What did you miss most about a ‘normal’ football season? A full playoff? Non-sub-50-degree kickoffs in week two?
For us, it was the crisp sunset of an early September evening giving way to the overhead lights of a freshly-prepared football field. The scenery that goes into, and the product that ultimately comes out of those early season contests where the sun is still high, the rust a-plenty, and the enthusiasm pure.
Anyhow, let’s get into it. In 3A here’s how we see things:
Special District 1 North –
Rainier *should* be back to form. Kenney Tripp, Jayce Womack, Derek Katon, and Angel Bacerra should be able to keep the Diesel offense running at or above where it was last year, which alone will put the Columbians in the title hunt. But the bottom line is this: Rainier is loaded with seniors and experience. Paired with the coaching staff Rainier boasts, it’s difficult to see them anywhere but the top-five throughout the year. Besides the talent and coaching, which is what actually matters and goes into our thinking, there’s something to be said about this being the farewell tour of the Tripp family dynasty. Kenney, the final heir to the Tripp family hold on the Diesel offense and, by extension, Rainier football, will come to an end as soon as Rainier completes its final game this season, whether that be after week nine or at an undetermined neutral site in the state title game. It’s hard to see the Tripp family dynasty coming to an end quietly, right? There’s bound to be fireworks, right?
Warrenton could play the farewell party spoiler. Quarterback Hordie Bodden Bodden has one of the best arms in 2A-4A football and leads a Warrior offense that brings back virtually its entire core. There’s boom potential here, and if they click, they could end up in the championship chase very easily. Watch Warrenton closely. Week one vs. Knappa and week two at Heppner will tell us a lot.
Below that … it’s a whole lot of unknowns.
Projected Final Standings – SD1N
- #5 Rainier
- #7 Warrenton
Special District 1 South –
Amity’s a sneaky contender this year. After losing in the quarters in 2019 and not being involved in any culminating event this spring, it’s easy to lull yourself to sleep on the Warriors. Did the Warriors graduate two all-state level players in Josh Wart and Keenan Graham? Yes, they did. Outside of that, however, the Warriors are mostly intact from this spring: they only graduated five players over the offseason. That’s a mind-boggling fact considering how dominant the Warrior defense was this spring, only surrendering three points a game, including holding four of their five opponents to their lowest point totals of the season and pitching two shutouts. This defense could be scary. Entering the seventh season of the third Joel Magill era and the fifth season under four-time state champion defensive coordinator Jon Tromblay, Amity feels like a contender. Keep your eye on the Warriors.
They may be the favorites, but they’re not going to have a cake walk to the league title: there are challengers on multiple fronts. Primarily, Dayton showed improvement week-to-week under Jacob Peterson and even beat 5A Putnam. This might not be the year Dayton bursts back onto the scene as a solid playoff team fighting for seeding, but they’ll compete with anyone. The Pirates are on the rise again, and that’s good for 3A football. It’s still unquestionably a rebuild, Dayton isn’t fully out of the woods at this point, but they should regain their footing this fall. Who knows—crazy things always seem to happen in Amity vs. Dayton games, so watch out.
There are another two projects in this league to keep your eye on: Philomath and Willamina. The Warriors brought in veteran Crescent Valley coach Alex Firth to lead their rebuild, and Willamina brought back the man that did it once already, Dan Oswald. It may be hard to envision either team making the playoffs this season, but keep your eye on both.
Projected Final Standings – SD1N
- #4 Amity
- #10 Dayton
Special District 2 North –
This is the deepest league in 3A, and it’s not even close. There are two championship contenders here and an outside shot at a third. Let’s go through it quickly.
