ADs re-shape Three Rivers League football schedule for 2018
Things are going to look a little bit different in Three Rivers League football this year.
A little bit different, and different by being littler.
Based on decisions made by Class 6A athletic directors as they pursue the best formula for competitive balance, TRL football teams will only play five league games this year and next. In a year that already starts with Oregon City's return to the TRL and the exit of Newberg and Sherwood to the newly-reconstituted Pacific Conference, the shortened league season marks yet another change for 2018.
The plan has some fans, and some non-fans, among area coaches.
Among the fans, Lakeridge's Elvis Akpla likes the opportunity to play more non-league games and shape his team's schedule in the way that serves his team best.
"For our conference, it's great," he said. "It's a chance to schedule more non-league games and get games against someone good."
That said, even Akpla has some reservations, wondering how the Three Rivers will determine a league champion when not all of its teams play each other, and when the Oregon School Activities Association doesn't even recognize the TRL's existence for football — the TRL's seven teams are aligned this year under the new designation of Special District 1.
"I'm concerned about how they'll determine the conference champion," he admitted.
Lakeridge's Special District 1 games this season include contests against West Linn, Oregon City, Canby, Tigard and Lake Oswego, but the Pacers don't face Tualatin. Non-league games are set against Jefferson, Sprague, Sherwood and Bend.
For West Linn coach Chris Miller, this year's updated format further lessens the importance of league play, a trend that began with the wholesale use of power rankings to set the Class 6A state playoff field.
"I feel the integrity of the league title doesn't mean that much anymore, and it's been that way for couple years," Miller said. "At the end of the day, it's your RPI (ratings percentage index) that matters."
For the Lions, this year's Special District 1 schedule includes games against Lakeridge, Lake Oswego, Tualatin, Tigard and Oregon City, but doesn't leaves out Canby. West Linn also faces Central Catholic, McNary, Sheldon and Sherwood in non-SD1 play.
"For us, it just means not playing Canby," he said. "We still always played Oregon City and we still scheduled Sherwood for this year."
For longtime Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury, the move away from the importance of league play and the chance to win a TRL title leaves a bad taste in his mouth.
"I guess they have some reasons for it, but I prefer to play the league out and then let the RPI thing play out," he said.
The fact that his team, a 2017 state semifinalist and TRL co-champion, doesn't get to play Tigard, another state semifinalist and the '17 TRL co-champ, just doesn't sit well.
"It's tough when you only play four league games and we don't play Tigard," Coury said. "The league thing really has no meaning and I don't like that. League is meaningful for the kids. It gives you something to shoot for."
He's not the only one who dislikes the change. Here's what Tigard coach Craig Ruecker had to say about not facing Lake Oswego this year.
"We're right across the freeway from each other. Our attendance areas butt up against each other," Ruecker said on OSAA Today. "Last year, we had a game that was 31-28 that we won in the last 19 seconds, and it was a tremendous football game, and both teams ended up in the semifinals. And now we don't get to play each other."