Lake Oswego, West Linn, Tigard, Tualatin all among SD1 favorites
If you know Three Rivers League football, you know the games you just can't miss.
There's the rivalry games including Lake Oswego-Lakeridge, West Linn-Oregon City and Tigard-Tualatin.
There's the games between the league's giants — Lake Oswego vs. Tigard, Tigard vs. West Linn, West Linn vs. Lake Oswego and maybe those same teams against Lakeridge or Tualatin.
And this year, in the first year that TRL teams officially play under the banner of Special District 1, there's the games you won't get to see because of the new truncated district schedule.
Whatever the case, whether teams are playing for a TRL title or the Special District 1 crown, they're going to go at it hard, and coaches believe that Lake Oswego, West Linn, Tigard and Tualatin all have a chance for big things this season. Plus, there's the intrigue of Oregon City's return after a four-year hiatus in the Mt. Hood Conference and the exit of both Sherwood and Newberg to the Pacific Conference.
"League play is interesting with it (grouped) at the end of the schedule," said Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury, adding that "Lakeridge, West Linn and Tualatin are all really good teams."
"If you look at the body of work for the last eight years, you can always count on Tigard. It seems like they make the semis every year. They're aggressive and well coached. Tigard will be tough to knock off," said Lakeridge coach Elvis Akpla, noting the Tigers' five semifinal appearances (and one championship appearance) in the past six seasons. "One team people are not talking about enough and might be the best team is Tualatin. They are the biggest school in the TRL and I really respect what Coach (Dan) Lever is doing over there."
For West Linn, one of the highlights of the coming Special District 1 season is the return to league play of longtime rival Oregon City; the two team will square off in their 98th meeting — in what's known as the longest continuously played prep football rivalry west of the Mississippi — at 7 p.m. Oct. 26 at Oregon City's Pioneer Memorial Stadium.
"We were always going to play them regardless (of Oregon City being in another league)," said West Linn coach Chris Miller, whose team will chase its sixth straight win in the series this season. "But it's cool to play them at the end of the year as a rivalry game — year 98. They've done a good job over there."
Akpla, too, was glad to see the Pioneers back in the same league after four long years away.
"It's awesome getting them back," he said. "They are one of the original TRL teams."
Sherwood, meanwhile, may not be in the same league any more, but the Bowmen — who reached the state quarterfinals twice and state semifinals once during their time in the TRL — still play both Lakeridge and West Linn this season.
"It sucks losing Sherwood. We made sure to schedule them this year," Akpla said.
And even though Lake Oswego doesn't face the Bowmen, Sherwood's influence is still felt in Laker land.
"Sherwood is such a good powerhouse team," Coury said. "I'm almost relieved (they moved to the Pacific Conference) because they are a Wing-T team and you always have to prepare just for that."
But who's going to win in Special District 1's land of the giants? Even the league's coaches admit that they aren't sure.
"Obviously, West Linn is a premier team and Tigard is a powerhouse," Coury said. "Tualatin is a team to watch — there's a lot of good things the coach's doing — and Elvis has a lot of good athletes and is doing a lot of good things at Lakeridge.
"It's a gauntlet. I think our league, by the end of the year, the TRL will be the state's best."
"It will be the same cast of characters as usual from our league," Miller said. "Because there's an outstanding cast of characters in our league."
"Obviously, (Lake Oswego) will be really good because they have almost their whole defense back," Akpla added. "And West Linn has the best quarterback in the conference, and Chris Miller is Chris Miller. They'll be tough."