First, Santiam Christian. We’re going to assume they generally replace what they lost on the offensive line, and they can more-or-less fill the gaps that Joe Maqatish, Levi Villers, Stone Spangle, and Marcus Fullbright will leave. We’re going to bet that with Matt Bain, one of the best coaches in small school football, at the helm, the Eagles will remain in contention. We acknowledge this is tenuous and is a bet on SC’s reputation more than anything else. An early loss to Amity at home, a stumble at Kennedy, a closer than expected result at Sisters: they’re all much more likely than they would’ve been in the spring. SC is almost guaranteed to take something of a step back—you don’t graduate that much all-state talent and not have to change in some manner—but we’re betting it will be a return to something closer to 2018 Santiam Christian, not a transformation of the Eagles into something like a playoff bubble team. In the best case scenario, this is a contender. We’ll bet it stays that way.
Santiam Christian’s favored status doesn’t account for the monster Sam Johnson has built at Siuslaw. There’s a lot of returning talent here, highlighted by one of the best pure athletes in Oregon high school sports, Braydon Thornton. At their best, this Siuslaw team could be the best team in the state and be the leading choice to win it all. With the weapons they’ll be able to boast this fall, the Veer offense should be very, very fun to watch. It’s hard to declare a favorite to win this league, but we’ll pick the Vikings if we’re forced to do so.
This is NOT a two horse race. Junction City deserves a seat at the table. In terms of senior class size, the Tigers may be in a class of their own in 3A and are only rivaled by Cascade in all of 2A-4A. There’s extreme boom potential here. Don’t take our ranking too closely to heart: if they show results early, they’ll crack our top-5 in a heartbeat. There’s a 2019 La Grande vibe here. They’re not so strong that we’re going to list the Tigers as a contender straight-up, but the vibe is there. Keep an eye on JC. They could make waves very, very early.
Pay attention to La Pine as well. There could be a mid-level top-10, possible quarterfinal team brewing east of the mountains.
Projected Final Standings – SD2N
- #2 Siuslaw
- #3 Santiam Christian/#6 Junction City
- #3 Santiam Christian/#6 Junction City
- #10 La Pine
- Pleasant Hill
Special District 2 South –
The more things change in the Far West League, the more they stay the same. The more turbulent and unstable the bottom and middle of the league becomes, as teams take turns grabbing the second automatic qualifier spot and rotating who resides at the bottom, the more things stay the same up top: Cascade Christian runs the show.
Keith Reed steps in for Sam Martin at Quarterback, and you could stop right there. The kid can spin it, and he’s got plenty of weapons to get it to. Don’t fool yourself into thinking Cascade Christian is going to go into a lull for a while since all of the elder Fralich brothers are gone. In a 3A classification void of any one dominant superpower at the moment, CC may have the best odds to win it all. This is their league, and probably state, to lose.
Don’t take your eyes off South Umpqua. There is a lot of buzz around the Lancers for good reason. A team dominated by sophomore and junior talent, SU not only beat the likes of Sutherlin and 5A Crescent Valley, but they gave a stiffer than expected challenge to Cascade Christian (ignore the final score, watch the game). There’s very, very real boom potential here. Week one at Siuslaw could be looked at as a litmus test for both teams, and a solid showing by South Umpqua could thrust them into the top-5 discussion quickly. Watch South Umpqua’s development very, very closely.
Projected Final Standings – SD2S
- #1 Cascade Christian
- #9 South Umpqua
- St Mary’s
Super Special District 6 –
There’s a lot of uncertainty here. The east, both in 3A and in 4A, is an enigma coming out of the spring. There’s not a ton of info to go off of, but we’ll give a shot at projecting the league.
What do the Bulldogs look like under new coach Lance Lovitt? What exactly is Vale right now after a spring of volatile ups and downs? What does Burns look like after not having played a varsity game since the 2019 semifinals? Is there a team in the east that can make considerable noise, or are we looking at a league-wide rebuild? There are a ton of questions, and we couldn’t get conclusive answers to any of them. Pay attention to Burns @ Sisters and Vale @ La Pine in week two. Those two games in particular should tell us a lot concerning the eastern power structure coming out of the gates and how that relates to the overall state landscape.
Projected Final Standings – SD6
- #8 Vale