As hard as it is to believe, the fall season in prep sports is quickly winding down. This weekend brings the final regular season games in football and soccer, district tournaments in volleyball and the final cross country races before the district races next week. Looking toward the postseason, here is the lay of the land in each sport.
Greater Oregon League
It’s pretty simple for La Grande: Win at Baker Friday, earn the top spot in the league heading into the Class 4A state playoffs. Or, lose at Baker, and (barring an unfathomable loss by Ontario to McLoughlin) take second. The good news for La Grande is, either way, they are playoff bound. In the restructuring of the football leagues, OSAA determined that the top two teams in each 4A district would clinch a state berth. The 4A’s play-in scenario will help set the final four teams. La Grande, regardless of outcome Friday, will have a state playoff game the first weekend in November. Where and who the opponent is remain to be seen.
1A Special District 3
SD3 is carrying over the crossover playoff setup used by the Old Oregon and High Desert leagues in recent years. What’ll be fun this year is all four games will be played Oct. 26 at Community Stadium in La Grande.
The champions of each side of the district will meet to determine the top and second seeds to state. The No. 2 from SD3-E will face the No. 3 from SD3-W, and vise versa, for two additional automatic bids. And the No. 4 seeds from each will play each other. This game does carry some weight, which it hasn’t in the past, as will be explained shortly.
Currently, the only set matchup is Wallowa, the SD3-E champion, against Dufur, the SD3-W champion. That game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26.
Everything else is still somewhat up in the air. The four seeds in SD3-W are set: Dufur, Pilot Rock/Nixyaawii, Imbler and Enterprise. The four teams in SD3-E play will be Wallowa, Crane, Adrian/Jordan Valley and Elgin, but the seeding could still change. If the season ended today, Crane would be second, Adrian/Jordan Valley third and Elgin fourth. But Elgin hosts Crane Friday, and with a win (and Adrian/Jordan Valley’s likely win over Pine Eagle) could create a three-way tie for second place. Since the teams would have beaten each other round-robin style in that scenario (Crane over Adrian/Jordan Valley, A/JV over Elgin, Elgin over Crane), the tiebreaker would then go to the district tiebreaker protocol.
In years past, the losers of the No. 2 vs. No. 3 games have missed the playoffs altogether, while the No. 4 vs. No. 4 game has basically been for pride. That may not be the case this fall. All three districts in Class 1A get four automatic bids. That leaves four at-large bids, which will be given out based on the OSAA computer rankings. If the rankings were locked in today, SD3 would get three of the four rankings. Those will, of course, change between now and the end of the district playoffs, but it means that there is hope for the No. 2 vs. No. 3 losers and even the No. 4 vs. No. 4 game winner. In fact, as it sits currently, Elgin and Enterprise would be the contestants in the No. 4 vs. No. 4 game. Those teams are currently ranked 15th and 16th, respectively. Elgin, right now, would be in. Enterprise would be out. If those rankings held, and the teams did indeed meet next Friday, the winner very well could grab a playoff spot, though it isn’t
The quadrupleheader at Community Stadium that day begins at 10 a.m. with the No. 4 vs. No. 4 game.
1A Special District 5
Joseph has flexed its muscle as the top six-man team in the state this fall. The Eagles are the only remaining undefeated team, and they had wins in their district over two previously unbeaten teams in South Wasco and Harper. They have claimed the top spot in SD5 and will play McKenzie or Powers in a de facto six-man title game Oct. 27, said Head Coach Duncan Christman. The site is still to be determined.
It’s pretty straightforward at all levels. La Grande ran roughshod to win the GOL and is sitting back waiting to see who will make the trip east for a first-round playoff match Oct. 27. A win there would send the Tigers to the final site for the first time since 2013.
In the Class 2A Blue Mountain Conference, Union meets Pilot Rock in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 contest at the district tournament Saturday in Stanfield. If Union wins, it would earn a matchup later in the day against either Heppner or Weston-McEwen for third place. Regardless of the outcomes, Union’s playoff hopes hinge on its OSAA rankings. Only two teams from each league can garner automatic state bids. Four additional at-large bids are up for grabs based on the rankings, and although the Bobcats can’t get an auto bid, more wins will help boost their ranking and their chances. If the season ended right now, Union would be the second at-large team. The Bobcats know this spot on the bubble quite well. Two years ago, they missed the playoffs by one spot, and last year, their high ranking got them in after they were upset in the Wapiti League tournament.
In the Old Oregon League, six teams will play for three spots Saturday at La Grande High School. Powder Valley and Joseph have byes to the semifinals. Wallowa meets Cove in one quarterfinal match, while Imbler faces Griswold in the other. The Wallowa-Cove winner faces Powder Valley in the semis for one automatic berth and a spot in the district title match, and the Imbler-Griswold winner meets Joseph in the other semifinal match. The semifinal winners play for the first and second seed to state. The losers play for the third seed to state and the final state berth. No at-large bids are given out. The tournament begins at 9 a.m. Oct. 20.
The La Grande girls and boys are locked into their playoff spots. The Tiger girls are first in the GOL and will host a first-round playoff game on Halloween. The
La Grande boys are second in the league and will play a first-round game Oct. 30. Where is still up in the air, and the outcome of Saturday’s contest against Ontario could have major implications on whether La Grande can possibly snag a first-round home game.
Several of the top teams and runners in the state reside in Northeast Oregon. All four teams in this area — La Grande, Enterprise, Union/Cove and Elgin — run their final meet Thursday in Pendleton before heading off to their respective district meets. On Oct. 26, La Grande heads to Ontario, while Enterprise, Union/Cove and Elgin run in Pendleton.
The top two teams from the GOL on both the boys and girls side qualify for state, and La Grande is on pace to do so on both sides. A hypothetical meet score on athletic.net based on runners’ tops times has the LHS girls first in the district, and the Tiger boys second.
It gets a bit trickier for the Union/Cove and Enterprise girls. Only two teams from 3A/2A/1A Special District 3 qualify for state. That district not only includes the Bobcats and Outlaws, but also Burns, who is the top-ranked girls team in the state. Keep in mind, Enterprise is the defending state champion and a perennial state contender, as is Union/Cove. Unless both can upend the high-ranked Hilanders, one will not make it to Eugene for state in early November.
On the boys side, Union/Cove, the defending state champion, will be near the top again at state, provided they get through the 2A/1A SD3 meet. Class 3A is split off from 2A/1A on the boys side, which means Enterprise’s freshmen-laden team will be running in that race.