2A Football Preview

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We genuinely mean it when we say that 2A is our favorite classification. The wild parity in nearly every sport makes every single week one that brings new surprises. In 2022, we saw big changes in our top-ten week-to-week, and even in the playoffs, we saw lower-seeded squads go on runs. 7th-seeded Weston-Mcewen went on a tear, knocking off the two and three seeds with late-game heroics on their way to the State Championship Game. However, the clock struck midnight on the Tigerscots as they ran into a buzzsaw that was the top-ranked Oakland Oakers. It was a 46-32 title score that was a little closer than the game actually seemed. What most people forget, however, is that Oakland’s only loss came to the Tigerscots on the road in Week Two. Both teams will be solid again in 2023, and if we’re being honest, a rematch isn’t entirely out of the picture.

Teams to Look Out For in 2023

Weston-McEwen / Griswold – The defending state runners-up come into 2023 as our top-ranked squad. The TigerScots return a plethora of talent, and there is nothing like the desire for revenge that all runners-up must feel. This group will have a chip on their shoulder all season, and when they travel to Oakland in Week Two, the atmosphere will be electric. The biggest players returning to Athene include Easton Berry (1st Team QB, Jr), Alex Ceja (2nd Team OL, Sr), Mazon Langford (1st Team DL, Sr), and Sean Roggiero (2nd Team LB, Sr). However, we see a potential issue looming for this bunch. As we write this article, Weston-McEwen only has seven of the possible nine games on their schedule. If they remain with only seven games, we could see this group struggle in ranking and group cohesiveness as the postseason comes around.

Heppner – We’re genuinely not sure you can ever rank a Greg Grant coached squad outside of the top five in any Football season ever. Grant has a genuine case for being the best Coach in state history (any classification) aside from being the obvious 2A-4A goat, and his Heppner Mustangs will be a contender in 2023 once again. The Mustangs return Cade Cunningham, not the Pistons PG (1st Team DL, Sr), Landon Mitchell (1st Team DB, Sr), and Cameron Proudfoot (2nd Team DB, Sr). A big test for this bunch early on will be when they host Gold Beach Week One. The Panthers have a lot of speed across the board, but at the Morrow County Fairgrounds, Heppner is nearly unbeatable. 

Oakland – Now to the defending state champions. The Oakers lose debatably their two best offensive players in Cade Olds and Cole Collins, but as a whole, they only graduate six seniors. James Baimbridge (2nd Team TE, Sr), Dallas Fishbaugher (3rd Team OL, Sr), Coen Egner (1st Team DL, Jr), Gabe Williamson (3rd Team LB, Jr), Silas Arscott (3rd Team DB, Jr) all return for the Oakers in 2023, and will help pave the way to another elite season on the ground. In the state title game, Oakland scampered for 400 yards on the ground behind their elite O-Line. Ben Lane’s group opens up against Nate Young and the Monroe Dragons before a rematch with Weston-McEwen in Oakland for Week Two.

Gold Beach – One of the most hungry teams in the state will be back on the scene this Fall. After a horrific weather pattern quite literally dampened their chances for a state title run, Gold Beach is poised for takeoff once again. The Panthers return a plethora of speed, and Coach Higgins believes they’ll be even better than they were last year. In 2022, Gold Beach’s season was a success, but in two playoff games and a matchup with Oakland, they combined for only 20 points. Now that Nelson Wilstead (2nd Team RB, Sr.), Zane Gibson (2nd Team WR, 2nd Team DB, Sr.), Korben Storns (2nd Team OL, Sr Gold Beach), and Jake Westerman (3rd Team QB, 3rd Team P, Sr.) all have a year of playoff experience under their belts, it’s officially time to launch.

Lowell – Another team returning a lot of speed in 2023 is the Lowell Red Devils. Last year, Lowell was all but convincing in a sloppy playoff win over 15-seed Knappa and a State Quarterfinal loss at home to 7-seed Weston Mc-Ewen. A lot of this can be attributed to growing pains and a lack of experience as the young group was adjusting to the nine-man football scheme. Now that JaMar Thurman (1st Team RB, Co OPOY, 2nd Team DB, Jr), Justus Thurman (2nd Team WR, Sr), Rowan Files (3rd Team TE, 2nd Team LB, Sr), and Paul Clark (3rd Team OL, Jr, 2nd Team DL, Jr) all have a year under their belt, this group could be a force to be reckoned with. The squad that’s tucked away on HWY 58 has a favorable schedule once again but will be tested in Week Four against Weston-McEwen on a neutral site in a State Quarterfinal rematch. 

Other teams that to look out for: Colton, Regis, Waldport, Monroe, and Willamina.

Other players worth keeping an eye on this season includes:

Noah Bjornstedt (1st Team TE, 2nd Team DB, Sr Colton)

Ash Blomstrom (1st Team OL, 3rd Team DL, Sr Toledo)

Kollin Schumacher (2nd Team QB, 3rd Team DB, Sr Regis)

Thomas Bischoff (3rd Team LB, Sr Regis)

Daniel Polk (3rd Team WR, Sr Illinois Valley)

Gotti Ramon (3rd Team WR, Sr Gervais)

Ben Imdieke (3rd Team OL, Jr Colton)

Onnel Ramos (3rd Team OL, Sr Monroe)

Draven Marsh (3rd Team K, Jr Nestucca)

Nate Young (3rd Team DB, Sr Monroe)

Preseason Top-10

  1. Weston-McEwen / Griswold
  2. Heppner
  3. Oakland
  4. Gold Beach
  5. Lowell
  6. Regis
  7. Colton
  8. Monroe
  9. Willamina
  10. Waldport

Considered: Rogue River, Bandon / Pacific, Gervais, North Douglas / Yoncalla

Projected Standings / Records

Tri-River Conference

  1. Regis (8-1)
  2. Colton (7-2)
  3. Willamina (7-2)
  4. Gervais (4-5)
  5. Santiam (3-5)
  6. Blanchet Catholic (3-6)
  7. Culver (3-6)

Special District 1

  1. Knappa (7-2)
  2. Nestucca (6-3)
  3. Clatskanie (6-3)
  4. Gaston (4-5)
  5. Neah-Kah-Nie (4-5)
  6. Vernonia / Jewell (3-6)
  7. Corbett (2-7)
  8. Sheridan (1-8)

Special District 2

  1. Lowell (8-1)
  2. Monroe (6-2)
  3. Waldport (6-2)
  4. Toledo (4-5)
  5. Central Linn (2-6)
  6. Oakridge (1-8)

Special District 3

  1. Oakland (9-0)
  2. Gold Beach (7-2)
  3. Bandon / Pacific (6-3)
  4. North Douglas / Yoncalla (6-3)
  5. Illinois Valley (4-5)
  6. Rogue River (4-5)
  7. Glide (2-7)
  8. Reedsport (1-8)

Special District 4

  1. Weston-McEwen / Griswold (6-1)
  2. Heppner (8-1)
  3. Grant Union (6-3)
  4. Stanfield (5-4)
  5. Riverside / Ione (2-7)
  6. Irrigon (2-7)

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