4A Football Preview

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Last fall, after being flush with a level of talent not seen in the modern era, 4A has an uncertain pecking order going into the 2022 season. Virtually the entire all-state team from last fall graduated, but do not take that to mean 4A is in a slump–there is plenty of talent to go around, especially with 5A powers Scappoose and Pendleton entering the fray.

SD1 – What does Scappoose look like?

In all likelihood, this is Scappoose’s league to lose. The perennial power, making its return to the classification they called home from the time the OSAA expanded to six classifications in 2006 until their ascension to 5A in 2018, came into the fall needing to fill the biggest shoes out of anyone in the league: Luke McNabb. In an offense that can justly be called quarterback-centric, the question of who Scappoose can put under center may be the biggest variable present in the entire classification. But, given the young talent surrounding the position, there should be enough regardless to make Scappoose a second round team, if not contenders–a potentially high-ceiling, certainly high-floor team.

Spoiler candidates are limited, but firmly established: Seaside and Tillamook. Two programs with established coaches, established systems, and enough returning talent to merit playoff berths, early outlooks put both of these teams within the league title hunt, just potentially a step behind Scappoose. Tanner Kraushaar, Izzy Jantes, Gilbert Whitlatch, Tyler Montctrief, etc. There is enough skill position experience and talent between these two squads for them to be competitive against just about anyone they could match up with in the playoffs. Seaside vs. Henley and Tillamook @ Marshfield in week one will be hugely telling for both programs.

There is potential that Astoria plays a role here: maybe not ending up league champs, but a surprising tied-at-two after upsetting Scappoose in week nine on the road, perhaps. Something to keep an eye on.

Projected Final League Standings:

  1. #4 Scappoose
  2. Seaside
  3. Tillamook
  4. Astoria
  5. Milwaukie
  6. St. Helens

SD2 – Does Estacada live up to the hype?

This is Estacada’s league, potentially state, to lose. In terms of returning all-state selections, nobody compares to the Rangers in 4A. In a landscape littered with the shells of powerhouses from the year prior gutted by graduation, Estacada stands as the one power house who had their success in 2021 primarily on the backs of juniors, not seniors. In the 2022 season, they are the most loaded on the line of scrimmage, have the most weapons in the backfield, and have the most experienced roster top to bottom. If there is a betting favorite to win the 4A title, the conversation starts with Estacada. Cody White, Waylon Riedel, Cory James, and Dom Nacoste anchor an option offense that might be the state’s most formidable when all is said and done.

Gladstone is near the top of tier two in our eyes. While not in the contenders column, they are a team who could make and compete in the quarters. Brade Owen, Ethan Finnigan, and Fynn Brechbiel will be running a Gladstone defense that, if they hit their ceiling, could possibly be top-5 in the classification. An offensive line that showed flashes of greatness last fall, consistently one of the fastest and more aggressive off the ball in 4A despite being undersized in spots, could be what launches this team into the middle part of the top-10 by the end of September. Gladstone is another high floor team to keep your eye on. Cam Sommer has something building in the Portland Suburbs.

Projected Final League Standings:

  1. #1 Estacada
  2. #8 Gladstone
  3. Molalla
  4. Woodburn
  5. La Salle
  6. Parkrose

SD3 – How much of a learning process is in store for Marist?

Yes, Marist graduated a lot. Yes, they are still the favorites to win this league and should not be counted out foranother semifinal appearance. There is an incredible amount of experience leaving this roster that has played in the last two state championship games and made the semifinals in 2019, but there is enoughing coming through the pipe for a quick reload. Will the Spartans be as dominant as they were last season with Lucas Tuski and crew? Probably not, but just because a team has to adapt to new personnel does not mean they are bound to take a year off from contention. Frank Geske is still coaching Marist, the culture they have built is still in place, and there are still mountains of men on that offensive line (see: Sam Keen). Weeks one and two against Churchill and Springfield–yes, 5A programs, but by no means in the same category of Silverton or even Thurston–might turn up mixed results as the wheels start to turn here, but the proof in the pudding here will be seen in contests like week seven at Philomath and week eight at Cascade (another Cascade vs. Marist matchup, yes please.)

