District proposals

Shown are the proposed districts of the 4A and 1A football leagues for the upcoming season.

Class 4A

Special District- 1

Astoria Fishermen

Banks Braves

Seaside Seagulls

Tillamook Cheesemakers

Valley Catholic Valiants

Special District - 2

Crook County Cowboys

Estacada Rangers

Gladstone Gladiators

Molalla Indians

North Marion Huskies

Special District - 3

Newport Cubs

Philomath Warriors

Sisters Outlaws

Stayton Eagles

Sweet Home Huskies

Woodburn Bulldogs

Special District - 4

Cottage Grove Lions

Elmira Falcons

Junction City Tigers

Marist Catholic Spartans

Marshfield Pirates

Special District - 5

Henley Hornets

Klamath Union Pelicans

Mazama Vikings

North Valley Knights

Phoenix Pirates

Special District - 6

Baker Bulldogs

La Grande Tigers

McLoughlin Pioneers

Ontario Tigers

Class 1A 8-Man

Special District - 1

Crow Cougars

Elkton Elks

Falls City Mountaineers

Lowell Devils

Mapleton Sailors

Mohawk Indians

North Douglas Warriors

Oakrdige Warriors

Perrydale Pirates

Siletz Valley Warriors

St. Paul Buckaroos

Waldport Irish

Yoncalla Eagles

Special District - 2

Bonanza Antlers

Butte Falls/Crater Lakes Charter Loggers

Camas Valley Hornets

Chiloquin Panthers

Days Creek Wolves

Glendale Pirates

Hosanna Christian Lions

Myrtle Point Bobcats

North Lake Cowboys

Prospect Cougars

Riddle Irish

Triad Timber Wolves

Special District - 3

Arlington Honkers/Condon Blue Devils

Cove Leopards

Dufur Rangers

Ione Cardinals

Sherman Huskies

Adrian Antelopes

Crane Mustangs

Elgin Huskies

Enterprise Outlaws

Imbler Panthers

Pilot Rock Rockets

Pine Eagle Spartans

Powder Valley Badgers

Union Bobcats

Wallowa Cougars

Class 1A 6-man

Special District - 1

Alsea Wolverines

Gilchrist Grizzlies

Jewell Blue Jays

McKenzie Eagles

Triangle Lake Lakers

Powers Cruisers

Special District - 2

Burnt River Bulls

Dayville Tigers

Echo Cougars

Harper Hornets

Huntington Locomotives

Joseph Eagles

Monument Tigers

Prairie City Panthers

South Wasco Redsides

Spray/Mitchell/Wheeler Rattlers

Source: OSAA

Since late last year, the OSAA Football Ad Hoc Committee has been considering a range of possible changes to the sport ahead of the 2018 football season.

The most recent update from the committee, released last week, has three schools in Union and Wallowa counties looking at some major changes next fall.

The current layout, if the final proposal is approved by the OSAA, would make Enterprise and Union — both of whom would meet newly established criteria — eligible to compete at the 8-man level. Joseph, meanwhile, would be part of a new 16-team pilot program that would play 6-man football, which is played in other states but hasn’t been played in Oregon since 1959.

OSAA Assistant Executive Director Brad Garrett said the number of players within a program and how much they can change due to injuries, students transferring, etc. has prompted discussion.

“We have a lot of volatility,” he said. “Teams that start a season can't complete them. Anytime you have teams forfeiting, there is a ripple effect. Schools do not like that. That volatility at the 8-man level in particular has created some discussions these last few years. (Teams) either haven’t finished (seasons) or played partial seasons.”

The discussions by the committee have resulted in several changes being placed under consideration and currently being recommended. Among the discussion topics is the creation of an enrollment zone between the 1A and 2A classifications. Schools with an adjusted daily admission between 89 and 120 students — the lower end of 2A — would have the choice to drop down to play 8-man football or to remain at 11-man.

“Basically it gives a little extra of that buffer zone to grab teams who have historically been 8-man teams,” Garrett said. “It’s a tool to help capture a few of the schools. Other states have enrollment zones like that. Montana is an example.”

Union, which has an adjusted ADM of 100, fell into the enrollment zone. Head coach Jon Reynolds said due to the lack of players in the program and the lack of players projected to come out next fall, a drop to 8-man makes sense.

“We’re going to go ahead and play down for a couple years,” Reynolds said. “We just don’t have numbers coming up.”

Reynolds said Union started last season with 21 players, but drop to the mid-teens by the end of the year. He is looking at similar numbers next fall. He added there are only a couple of current eighth graders set to join the team in 2018.

“We just don't have people playing football and playing sports in the younger classes right now,” he said “We’re only picking up two football players coming into ninth grade. There's not a lot of kids involved in sports right now.”

Reynolds hopes the program’s stint at 8-man is an abbreviated one, and that the amount of players could be high enough in the future for Union to move back up.

