilings—both could make Pendleton if given the right circumstances—but what are their floors? Both teams have enough unknowns, despite returning most of their rosters, that we aren’t confident picking which one will finish ahead of the other. Nevertheless, both should again finish #2 and #3 in the Sunset.
Sunset Conference Projected Final Standings (Bold – Playoff Berth)
- Myrtle Point
- Gold Beach
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