Second place, even first place in this league, is open for the taking. Stayton has returning skill players to make their case, Philomath has returning talent all over the place to make their case, Cascade–despite losing an incredible amount of talent–has a case to make simply off inertia, even Junction City with coach Max Wall has an argument purely based off how open the door is. Cottage Grove is an interesting rebuild to keep an eye on, and certainly with things being in as much flux as they are the Lions could make some noise, but in our estimation, they are a year away from making a full comeback. 

Bottom line: this league revolves around whether Marist hits or not. We will bet, based on how safe it has been to do so the last half decade, that Marist comes close to or reaches their ceiling. 

Projected Final League Standings:

  1. #3 Marist
  2. Stayton
  3. Junction City
  4. Cascade
  5. Philomath
  6. Cottage Grove
  7. Sweet Home

SD4 – Is Henley ready to take over?

Henley will have to take this league from Mazama, and it will not be easy. The Hornets have the pieces, notably Shaw Stork and Austin Fitts, to win this league outright and establish themselves as a fringe contender this season. Stork alone would be reason for optimism at this level, as the returning all-state QB comes into the fall likely the state’s best at the position in 4A and overall one of its best athletes. Few, if any, teams 4A or otherwise can boast having a true double threat under center the caliber of Stork.

Mazama has plenty of returning talent of their own. Trevor Anderson will not outrun the fastest of 4A football players, will not run through the most stiff of tacklers, will not evade the pursuit of the states best linebackers, but is astute enough and well rounded in such a way in all three skills–speed, agility, strength–to make him one of the states most versatile and potent weapons. Combined with what promises to be a particularly experienced squad surrounding him, the Vikings are a few early season wins from finding themselves in the contenders column. This tug of war between the two, the explosivity of Henley versus the muscle of Mazama, will be fascinating to watch unfold both when they are and are not on the field directly against each other. 

Marshfield, the reigning champions, have some pieces to be excited about. Mitchell George could be the state’s best linebacker, and there remains much of the offensive line that protected Dom Montiel all of last fall. They are a team with an undefined ceiling that will certainly be competitive, but to what extent is unknown.

Projected Final League Standings:

  1. #8 Mazama
  2. #5 Henley
  3. #9 Marshfield
  4. North Bend
  5. Hidden Valley
  6. Ashland
  7. Klamath Union

SD5 – Is Pendleton truly the team to beat?

Pendleton could be really, really special. Payton Lambert, Luke Bensching, and Benito Jennings are just a few of the players that could end up making the Pendleton welcome party to 4A a parade of all-state awards and championship medals. Lambert is our pick for state player of the year, and it takes very few clips of film to see why. Lateral movement, vision, quickness in traffic, versatility, and an aggressive style of running all contribute to what makes him the best running back in the classification this fall and probably the best from 1A to 4A. The ceiling for the Buckaroos is, without hyperbole, winning the state championship without issue or challenge.

La Grande, somehow, once again has a massive group of incoming seniors who could compete amongst themselves for all-state spots. Quarterback Logan Williams is likely an all-state selection, and if Henley falters early in the playoffs could wrap up the first team spot. Most excitingly, the  offensive line that pile drove numerous state powers last fall returns largely intact, and it certainly seems in the running to claim the title of the states best. 

The Dalles is a fascinating rebuild that has some absolute monsters on the roster who could do some real damage. Andre Niko, for one, in the Riverhawks’ new option offense brought over by coach Mark Schilling from Estacada, could prove one of the state’s most punishing hitters while possessing the football. Give him the ball on the pitch, and there might not be a DB in the state that can take him down 1-on-1 without getting run over and dragged for 5 yards.

Baker has the talent and cohesion to potentially win some playoff games; we just have to see how some players physically matured from last year to this year. They have maybe not one of the state’s more potent running attacks, but the air game offensively could make the Bulldogs competitive with just about anyone. 

Projected Final League Standings:

  1. #2 Pendleton
  2. #4 La Grande
  3. The Dalles
  4. #10 Baker
  5. Crook County
  6. Madras

One response to “4A Football Preview”

  1. Lori Avatar

    Head Coach Marc Schilling of The Dalles. Not Mark.

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