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Crunch time for fall sports

Revisions have been made in playoff system since last season
by: Self-portrait Sports Editor John Brewington

Where does the time go? It seems like the fall sports season just got started and now it's starting to wind down. The 'play-ins' and state playoffs are fast upon us.

What's the chance of post-season play for the local prep teams? Not too bad for many of them.

In football, the St. Helens Lions have been a bit surprising, considering their record from last season. The Lions are currently 3-1 in league play. They could finish as high as second in the league, but can't drop below fifth or they are eliminated from the post season. They may need to win one game to guarantee the playoffs.

Unlike last year, the 5A playoff system is a bit different. Several teams are eliminated. There will be no No. 8 and No. 7 this year.

While finishing high in the league is a good thing, it doesn't matter for the play-ins or state playoffs. Everything is based on rankings. Once teams are eliminated, the remaining 32 teams are divided into 16-team northern and southern brackets. No. 1 plays No. 16, No. 2 plays No. 15, etc. The rankings are available on the Oregon Schools Activities Association website. They will change over the next three weeks, depending a lot on how teams do and how the teams they have played do.

St. Helens is currently ranked 16th, but remember two divisions are pulled out of that so they should be playing a team ranked much lower. The freeze date for rankings is midnight, Oct. 29. Hazarding a guess on which teams will be playing others is fruitless. Winners advance to a 16-team state playoff bracket, also seeded based on rankings.

Scappoose is in a little different situation. They will make the play-in bracket as long as they don't finish fifth or sixth in the Cowapa League. The 4A is not divided into north and south divisions, but by pre-set games. The top four Cowapa League teams play Tri-Valley teams. It appears the No. 5 Cowapa League team does not get a play-in game this year. The winners then advance to a 16-team playoff bracket.

The 4A scenario is the same for volleyball and Scappoose needs to win some matches to make the play-ins. It's still a possibility, but they need to move up just a notch or two to make that fourth slot.

The Lady Lions of St. Helens are in a better position. Like football, their league finish doesn't matter as much as their ranking by the OSAA. They are currently ranked 23rd and facing some of the better teams in the state. That helps them, even if they lose. (Explaining that will take another column and a math degree). They are currently in a tie for third and a pretty good bet to have a play-in round.

In girls' soccer, the Scappoose Lady Indians are sitting in the catbird seat. They are solidly in first place in the league and even if they lose a game, they should finish in first. They are thinking ahead more to the playoffs and want to maintain an 8th or better ranking so they get a home match in the first round of the state playoffs. Their semifinal appearance last year was the best ever by any Columbia County soccer team. They are currently 6-1-1 on the season and thinking they may be playing for a championship. The Lady Indians should host Tri-Valley No. 4 in the state playoffs. Currently, that's either North Marion or Estacada. That could change, but probably won't. Scappoose is currently ranked 6th by the OSAA and is hoping they stay right around that spot.

The Lady Lions soccer team has been playing hard this season, but is 0-5 overall and ranked 29th. League play is just starting, but St. Helens will need to pick up a few wins if they are to be in the playoffs.

The St. Helens boys have a fairly impressive 4-2-1 record against some decent competition and are ranked 15th in the state. If they can do well in league, which starts this week, they should make the play-ins and have a good shot at moving on to the state playoffs.

The Scappoose boys are 1-6-1 on the season and ranked 37th overall. They're going to need a couple more wins to move up in the league standings and make the play-ins.

Cross country has a different situation. They basically still operate under the old system. The top two teams and top seven individuals from each league make the state meet. The Scappoose girls are favorites to win the league and are currently No. 2 in the state poll. Defending individual champion Tia Carnahan is back, and Charlie Davidson should finish right behind her. The team should also do well at state and hopes to bring home a trophy. The Scappoose boys have a good shot to make the state meet, possibly as the second-place team.

The St. Helens boys also hope to snag a team spot to state, and Ryan Byrd could win the individual championship.

The St. Helens girls cross country team is improving, but has just an outside chance to make it to state.

There's a lot of hope and dreams as several local teams and individuals will compete in the post season this year. It should be fun to watch.