Predictions of week-to-week matchups can be pretty easy. Once information is widely available and head-to-head matchups have reached a certain point, a week’s worth of triangulation and predictions can be made in as short as a half an hour. Even making predictions at the start of a season about who will play in the championship game of any given sport can be moderately easy, as getting one team right and another wrong can be seen as successful.
But, this is new; this will be a challenge. Beyond a year or two, it becomes an exercise of throwing darts in the dark. With that said, the next five championship matchups–and winners–in football will be:
2022: Estacada over Pendleton, Cascade Christian over South Umpqua, and Heppner over Somebody
4A – Estacada is the safe one of these two–probably. The Rangers have by far the most returning all-state talent headed into this fall, bringing back a total of seven selections. Part of this is due to the fact 4A had an unprecedented amount of senior talent last season, but credit has to be given to Estacada players like Dom Nacaste, Waylon Riedel, and Cory James for being recognized despite the densely populated field. Pendleton is not bringing back any all-state talent from the 5A level, but players like Payton Lambert and Benito Jennings should be on just about everybody’s all-state watchlist this season. In a 4A landscape that will be completely in flux outside of these two teams and Marist, this might be the safest pick to make.
3A – Cascade Christian and South Umpqua both bring back an incredible amount of all-state talent. Whereas 4A is depleted beyond belief from top to bottom in terms of returning known quantities, the 3A landscape is packed and generally well-structured already. CC and SU both bring back all-state level QBs in Keith Reed and Jace Johnson, multiple all-state receiving threats, most notably in Isaac Real and Brody Sample, and have the combo of experience and coaching to make a deep run for both nearly impossible to imagine not happening. Dayton, Vale, Banks, and even 2A Kennedy–who will be opting to play up and continue competing in 11-man football rather than stay in 2A and compete in 9-man–can certainly make noise and play spoiler, but this seems like the best bet as of July.
2A – 9-man football is going to bring about a whole new set of evaluation marks, and it will take programs and players a couple weeks to get comfortable with things–nonetheless us. 2A returns sparse talent, partially because Kennedy–who returns the most talent out of anybody in 4A-2A–is playing at the 3A level this fall. When in doubt, pick General Grant against the field. No clue who they will play (Oakland?), but give us Heppner to win the inaugural 9-man title.
2023: Marist over Scappoose, Vale over Cascade Christian, Oakland over Willamina
4A – Marist has some younger kids that are studs. Specifically, Nick Hudson could be a future all-state guy if he develops right and fills out. If he does not start this fall, that would be hardly surprising, considering he is only a sophomore and Marist has senior Jackson Gibeau already, but in 2023 as a Junior, he and the Spartans could do some serious damage. On Scappoose’s end… we all expect them to be back in contention sooner rather than later, right?
3A – The next two years could be very fun for Vale. Only a couple plays from making the title game last season, where they would have been one heck of a roadblock for Siuslaw, they bring back a really talented core of young players that will stick around through 2023. Cascade Christian also has some young studs that will be seniors in 2023, and paired with the experience in the long playoff run they will likely have, this fall should prime them for a title run, possibly title defense, in 2023.
2A – This is where we start flying blind. There are some things to like with Oakland, specifically how large their sophomore and junior classes project to be this fall, but this is only our best guess. Willamina is an absolute shot in the dark, and we are basing this mostly on our faith in Dan Oswald as a coach.
2024: Marist over Pendleton, Cascade Christian over Santiam Christian, Bandon over Stanfield
4A – We are projecting the senior talents of current freshmen, so do not take this too seriously. Pretty much the same justification as 2023 here; just replacing Scappoose with Pendleton. Aside from this being a great contrast of schools just in terms of a matchup, Frank Geske vs. Erik Davis would be a very compelling coaching clash as well.
3A – Two titles for Cascade Christian in three years? Why not? Santiam Christian, with new coach Justin Carley, will surely have to go through some growing pains in the next two seasons, but by 2024 could be as dominant as the championship teams we have seen in the past. Aside from that, CC and SC have to find one another in a title game of some sort again soon-ish, one would think.
2A – Pick two traditional powers, and your guess would be as good as ours. Stanfield gets the nod here simply because of a relatively large group of incoming sophomores this fall and a solid program being already established.
2025: Philomath over Seaside, Cascade Christian over Banks, Heppner over Knappa
4A – This is where we start to have fun. Philomath and Seaside are both currently not within the contenders column, Philomath having been out of the picture since 2016 and Seaside generally absent since 2019, but they both have to make a comeback at some point–they are both too well run to stay out of the picture forever.
3A – It might be foolish to wait this long in putting Banks in a title game, but given the known talent in 3A and what Banks has to replace in the immediate future, we are comfortable with it. Cascade Christian wins their third title in four years, establishing Jon Gettman as an all-time coaching great.
2A – Cannot keep Heppner down long. Mustangs take down Knappa in a showdown of classic powerhouses, but they dominate in such a fashion the question is asked if they could have taken down 3A champion Cascade Christian.
2026: Marshfield over Mazama, Rainier over Dayton, Regis over Monroe
4A – Marshfield returns to the scene guns blazing and setting state records for offense following the addition of alumnus Mark Helfrich to the coaching staff, taking down Mazama in the final game in a shootout unseen in the 11-man high school game in decades.
3A – Rainier, now running exclusively 5-wide sets, takes down Wing-T running Dayton in a game that sees one team never throw the ball, and the other never run it. Journalists and peer coaches are baffled not at the sight of a team winning a title without attempting a run, but that it was Rainier that did it.
2A – The Rams, under new head coach Travis Lulay, win the state title in dominating fashion over Monroe despite cries from fans that the Regis cheated in using an actual Ram as their starting running back in the title game. Lulay, asked after the trophy ceremony about the decision, said: “Ain’t no rule that says the Ram can’t play football.”