by: WOODBURN INDEPENDENT ARCHIVES - This coming winter sports season will be the last in which Gervais plays against Amity High School and several other key rivals from the West Valley Conference. The Cougars will move to the PacWest Conference for the 2014-15 school year.For the past eight years, Gervais High School has been a part of the West Valley Conference, but starting in 2014, the Cougars will be abandoning their current rivalries as they move to the newly reorganized PacWest Conference.

West Valley rivals Jefferson and Colton will join Gervais in the new seven-team conference that will also include Blanchet Catholic, Salem Academy, Scio and Chemawa high schools, which was announced after the OSAA’s final redistricting committee meeting in November.

The redistricting committee announced the changes, along with countless others in the six different athletic classifications as a way to adjust competitive balance in the various conferences while taking into account changing school district sizes and regional travel considerations.

The move for Gervais will reintroduce the Cougars to several schools they used to compete against before the school jumped from the 2A Tri-River Conference to the 3A West Valley Conference in 2006.

In 2005, the Tri-River Conference consisted of Gervais, Scio, Blanchet Catholic, Salem Academy and Colton, along with several other schools.

“It’s the core of the Tri-River back again, prior to 2006 when they changed it,” said Gervais Athletic Director Tim Bowman. “If I needed to, I could pull out my old banners and put them up, because we still have those.”

Bowman is excited for the change, which he said will help Gervais maintain a more competitive athletic program.

“From the moment we heard about it, I was in total support of it,” said Bowman. “Not that I don’t like the West Valley League, but this just puts us in a position where I think we can be more competitive.”

For years, the Gervais athletic programs have had difficulty keeping pace with stronger teams from Dayton, Amity and Horizon Christian high schools. Bowman thinks that with the new PacWest Conference, Gervais High School will be in a much better position to send teams to the playoffs on a regular basis.

“I’m excited,” he said. “In all the sports, we should be able to go into a season with our coaches feeling pretty comfortable about competing for one of those three playoff spots.

“Blanchet is going to be good. That’s just who they are,” he continued. “The rest of the schools, we’re going to be competitive with them in most sports.”

Beyond the competitive implications, Bowman is pleased to see his school competing against rival high schools in much closer proximity to Gervais. In the West Valley Conference, Gervais teams made regular trips across the Willamette River to play against Dayton, Amity, Sherwood and Willamina high schools. The closest bridges across the river were either 30 minutes north near Newberg or 20 minutes to the south in Salem. Now, three of the Cougars new league rivals will be in Salem, and the farthest a Gervais team will have to travel for a league contest will be to Scio High School, 45 minutes to the south.

“As far as travel costs, it really helps us economically,” said Bowman. “Where we used to budget for an hour one way everywhere, now our farthest one is Colton at 45 and Scio at 45. Without doing the math here, it’s probably going to cut our travel budget by between 25 percent and 33 percent.”

The shorter road trips also mean less class time missed for Gervais student athletes.

As for the school’s coaches, Bowman has heard nothing but positive feedback about the coming changes.

“They’re all pretty excited about it,” he said.

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