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Scaled down Metro will be just plain tough

The new six-team league gets four playoff berths, but which four will go in '06
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Lean and mean.

The new Metro League - a league recreated by the Oregon School Activities Associations' expansion of Oregon's high school divisions from four to six - is nothing if not sinewy, spare and tougher than nails.

Now free of the four Hillsboro high schools, the new Metro League is six Beaverton-area teams strong and 'strong' is definitely the word of the day when discussing the Metro.

There's defending Class 4A state champion Jesuit, a team that returns more starters than at any time in coach Ken Potter's long tenure.

There's defending Metro League champion Southridge (Jesuit shared the title with the Skyhawks a year ago) and its prodigious stable of skill players and speedburners.

There are perennial powers Westview and Beaverton, each of which firmly believe they'll be in the thick of the playoff race before season's end.

And then there's Sunset and Aloha, the Apollos a regular playoff contender until the last two seasons, and the Warriors a team widely regarded as the league's most improved.

'There are no easy games in our league. There are no nights off,' said Sunset coach Mike Mitchell of the new Class 6A Metro League. 'You've got to come in ready to win every week.'

'I think when you talk about the Metro, what happened (with the statewide realignment of leagues) just made it even tougher,' Potter said.

That consolidation means that, when the Metro's football teams begin their five-game league sprint on Oct. 6, every single game takes on even greater significance and every single win (or loss) will play a great part in whether a team earns one of the league's four berths to the 6A state playoffs.

That said, the Crusaders are an overwhelming favorite for 2006 and challengers are already aligning to take their best shots at Jesuit.

'The U of J, they're like a college team,' said Beaverton coach Bob Boyer. 'They've got size, speed and they're five or six deep. They're kind of a lock.'

'Just look at who they (Jesuit) bring back from a state title team,' agreed Westview coach Jon Evans.

'Everyone is forecasting Jesuit to win the league, but if you knock them off, you get a leg up,' Mitchell said.

Even if no one catches Jesuit this year, there are still three state playoff berths left to the Metro League's five remaining teams and the competition to reach the state playoff field ought to be fierce.

'There's a lot of talk about Westview, Beaverton and Southridge and we're trying to add our name to that list too,' Mitchell said.

'This league is tough,' said Southridge coach Brad Mastrud. 'Westview beat us last year. Beaverton has a storied tradition. Sunset should be better and Aloha is obviously a team to reckon with now. Every game is going to matter.'

Every game beginning Oct. 6, that is. As a result of the OSAA's reorganization of the state's athletic leagues, the Metro League's football teams will play two more weeks of non-league games, then take off Sept. 29 before launching into league play the following Friday.

'Any one of us, in another league, would be battling for a playoff spot,' Potter said.

And almost every one of them will battle for the same this year in the new Metro League.

To see complete team-by-team previews of the varsity football teams at the six Beaverton-area Metro League high schools, please see this week's edition of the Beaverton Valley Times.