Vance: Here's what's ahead for the Northwest Oregon Conference and Tri-Valley Conference
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the big changes coming to Class 6A sports leagues in Oregon.
Last week, I opined about the new shape of the Class 6A state football playoffs.
And while the Oregon School Activities Association — the governing body for Oregon high school sports and activities — has enough changes to fill a stadium at the big-school level, things are changing elsewhere, too.
As the OSAA — specifically, its Classification and Districting Committee — worked through the changes to the next four-year block (the 2022-23 through 2025-26 school years), it came up with plenty of changes that will impact schools and teams in the Class 4A and Class 5A classifications, too.
So, with all that as pretext, here's what our Clackamas County teams will see that's new and different beginning in the 2022-23 school year.
In the Class 5A Northwest Oregon Conference — home to area teams La Salle, Putnam, Milwaukie and Wilsonville in the previous four-year block — there are three new schools joining the NWOC alongside five that return.
The previous iteration of the NWOC included Hillsboro (enrollment 1,073), La Salle (693), Milwaukie/Milwaukie Academy of the Arts (966), Parkrose (820), Putnam (1,076), Scappoose (668), St. Helens (752) and Wilsonville (1,140).
In the coming year, however, the NWOC will feature Canby (957), Centennial (1,034), Hillsboro (769), Hood River Valley (883), La Salle (514), Milwaukie/Milwaukie Academy of the Arts (796), Parkrose (533), Putnam (872) and Wilsonville (906).
The changes are even bigger for football, where the OSAA's Football Ad Hoc Advisory Committee has formulated the following lineup for the 2022 NWOC (or in this case, Special District 1) football season: Canby, Centennial, Forest Grove (a 6A team playing down, 1,086), Hillsboro, Hood River Valley, Putnam, Southridge (a 6A team playing down, 1,073) and Wilsonville.
The new football version of Special District 1 includes just three returning schools and five newcomers, with two of the newbies Class 6A schools that have been granted the opportunity to "play down" — competing against 5A schools despite enrollments that would otherwise have kept them at the 6A level.
Here's something else noteworthy about the new-look NWOC — in addition to Southridge and Forest Grove playing down to join the Class 5A Special District 1 lineup, the new league also includes Canby (a 6A school except in football through 2021-22), Centennial (a 6A team a year ago) and Hood River (which moves over from the Class 5A Intermountain Conference).
At the same time, the La Salle football team has been moved out of the NWOC and into the Class 4A Tri-Valley Conference, where the Falcons (who "play up" to Class 5A competition in all their other sports) will compete against Estacada, Gladstone, Molalla, Parkrose and Woodburn.
In other news from the Tri-Valley — Gladstone's home since the 2010-11 season — the OSAA removed two schools (Corbett and North Marion both migrated to the 3A Coastal Range League) and added two (Crook County and The Dalles both moved over from the 4A Greater Oregon League).
That league now includes: Crook County (603), Estacada (362), Gladstone (440), Madras (418), Molalla (518) and The Dalles (511).
In football, the TVC will — beginning in the fall — include Estacada, Gladstone, La Salle, Molalla (518), Parkrose (a 5A team playing down, 533) and Woodburn (another 5A team playing down, 870).
I don't know about you, but for me, just detailing all the changes to those two leagues wore me out. Those changes — including the separate leagues/special districts for football — I think, speak to the OSAA's determination to make every league and district as fair as possible and as competitive as possible.
But the volume of those changes, and the continued willingness to blow up existing leagues and destroy longtime rivalries, also speaks to the hubris that — if we just juggle the state's schools and leagues well enough — we can make almost every sport and every league competitive from start to finish.
While I applaud the effort and have no interest in trying to better the OSAA's efforts, I would offer this — in any sport where teams measure success in wins and losses, you will always have a small subset of teams that go unbeaten and a small subset of teams that go winless.
That is the nature of sports. That is the nature of meritocracy. And both of those are reasons why sports — where people keep score, and count up "W's" and "L's" — are as important as they have ever been.
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