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No. 1 ranking may not last very long

System has some flaws, but nothing that can't be fixed
by: self-portrait Sports Editor John Brewington

The St. Helens Lions reign as the top team in the Oregon School Activities Association Power Rankings is likely to be short-lived, even if they win their next couple of games.

St. Helens won four games last week on a trip to Southern Oregon, beating 4A Phoenix and Taft twice. For some reason, the Phoenix games got recorded, while the Taft games did not.

An umpire at a softball game last week jokingly asked me if I could explain the play-in system succinctly. I told him, 'Yeah, good luck with that.'

The power rankings are tied into that system. It factors in how your team does, how your opponents do, and how your opponents' opponents do. I actually think it's fairly accurate. The problem arises is that if one of your opponents doesn't win many games; it drags you down with it. Conversely, if you play someone (win or lose) and they win, it increases your power ranking. Since Taft isn't winning many games and ranked low, St. Helens won't stay on top when those games are posted.

A few changes need to be made. Some OSAA committees have decided against tweaking the system, but it will happen eventually. Some of the classifications may do some of it themselves.

Word is that the 5A has already decided to pare back the play-in games to much the same format as the 4A ranks. I haven't heard all the particulars yet, but it sounds like they will cut it back to fifth place in league, leaving teams that finish lower out of play-ins and consequently play-offs.

Some of these games have made no sense at all. For the St. Helens girls' basketball team to travel all the way to Pendleton to get beat by 40 points was a waste of about a $1,000. The 4A cut off the Cowapa League and others after five teams. They keep it down to basically one play-in. That gives them an extra pre-season game. The chance of a team finishing the regular season at sixth, seventh, or eighth rising up for the next six weeks to win state are very small. Some have suggested the reasoning is to give everyone a chance, but it's really just a way to give teams playing in hybrid leagues a way to play into the playoffs.

For now, the 5A is talking solely about football. That's a bit understandable, but at least basketball should be included as well.

I think eventually it will all work out, but its such a new system there are going to be a lot of bumps along the road. Those making the rules should be amenable to adjusting them, if only just a little bit.

One thing that is really maddening is to have the playoffs, have a team spend hundreds of dollars to go, and not be able to have any recompense because they've reached the number of games allowed by the OSAA and the game has to be an 'endowment game.' That's where half the money goes to the OSAA. Not only is there no reimbursement, half of any funds that might be available have to go to the OSAA because of an arbitrary limit on games. A little tweaking wouldn't hurt.

By the way, I did hear that St. Helens and Scappoose will play each other in football next season. I heard it's going to be the third game of the season, and I think it's in St. Helens, but might be wrong about that.