Our process for projecting how things will shake out in various sports is complex and varies by season and year, and it is scrutinized internally and refined to produce better results next time around. This process churns out, on balance, more accurate predictions than faulty ones. Usually, we keep this hand wringing in-house, but in the spirit of transparency and content generation, we bring it to the forefront once a year. Here, we will be highlighting our hits and acknowledging our, at times, egregious whiffs:
Biggest Miss: Estacada (Runner Up: Henley)
Really, it was not anything we said in our preview article that aged poorly, but ranking them #9 in our preseason top-10 looks fully rotten with hindsight. In our preview, we said, “This league right now looks like it’s Estacada’s to lose. The Rangers absolutely throttled some good teams in the spring, including Astoria and Crook County, and even beat perennial 5A powerhouse Lebanon (ignore the 1-5 record; they played some really, really good teams. Don’t final-score watch. Ever.) Returning the core of their production, they’re an easy pick to make at the top spot in this league.” This turned out to be accurate, but the low placement in the preseason followed by a semifinal run makes this our biggest miss.
Biggest Hit: Marshfield (Runner Up: Marist)
In our preview, we said about Marshfield: “It goes without saying that Marshfield is favored to win this league and probably the state title. Dom Montiel is one of, if not the most, electric players in 4A football, the cacophony of receivers they boast is only rivaled by the group Hidden Valley has fielded for the last two go-arounds, and they’re incredibly well-coached and supported. Marshfield has all the characteristics of a contender and probably has the highest ceiling out of anybody in the state. This is their league, and probably state, to lose.” We hit that one right on the head. Marshfield boat raced virtually every team they played, and they beat an incredibly well-coached and talented Marist team in the process not once, but twice. They were the #1 team in our preseason rankings, and they ended up the #1 team at the end of the season. It cannot get much better than that.
Biggest Miss: Amity (Runner Up: La Pine/South Umpqua)
From #4 in our preseason rankings to a first-round exit in the playoffs and a 5-5 overall record, it is hard to beat this overestimation. Our preview stated that “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.” The biggest miss here, really, was underestimating just how important Keenan Graham and Josh Wart were to that dominating spring season defense. Ultimately, the Warriors did not lose to anyone they should not have, but they also did not beat anyone they were underdogs against. We put them in the contender category when they should not have been.
Biggest Hit: Siuslaw (Runner Up: Cascade Christian)
Our preview said of Siuslaw: “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.” It was not the strongest of convictions in picking them to win their league, but noting them as the best team in the state when at their peak turned out to be accurate. It was really, really hard to take down Siuslaw, in large part because of that depth of talent we noted. It took a couple seasons, but our confidence in Siuslaw bringing home a blue trophy finally paid off.
Biggest Miss: Lakeview (Runner Up: Oakland)
This one is not close. How badly did we (Robby Scharf) miss on the Honkers? There was no mention of the southern menace in our preview article. None. No mention in the considered category, no sentence on needing to keep an eye on them, no passing phrase about how uncertain the bottom half of the preseason top-10 is and how they could fit into it. Not a single word for the Honkers, and they ended up making the semifinals afterwards. In the years we have been doing preseason rankings for all sports, there probably has been no bigger miss than this one.
Biggest Hit: Contenders Column
We took the easy way out and clumped Coquille, Kennedy, and Bandon as the preseason #2. Rather than separate them, we said that: “We’re high on all three of these teams to varying degrees, but none of the teams are special enough to be considered separately from this group. Bandon feels like a team waiting for its moment to burst back onto the scene as a contender rather than a periphery playoff team, Coquille seems more than primed to replace what they lost and then some with a full summer to knock off the rust, and Kennedy is Kennedy. Dart thrower Riley Cantu and teammates Luke Beyer and Brett Boen should be plenty to keep the Trojan air attack running smoothly, which should keep Kennedy squarely in the hunt. As long as Coquille has Gunner Yates, you have to give them a chance, and Bandon still has the bulk of the roster that brought them a 4-1 spring record. We’ll play it safe and bulk them all together, but we acknowledge this is likely a one-week-only situation. There’s at least one contender in this bunch.” We slotted Heppner as the preseason #1, saying, “We might be justified in clumping them with the teams ranked below them, simply because losing players like Jayden Wilson, Jackson Lehman, and Blake Wolters is bound to manifest itself in some capacity, but never underestimate Greg Grant. There’s still a lot of talent on this roster, and it’s been proven beyond any kind of reasonable doubt that General Grant qualifies as one of the state’s all-time best coaches. Pair any kind of talent with great coaching, and that team has a chance against anybody. Pair really good talent like Brock Hisler and Kason Cimmiyotti with a legend, and you’re a contender year-in and year-out.” Ultimately, this initial contenders column accounted for 3/4ths of the eventual semifinal teams. Bandon, the lone exception, was knocked out by a single point (27-26) by Lakeview in the quarters.
Predictions got better throughout the year, hitting 85% or better on winner-only predictions four straight weeks going into the playoffs, and by the middle of the season the top-10s were barely changing week to week. Not bad, not bad at all.