“As soon as we have numbers back we’re going to go back to 11-man,” he said.

Union isn’t the only traditional 11-man school set to drop down to 8-man. Enterprise, which has been struggling with numbers and was considering a move to an 8-man independent schedule, will also be playing at the lower level next fall.

The Outlaws fell just above the committee’s enrollment zone, with an adjusted ADM of 127. The team was eligible to play down after meeting a criteria established by the committee, which is applied to the entire state. Teams that have had a winning percentage of 22 percent or less in the OSAA’s Colley ranking — a team’s ranking against schools within its own classification — or had played fewer than 12 in-classification games in the last four years met the criteria, and were given the option to play down a classification. Teams with a two-year Colley winning percentage of 22 percent or lower would also meet criteria.

Enterprise had posted a Colley winning percentage of just 19 percent in the last four years. The Outlaws therefore met the criteria, and are taking the option to play down.

Enterprise Athletic Director Larry Wells said there was no hesitation on the part of the program to accept the option, noting he had already been in contact with OSAA to discuss playing an 8-man independent schedule in 2018.

“The whole idea of 8-man football and the need to do that became apparent a couple years ago,” Wells said.

He said the program has gone through a stretch of having low numbers — only 21 players were listed on the roster on the OSAA site from last season — and that many of those players were undersized.

“At the time we floated the idea to the school board. We decided we would try to get along one more year and see how it went,” Wells said.

The number of prospective players who came to a meeting in the spring was at about 25, he said, but it dropped by the time the season started.

“It just wasn’t sustainable,” he said, adding the decision to drop down was made “out of necessity.”

Enterprise head coach Rusty Eschler agreed the move will will help the program given its low numbers.

“It’s hard to field an 11-man team and then be competitive, especially with the injuries,” he said. “It helps us in practice where we can scrimmage. You have enough kids on both (offense and defense).”

But despite the move for Union and Enterprise, Joseph is the program that will see the biggest change. The Eagles, who have also had low numbers in the football program in recent years and have the second-lowest adjusted ADM in Union and Wallowa counties at 65, chose the option given to teams with an ADM of 89 or lower to take part in a two-year pilot for 6-man football.

“We started talking about (it), and looking at some of the changes that are happening with the realignment for 8-man, we’re going to be one of the smaller schools,” Joseph Athletic Director Jason Crenshaw said. “(We’re) looking at the sport of football for something that is going to be more sustainable.”

Joseph head coach Toby Koehn agreed the decision to drop down to the 6-man pilot was based on sustainability. He noted the Eagles have been light in both numbers and the size of those players, and said it’s tough “to come up with eight guys who are able to keep up with schools like Dufur, Wallowa, Crane (and) St. Paul, (which is) coming back in.”

The pilot program will take place for 2018 and 2019, after which OSAA will consider what to do with it moving forward. OSAA won’t award a state championship during the pilot years.

The change to 6-man for Joseph also means learning an entirely different version of the game. Six-man football is played on a smaller field — 80-by-40 yards as opposed to 100-by-53-1/3. Additionally, all players are eligible receivers, and the quarterback — or a different player taking a direct snap — cannot cross the line of scrimmage.

Those represent just a couple of the bigger rule changes Joseph and the other 15 teams will need to adapt to.

“It looks like an adventure. It opens up some fun stuff to allow your kids to do some interesting,” Koehn said.

There are also some league realignments that are being considered which will go into effect just for football.

At the 8-man level, Enterprise and Union are currently slated to be part of a 15-team special district. Cove, Elgin, Imbler, Powder Valley and Wallowa will also be in this district. It’s the largest of the three special districts currently lined out by the committee — SD1 has 13 teams, and SD2 has 12.

Joseph will be in one of the two special districts currently set for 6-man, and the Eagles’ district currently has 10 teams.

La Grande will see very few changes at 4A level. The Tigers will still be in a four-team special district along with Baker, McLoughlin and Ontario at the 4A level. None of the six districts in 4A, though, are more than six teams, and three have five teams.

The committee is also considering changes to the state’s playoff qualifications. At the 8-man level, four teams from each of the three districts would qualify for the postseason, and four more teams would qualify via OSAA ranking to form a 16-team field. The 4A playoff qualifications are also set for a change. Two teams from each of the special districts would quality, and four additional teams would garner a berth via OSAA ranking, making a 16-team field.

Garrett said there could be some final adjustments made to the designations in the special districts, and said the committee welcomes feedback prior to its final meeting, which is Jan. 31. Feedback or suggestions can be emailed directly to Garrett at bradg@osaa.org .

The committee will submit its final proposal to the OSAA board following the final meeting, and the OSAA will vote on the recommendations and make any final adjustments it sees necessary Feb. 12. If the OSAA passes the proposal, it would then go to the delegate assembly for consideration since the changes are being implemented in just one sport.

If they pass all the final hurdles, the changes would go into effect for the 2018 season.

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