Oregon West Conference –
Those that have been with us since the start would know last season we sort of got addicted to covering the OWC. This was not necessarily because of the talent or the coaching, though both are abundant in this conference, but because every single game held the weight of a play-in playoff. Five teams in the OWC had real chances to make the tournament, there were fascinating story lines every night, and we couldn’t get enough of it. After an eight month hiatus, we now get to talk about them again. The ‘Wild West’ Conference, oh, how we’ve missed you. Here’s what we see:
- Cascade spent a considerable amount of time at #1 in our top-10 as well as most other polls last season. It wasn’t until they lost to eventual #1 seed Marist that we moved off the Cougars in any substantial way. Cascade ended up having to go clear down to Klamath Falls for their first round playoff game and ended up losing by a single point to the KU Pelicans. There was an inconsistency factor with the Cougars last year that, as an outsider, can probably just be chalked up to youth. Cascade comes back this year with their entire core intact, including State POY candidate Carson Molan. The return of Molan, Drake Davis, Kellen Sande, and Dominic Ball should make Cascade one of the more talented teams in the state, well-positioned for the league crown.
- Bad news for Woodburn: they graduated seven seniors off a team that, had the games happened, we would’ve projected to win a game or two in the state tournament. Good news for Woodburn: their main contributors are coming back. The Marroquin brothers, Jeovany and Jonathon, and Tomas Veliz all come back a year older and a year more mature. Tomas Veliz has many of the same qualities his brother RJ, now playing at Western Oregon, had as a junior at Blanchet. After projecting Tomas in comparison to his brother as well as standard junior to senior progression for the Marroquins, there’s a very real chance the Bulldogs endup a top-5 seed purely off this trio.
- Philomath is going to take a bigger hit from graduation than Woodburn. Despite returning Michael Lundy and Ty May, the Warriors lose Toby Stueve, Ben Reams, and Dylan Edwards. Philomath made their mark last season as a senior-heavy, incredibly disciplined and patient, defensively dominant, rebound-smothering team that never handed their opponents anything for free. This season, Philomath will be considerably younger and could struggle a bit on the defensive end as a consequence. It isn’t impossible to see Philomath making the tournament—no Blake Ecker team can be counted out for any reason—but seeing them win the OWC for the third time in five years just doesn’t seem likely. They are still a playoff team for sure and a team to track as Ty May develops.
- Sweet Home was one of our favorite teams to watch last year. The fast-paced style of play the Huskies employed was entertaining, but watching the conflict it would naturally create with slow, deliberate teams like Philomath and Stayton made it even more fascinating. There’s a case to be made for Sweet Home as a trap team for a playoff matchup. Considering the incredible talent in the OWC, the Huskies won’t be our pick to win the conference, but they could win a playoff game if given a favorable matchup.
- Newport is a boom candidate for us. Their youth was a liability in some situations last year and will continue to be in spots considering they only have three seniors coming into this season. However, there still is an argument to be made that they could boom. The addition of Eddie Townsend as an assistant coach is quietly one of the biggest developments in the OWC. Townsend just won the 2A title as Head Coach of the Toledo Boomers, and his time working with the youthful Cubs could have a tremendous impact. Remember the addition of highly regarded girls coach Ben Brown to Salem Academy’s staff prior to last season and the size of the Crusaders ‘boom’ thereafter. It’s certainly something to keep an eye on.
Oregon West Conference Projected Final Standings (Bold – Playoff Berth)
- Sweet Home
Mountain Valley Conference –
Last year’s MVC is gone; let’s start there. Last year’s setup of a ‘bursting onto the scene’ Creswell running and gunning their way to a league title over teams who were licking their wounds from in-season injuries and graduating key players is long gone. Santiam Christian is healthy and has a new coach, Harrisburg is in year two of the Terry Crabb Comeback Tour, and there’s a real chance La Pine finally hits their stride. Here’s what we see:
- Creswell was one of the most entertaining 2A-4A teams in the state last year. The run-and-gun style the Bulldogs brought to the floor wasn’t necessarily unique to the 3A ranks, but it was still far enough from average to give fits to Amity and St. Mary’s in Coos Bay. Most of that core of players that took the Bulldogs to Coos Bay is gone. Kai Apo, Tyler Frieze, and Austin Gabriel are gone along with five other seniors that made Creswell one of the most mature groups in the state last year. Creswell isn’t necessarily going to go from feast to famine, but seeing the Bulldogs win the MVC despite the talent elsewhere would be one of the bigger upsets in 2021.
- Santiam Christian is finally healthy. Baugher-related injuries, first Zach, then brother Josh, have seriously hindered the ceilings and floors of the last two SC squads. This year, one would think the bad luck has subsided, and we will finally enjoy a full season of a Baugher, this time Josh, POY campaign. Paired with big man (and Northern Arizona Football commit) Joe MaQatish, Crescent Valley transfer Jackson Hughes, and the other seven incoming upperclassmen, SC should be in position to win the MVC and grab a top-5 seed in the playoffs. Also exciting for SC is the buzz surrounding new coach Tyler Ropp and his already noticeable impact on the ‘juice’ within the program.
- Harrisburg should be a very solid competitor for second place in the MVC. Little known fact: Terry Crabb is both the winningest coach currently in the MVC and the only coach to have won a state title. In the second year of his second stint at Harrisburg, considering the returning talent and overall landscape of the conference, it isn’t unreasonable to project Harrisburg to compete for that second automatic bid into the playoffs.
Throughout all our information gathering and insight compilation, we could not come to a consensus opinion on sports 2-5 in the MVC, so we’re going to take what might look like a cop-out route.
Mountain Valley Conference Projected Final Standings (Bold – Playoff Berth)
- Santiam Christian
- Harrisburg/Pleasant Hill
- Harrisburg/Pleasant Hill
- Creswell/La Pine
- Creswell/La Pine
Central Valley Conference –
There’s a lot of fluidity in the CVC, so it’s difficult to get a beat on it. There are a lot of conflicting trajectories here and a lot of roster turnover. A very challenging group of schools to organize, but here’s what we see:
- Jason Khehnke’s presence at Regis gives the Rams a real shot to do some considerable damage in the CVC. In a year where everything is so fluid, solid coaching raises your floor a considerable amount. Tyler Voltin will be one of the best returning players in the conference, and there’s enough of a returning cast here to put Regis near the top of the CVC.
- Despite the huge amount of turnover at Oakland, it’s hard to see them falling off completely … right? Similar to Regis, solid coaching will raise Oakland’s floor to a level that should keep them near the top of the CVC.
It’s hard to measure the CVC and really most of 2A right now. Tremendous roster turnover and the lack of preseason chatter that usually stems from AAU play and the preseason media trail make it difficult to make some projections. From what we’ve gathered, this is the slightly blurry picture:
- East Linn Crhsitian
- Central Linn