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Southridge and Sunset open with stiff tests against Tigard and Tualatin on the road

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Southridge senior Keyvaun Eady and the Skyhawks take on Tualatin to open the season on Friday.

The Metro League as a whole has never been one to run from a challenge.

The conference's football coaches only line up the best non-league opponents expecting the onset of trials and tribulations will bear fruit come league play and ultimately the postseason.

It's no secret why Metro puts four, five, even six teams in the playoffs every year. Rigorous non-league slates are rewarded in the Class 6A power rankings and might be equally important as conference finish. Say what you will about RPI and Colley rankings place in Oregon High School football, but the truth is the teams that play the toughest schedules are compensated.

This season's non-league slate is scattered all over the calendar, but week one promises to kick off the season on the right foot. Southridge, a team with top-four in Metro hopes, travels to Tualatin to open the 2018 season while Sunset starts on the road with perennial juggernaut Tigard at Tigard High School. Both games are slated for 7 p.m. kickoff times on Friday night.

The Skyhawks have a star-heavy senior class with lots of playoff experience with Kade Hustler, Keyvaun Eady and Blake Sims, among others, but they'll be stretched by a Timberwolf team that's been on the come-up the past two years.

"Tualatin had a lot of success last year and they're in one of the best leagues in the state," Southridge head coach Kevin Bickler said. "They're going to be a really good test. We'll see how good we are right out of the chute. I know Tualatin has some big kids, a great running back, a D1 linebacker, so we're going to have to come out ready to go."

Sunset will debut junior quarterback Callum Craig against a Tigard team that annually reloads its run game-dominant, defensively staunch attack. Craig started at defensive back and kicker as a sophomore but it will be his first start at signal caller on the road in a hostile environment with the Tigard Army hounding his every move. The Apollos want to lean on its experienced offensive line against a Tiger front that's beefy and well-schooled in the trenches.

"We're going to have our Hulk card checked a little bit for sure," Sunset head coach Damien Merrick said. "The most important thing for me is how we match up physically. Coach Ruecker, whether he's been at Tigard or Glencoe, has always had a real physical, run-oriented offense. He's going to have two tight ends and a fullback in for a majority of the game. Win or lose, I want to see our kids play physical at the point of attack on both sides of the ball and hopefully tackle well because there are going to be some one-on-one matchups with their backs where we're going to have to make a play."

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Jesuit senior linebacker Zach Carr and the Crusaders face off against Mountainside on Friday.

Jesuit begins its quest for its sixth Metro crown with a season-opening square-off against league newcomer Mountainside. The Crusaders play Lake Oswego, Sheldon and Central Catholic in non-league, but get the Mavericks to begin the year. Mountainside doesn't have a senior on its roster in its inaugural varsity season. The junior varsity team had success together a year ago and brings back most if not all of that same roster with a few key transfers sprinkled in, but this is a different level of football, of course. That said, it what some might deem a mismatch, Jesuit views as a challenge because of Mountainside's cohesion. Jesuit and Mountainside kick things off at 7 p.m. at Mountainside High.

"I've never gone against a team that has returned every single starter back from the year before," Jesuit head coach Ken Potter. "They're going to be prepared and know what to do. They're going to be flying around and not have to think about it because they've already done it for a full year. Not only that, they'll return the same exact group next year, so that'll be two years in a row they'll return everybody. I know they'll play well and they're extremely well-coached."

Westview could play as many seven or eight freshmen and sophomores when it debuts against David Douglas on the road at 7 p.m. The Wildcats opened with Sherwood the past two seasons in a home-and-home series that was equally thoroughly entertaining and high-yielding for both sides. It was an early assessment that helped gauge the strengths and weaknesses of both programs who eventually went deep in the 6A playoffs. Both games were treated with postseason intensity. Westview head coach Ryan Atkinson wants the young Wildcats to approach David Douglas no differently.

"We want them to start fast and treat that game like it's a first-round playoff game on the road and we have to win it, otherwise we're out," Atkinson said. "That's the mindset I have going into it. In reality, we're a young football team with a young signal caller who's phenomenal and well beyond his age, but we have some young guys out there. We're realistic and not too hard on them in terms of wins and losses early, but hopefully, we'll gain some confidence and be competitive."

Beaverton has one of the best non-league slates in the state, opening on the road at Summit, followed by back-to-back games against Liberty and defending 6A state champion Clackamas in weeks two and three. After facing Westview, the Beavers host West Salem, another esteemed program with the potential to play deep into November. Aloha hosts Century, who just left the Metro League for the Pacific Conference after four years in Metro, at 7 p.m. on Friday. The Warriors are a junior-laden squad with a lot of younger players who have already played on the varsity level. The Jaguars are a scrappy, hard-playing bunch going against an Aloha team that's hungry to start the season off on the right foot. In 4A action, Valley Catholic travels to Estacada for a 7 p.m. start.

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