Gaston, Forest Grove eye potential changes to football status
The OSAA Football Ad Hoc Committee met for the third of what will be four times Wednesday, Jan. 5, before finalizing their football placements for the 2022-26 time block.
Amongst the items discussed was whether or not 2A schools would either play or have the option of playing 9-man football. As part of the Dec. 21 meeting, the committee supported the idea of 2A and 1A classified schools being organized into three groups, two of which would participate in separate 9-player divisions, while the remaining group would play the 6-player game. However, at the recent Jan. 5 meeting, committee members made an about face, recommending more recently to have 2A schools play the 11-man game, while the 1A continue splitting their classification between the eight and 6-player games.
Gaston High School, which finished with a 7-3 overall record and advanced to the state quarterfinals this past season, would've been slotted into one of the 9-player divisions, but will at least for now continue to play 11-man football—either of which are fine with Gaston head football coach and athletic director Gary Hedin.
"We can stay at 11 and be competitive," Hedin said. "Our program is growing, so we're in good shape."
Hedin added that while relatively healthy from a numbers standpoint right now, it certainly wouldn't hurt them or the program to transition to the 9-man game. The Greyhounds had 28 players on their roster last season but will lose 10 to graduation. The bulk of those spots will be filled by incoming freshmen, but in a 9-player scenario, teams like Gaston would need slightly fewer varsity players, which would enable them—according to Hedin—to potentially build a feeder program.
"We always have to play freshmen and sophomores at the varsity level," he said. "So, to have fewer players would mean we wouldn't have to play as many of those guys and we could probably get a junior varsity program more solidly in place."
Unlike the eight and 6-man football games, 9-man plays by the exact same rules as the traditional 11-man game, just minus two linemen. The Ad Hoc Committee is still planning to let 11-man teams play in 9-man competition when "necessary and appropriate," and Hedin said that due to the rule congruency, transitioning between the two isn't an issue at all.
"We played a 9-man game last year against Neah-Kah-Nie and it didn't really take much to change our offense or defense."
Also on the docket was the committee's approach to school's playing down. At this point they're planning to continue to use a metric of 22 percent or less class winning percentage over the prior two-year period as the starting point for schools to play down a classification, but are also considering making said schools ineligible for the OSAA postseason. Under that scenario, ineligible schools would be given the option of scheduling an endowment game after the established cutoff date to provide some type of postseason experience for coaches and players.
Forest Grove has been playing down to the 5A classification for the past four seasons and has petitioned to continue doing so. FGHS athletic director Doug Thompson said that he's optimistic about the direction of the program under first-year coach Dominic Ferraro, but at the same time believes two more years at the 5A level would go a long way.
"We think our numbers are trending in the right direction," Thompson said, "But we believe two more years would be beneficial to the program."
Thompson—whose Vikings are 14-20 overall and have qualified for the playoffs just once since playing at the 5A level—however is not a fan of a provision disqualifying teams from the postseason, citing—amongst other things—the nonsensical notion of further punishing habitually struggling programs.
"Teams don't move down to win a state championship," he said. "But if it's about kids and progression, then allow them the chance to make the postseason."
The Football Ad Hoc Committee will meet once more before making a final decision on the upcoming 4-year block Feb. 2.
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