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After defeating a 6A playoff team a year ago in Grant, the Skyhawks already showing the future is bright.

A small senior class and some struggles recently pushed Southridge High football down a classification to 5A ahead of the 2022 season.

For many programs that drop down, it takes some time to turn things around at the new classification. But the Skyhawks may be a bit ahead of schedule after blanking 6A's Grant 19-0 last week. The Generals are the defending Portland Interscholastic League champs and are the favorites again in 2022.

A win like that doesn't completely change a program, but beating a 6A playoff team certainly shows the turnaround is moving in the right direction.

"I feel like we made a big statement, that we can compete with 6A," Southridge senior Jackson Powell said. "Even with the recent drop we made, we can still compete and contend with higher-up 6A teams."

Powell was a big part of that, picking up 69 yards rushing with two touchdowns and recovering the game-sealing fumble on defense.

PMG PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - Southridge football captains Augusto Gonzalez (57), Will Potts (51), Jackson Powell (23) and Alisjah Tucker (17) come out for the coin flip against Grant on Sept. 9, 2022, at Southridge High School.

Southridge had only 37 yards of offense at halftime, but led 7-0 thanks to a 95-yard pick-six from junior Errol Moreland.

Junior Cole Larson had two picks himself, both in the fourth quarter, to lead the Skyhawks to the shutout win.

There are plenty of players like Larson on this Southridge squad, players making their first varsity appearances after spending last year on JV.

"(Larson) was a JV player last year and he's really grown up this year," Bickler said. "He's become a real fierce competitor. He's fast, he's physical. I'm really impressed with how much growth he's shown in the past year."

Of course, for those seniors who have been through some of the toughest years in Southridge football history -- 5-19 total the past three seasons -- 2022 is their last chance to make a dent in Skyhawk history.

Already at 2-0 this year, Southridge has matched its win total from last season and the shortened 2020 spring season.

With those struggles behind them and a 6A opponent in front of them, Powell knew there was a little more on the line playing Grant.

"We had a lot of motivation since we dropped down 5A … we wanted to have a 6A win under our belt to prove that we can still do it," Powell said.

Grant was the only 6A team on the Skyhawks schedule this year as league play begins next week when they travel to play Hood River Valley.

PMG PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - Southridge football's Jackson Powell dives forward on a run against Grant on Sept. 9, 2022, at Southridge High School.

While the 6A win was big enough to warrant the student section rushing the field soon after handshakes, Bickler was calm on the thought of what the win meant for the program.

"We just had a great accomplishment, and I think if we keep working like we have been, we can be a pretty special group and do some special things," Bickler said. "This is the hardest-working group I've had in a long time, and they've bought in."

Only time will tell how special this season will be, but it won't take too long as the league Southridge sits in also includes 5A favorites like Wilsonville, Canby and Putnam.

"We just keep the energy up, we know we can do it and we just have to bring it into week three," Powell said.

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