Three Rivers League race looks to be wild again
Every game is a battle.
Each Friday night is epic.
Great players, great teams, great coaches, great fans.
It's the Three Rivers League.
And, when it comes to high school football in Oregon, it very well may be the best there is.
"I'm excited about it. We love competition," Tualatin coach Dan Lever said. "Every game is looking like a fight, and every game is a big game. We're looking forward to the challenge."
"It's an extremely challenging league," Tigard coach John Kemper said. "You have to be ready, week I and week out. There is a lot of really good talent returning in this league."
When you talk about the Three Rivers League, you first have to talk about Lake Oswego. Last year, the Lakers went 5-0 in TRL play to capture the league crown. Lake Oswego went on to go 12-1 on the season. And the Lakers capped off that season with a 34-27 win over Sheldon in the 2018 Class 6A state championship game.
"Lake Oswego has some good returnees this year," Kemper said.
The Lakers certainly do. That list is led by senior running back Casey Filkins. Last year, Filkins ran for 1,160 yards and 28 touchdowns on 171 carries. He added 48 receptions for 869 yards and nine more touchdowns.
Filkins was named both the Three Rivers League and Class 6A Offensive Player of the Year.
The Lakers have plenty of other weapons, such as first-team all-Three Rivers League receiver Thomas Dukart. Lake Oswego also returns tight end Marshall McGuire, receiver Joe Hutson and lineman Tiger Shanks.
J.J. Woodin, a transfer from Westview, will likely take over at quarterback for Lake Oswego.
While the Lakers were the big dog out of the Three Rivers League a year ago, the rest of the league also showed its power. Tigard and West Linn each reached the quarterfinal round of the Class 6A state playoffs, while Tualatin, Lakeridge and Oregon City each got to the second round of the state playoffs.
It looks like it could be more of the same this year. Lake Oswego is in the No. 1 spot in the Class 6A preseason coaches poll. West Linn is at the No. 5 spot in the poll. Tigard and Tualatin are tied for No. 6, and Lakeridge is at No. 10.
"It's going to be a battle each and every week," Kemper said. "It's going to be a fun year."
West Linn, in coach Chris Miller' final year in charge, looks ready to challenge again this year, after going 8-4 a year ago. The Lions look to have plenty of talented returnees, including senior receiver Casey Tawa and senior center Ryan Seth, who shared the Three Rivers League Offensive Lineman of the Year honor a year ago.
Lakeridge, which went 7-4 a year ago, underwent some turmoil a few weeks prior to the start of fall practices, as then-coach Elvis Akpla resigned from the post. But the Pacers, with interim head coach Forrest Sherman now in charge, also have plenty of returning talent.
Leading the way for Lakeridge will be senior running back Jalen John. Last year, John rushed for 1,727 yards and 23 touchdowns. Senior left-hander Cooper Justice takes over as the Pacers' quarterback.
Even Canby, which went 0-5 in league play, and 0-9 for the season, a year ago, will probably have renewed spirit with the hiring of new coach Jimmy Joyce, who played college football at Linfield College with both Kemper and Lever.
But, looking at the Three Rivers League as a whole, is there a favorite going into the 2019 season?
"I don't think so," Lever said. "You look at anyone in the league, and they're going to be good. That's what makes this league great."
"I think it's totally up in the air," he said.
As for Tigard and Tualatin, they're both set to make plenty of noise in the upcoming Three Rivers League season.
"If we take care of the things we can take care of, then we should be alright," Kemper said. "We want to do things the right way and play hard. Then, we'll see what's ahead for us."
The Timberwolves are aiming high heading into league competition.
"Our goal is to be standing there at the end, playing for a league title," Lever said. "But we know that nothing is going to be given to us. We have to work hard to keep getting better."
Tualatin will be jumping into Three Rivers League play right away, as the Wolves will host Lakeridge in a season-opener, set to be played Sept. 6, starting at 7 p.m., at Tualatin High School.
Tigard will open Three Rivers League play on Sept. 20, when it hosts Canby at 7 p.m.
The rival Tigers and Timberwolves will face off Nov. 1 in a game at Tigard High School. That will be the final regular-season contest for each team.
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