- Written by Andy Wooldridge (CCCougarfan)
- Last Updated on June 27, 2012
- Published on July 27, 2009
- Hits: 4007
We continue our look ahead at the 2009 football season with the 2A class. Numbers matter in 11-man football at every level, and the 2A classification routinely sees this affect more than anyone, as they have the smallest enrollments to work with in a sport that can turn into a war of attrition.
With that in mind, tradition and turnout drive the choices of teams that will bear watching.
Heppner Mustangs (9-3, 7-0 in the Blue Mountain Conference in 2008, lost to Lakeview 23-10 in the quarterfinals.)
The Mustangs are the perennial champions of the Blue Mountains, despite the efforts of a number of very good Pilot Rock teams. The question this year, like every year, is how far can the Mustangs go in the post season? With a half-dozen players that received all-state honors at one level or another returning to head up a squad that returns nearly everyone on both sides of the ball, and key losses at most of the traditional contenders, the answer is probably a long ways, maybe even to Hillsboro Stadium in December.
An early trip to Kennedy could be a rare opportunity for west side fans to check out the Mustangs, as coach Greg Grant launches his 20th. campaign.
The annual range war with the Rockets will be in Heppner this year, another factor in Heppner’s favor, as the Mustangs attempt to continue what is currently the longest current conference winning streak in the state in any class. When the Mustangs open defense of their latest Blue Mountain championship in Elgin, they will carry a league unbeaten streak of 68 in a row, dating back to October 9, 1998, when they lost 32-22 to Culver, a couple of league realignments and name changes ago.
Culver Bulldogs (11-2, 5-0 in the Tri-River in 2008, lost to Knappa 20-6 in the Championship game.)
Portland State wasn’t the only school to have a member of the Davis family call it a career, at least for now. Kurt Davis’ departure, coupled with the graduation of Nevin Lewis, leaves some huge shoes to fill. How the Bulldogs handle the transition in the tough Tri-River will be followed closely, and the jury will remain out until well into the league campaign, regardless of how preseason goes.
A favorable early slate that sees Kennedy, Santiam, and Scio all cross the mountains will help, but unless the Bulldogs have collapsed, two late road games in the valley against Blanchet and Salem Academy will take place before we know whether Culver has completed the changeover well enough to continue as a contender.
For that matter, Scio, who faces a murderous schedule, with six of nine games on the road, and Kennedy, with two 3A opponents and three non-conference games against 2A playoff teams from last season, are also staring at what could be misleadingly poor records. Watch the Tri-River not only for the outcome of games, but the margins of victory or loss, and handicapping the playoffs will seem a lot easier.
Lakeview Honkers (9-3, 4-0 in the Southern Cascade in 2008, lost to Culver 24-14 in the semifinals.)
How good will the Honkers be without both Matt and Kacey Clemons? The Southern Cascade knows only one way to play football, bruising. Lakeview has the advantage of a 3A enrollment in a 2A league, but unlike much of the state, teams in all classes in the southern interior don’t seem to worry much about classification, or anything else, for that matter. They just line up and take their best shot at whoever lines up against them.
Whether Lakeview can continue to rule, or if it will be Lost River, Bonanza, or even St. Mary’s that emerges, is very much open to debate. With a couple of California contests, as well as 3A defending champion Grant Union and Culver on the schedule, Lakeview will be both an interesting team to follow (and following them will rack up some miles), as well as a good barometer to judge their opponents by.
Knappa Loggers (12-1, 3-1 in the Northwest League in 2008, and as noted, defeated Culver 20-6 for the title).
Watch Portland Christian for a team that will again be in the playoffs, but that is already pretty much a given, so comparatively little new will be learned by their expected success. The Loggers, on the other hand, are a bit of a question mark.
The defending champions did lose multiple all-state players, most notable of which was the 2A defensive player of the year John Benthin. But a close look at the all state list reveals relatively few Knappa players, compared to what is often seen for a state champion. That underscores the significance of coach Aaron Thorton’s approach, if not his system. Also, the Loggers have the bulk of their skill players back.
How Knappa stacks up against Portland Christian, and the usually strong Nestucca, both of which they must visit in the last two weeks of the season, instead of getting them at home as they did in 2008, will be the story of the season in the Northwest League.
Oakland Oakers (5-5, 5-2 in the Mountain View Conference, lost 57-8 at Heppner in the first round of the playoffs.)
Since redistricting, the Mt. View has won three first round playoff games, one each by Monroe, in ‘06, and the Oakridge and Central Linn in ’07. Last year, the conference was wiped out in the first round. The Oakers ran off nine straight, and ran up the polls in the process, in ’07, but were upset in the first round. Last year, a promising season came to a crashing end, with two lopsided road losses about the time the level of competition ramped up.
This year, a pair of games against 3A opponents provides a good opportunity to get tuned up, and a schedule that ends with three home games, and four of six in Oakland down the stretch, sets the Oakers up for another run at the playoffs.
Whether they are up to making another run at a playoff berth, and then whether they are actually capable of playoff level football, is very much an unanswered question. How they and their opponents progress will be a good indicator of whether the Mountain View has made any real progress in catching up with the rest of the state.