Game does have playoff ramifications
by: Self-portrait Sports Editor John Brewington

There has always been a case to be made for Scappoose and St. Helens to play each other in sports. It's good to see them playing football this week in what most of us think of as the premier high school sport.

I've advocated for them to play many times over the years, but mostly to no avail. There have always been reasons, but I've never thought they were very good ones.

The two schools played each other for 20 years in the Cowapa League and only stopped when St. Helens had to move up a classification. Those classifications have changed again, but the ADM (average daily membership) difference between the two hasn't changed that much.

The classifications are: 6A (1,480+); 5A (870-1,479); 4A (400-869); 3A (226-399); 2A 106-225; and 1A (10-105).

St. Helens sits at the lower end at 966. There are six smaller schools, but three of them are actually 4A enrollment size and choose to play up (Madison, Marist, Jefferson). Scappoose, at 654, sits closer to the top of the 4A.

Football is usually a game of numbers. However, Scappoose is almost always a contender in the 4A ranks, and St. Helens has struggled at times against the stronger teams in the 5A classification. When St. Helens was in the Cowapa League for 20 years, the team was a powerhouse, winning four state championships along the way. Scappoose won its first state title the year St. Helens left and went on to win two more consecutively. Remember Threepeat?

The schools have always been competitive. Back in 1956, St. Helens won a playoff over Scappoose and won the very first '2A' state basketball tournament. The next year, Scappoose won the playoff and won the second state tournament in that class. (Note: there were only two classifications at the time.)

During the Cowapa League years, a huge turn-away crowd showed up for the St. Helens-Scappoose girls' basketball playoff game. Then Lady Lions coach Jeff Edwards said they set a record for 650 people in attendance. He's probably right.

While the teams didn't play in football for 29 years-I think 1958-1978-they did meet in some other sports over the years. The rivalry just wasn't as intense as you get in a football game. Nor were the crowds ever as big.

There have been times in every sport where St. Helens had the upper hand, and, of course, times when Scappoose was the team to beat.

Still, when the two teams play, especially after some time, a good crowd usually shows up. I fully remember back in 1979 the Lions hosted Scappoose. It had been two decades since they'd last played football against each other. Some 6,000 showed up in St. Helens. There were 3,500 in attendance for the last meeting in 1999.

I expect there will be another large crowd for Friday's game.

There is meaning to the game beyond just the rivalry and bragging rights, too. In the old days, it would have just been non-league games and not affected how teams were seeded in the state playoff bracket.

Since last year, however, there are these 'power rankings' or RPI. How a team does (win or lose), how it's opponents do, and how their opponents do all factor into the rankings for each classification. When the cutoff date arrives, teams are awarded home field advantage in the playoffs based on their ranking. A highly ranked team could have two home games. So there is something to be said for playing good opponents. They did change one thing for this year, in that only the top five teams in 4A and 5A leagues now make the play-in games (those games before the 'real' state playoffs).

So, the game has meaning for the local area. It usually brings a huge gate. The players enjoy playing other kids they may know. The game has some consequence. What could be better?

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