Week one is always rough for predictions and preseason top-10 lists, and this year was no exception. However, some of the performances, both individual and team, were truly noteworthy. Here is what the film shows:
- Seaside might be a legit quarterfinal team, and there is one big reason why: Jake White is the real deal. As a sophomore, his field vision and speed off a cut is second to very few in small school football. Seaside moved him from fullback to tailback with regularity within their Wing-T offense, but regardless of where he was at he was getting the ball. Few Wing-T teams have a toss to the fullback built into their scheme, but Seaside did a whole lot of damage running the wing back in motion and tossing it to White with a lead blocker in front of him. Even with the last second loss–albeit to a more seasoned team–Seaside already looks well enough put together to compete in a playoff game. This could be a fascinating team moving forward.
- The Dalles is going to be really, really fun to watch this year. Andre Niko might be a D1 prospect by the end of the season, if for no other reason than his uniqueness compared to what Oregon usually produces. The RiverHawks certainly need time to develop, but there were some flashes of excellence Friday night against Parkrose. There are some monsters, including Niko, on this roster.
- Marist looks different, but they are just as dominant. They are not as big from top to bottom, not as physically imposing, not able to lean on strength and power as much as they were last year, but they are faster and arguably more explosive. Drew Salnas, with just one game, launches himself into the league player of the year conversation. Not many running backs in Oregon high school football can turn a simple zone play into a breakaway touchdown like he can. The top-end speed might be unmatched in 4A, even if players like Payton Lambert are potentially harder to bring down on first contact. Jackson Gibeau played well, and the defense many looked at as the major pivot point for Marist headed into the season looked as solid as ever.
- Was it a huge surprise that Mazama beat Estacada? Not particularly, but how unready Estacada looked certainly was: dropped passes, fumbled handoffs, missed seal blocks, even miscommunication on which wing was to come in motion leading to an illegal procedure penalty deep in the red zone. It was a wildly different Estacada team than was anticipated in the first half, regardless of how well Mazama played– they did play very well, so do not misinterpret this assessment. In the second half, Estacada looked like an entirely different team, relying heavily on the Diesel and finding success in it, but still, penalties, turnovers, and procedural issues persisted. The offensive line of Mazama dominated in spurts, and it might be the biggest from top to bottom that 4A has to offer. Bottom line: Mazama looked like a team ready to compete, and Estacada looked like a team that had the pieces but was not yet ready.
- Scio has really, really improved. Ditching the Double Wing for the first time in generations, the Loggers look like a natural fit in the same Pistol Wing-T offense that Cascade, and Philomath before them, has made trendy in Oregon high school football. Withholding injuries or other setbacks, and simply looking at their jamboree and Rainier performances, this looks like a playoff team. There is a viable path to six wins for Scio, which does not get them an automatic bid in SD2, but it could put their RPI high enough to have an at-large bid locked up by week eight.
- Banks winning 28-0 over Astoria will not turn too many heads, but with how young the Braves are everywhere, especially on the offensive line, to shut out, and in spurts dominate, the Fishermen is impressive. It did not look perfect, and Banks struggled to move the ball at times, but that defense will keep them in every game they play this year. Simply talking about speed, it is hard to think of anyone that can match Banks defensively–they have athletes, young athletes, all over the place.
- 2A is still wildly unpredictable, and multiple programs losing star players in the last couple weeks has not helped. The top end–Heppner and Oakland–looked as expected, but what the tiers of contention look like will take another couple weeks to sort out.