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Tigers will return to the resurrected Pacific Conference, Bucks will step down to Class 1A

It's been a topsy-turvy ride for the OSAA classification and districting committee over the past year, as its considered a wide variety of options for parsing all of Oregon high schools by size and organizing them into leagues.

That process has been nearly as jostling for Newberg area schools, as their fates have been shifting alongside the numerous drafts the committee has put forward and revised as it takes feedback from all corners of a state whose geographic and demographic landscape isn't conducive to a simple system. GRAPHIC FILE PHOTO - According to the most recent draft of the OSAA classification and districting committee's plans, Newberg will be reunited with Forest Grove but not traditional rival McMinnville in a reconstituted Pacific Conference for the 2018-2022 time block. The Tigers and Vikings would be joined by Hillsboro, Glencoe, Century, Liberty and Sherwood.

With just a few months left before a final decision must be made in September, it's becoming more and more likely that Newberg High School, St. Paul High School and C.S. Lewis Academy are going to turn back the clock.

After the committee released draft No. 18 following its June 20 meeting, Newberg and St. Paul are, for the most part, headed back to the conferences they called home in the previous four-year block.

For St. Paul, that means a move back from the 2A Tri-River Conference to the 1A Casco League, where it will reunite with traditional rival Perrydale, as well as the Watchmen.

Newberg is also set to return to its former league, but the current plan calls for the Tigers to join a Pacific Conference that won't be quite what they remembered.

While Newberg will be joined by former league mates Forest Grove, Hillsboro, Century and Glencoe, the biggest exception, especially for the Tigers, is the exclusion of traditional rival McMinnville, which is set to remain with the Salem area schools in the Greater Valley Conference.

The Vikings certainly may qualify as rival and athletic director Tim Burke has long called for Newberg, McMinnville and Forest Grove to be re-united because they are such similar communities, but they aren't the natural nemesis that the Grizzlies have proven to be.

Rounding out the proposed seven-school league would be Sherwood and Liberty, while former Pacific Conference stalwarts Tigard and Tualatin will remain in the Three Rivers, joined by Canby, Lake Oswego, Lakeridge, St. Mary's Academy, West Linn and Oregon City.

In the context of the success St. Paul has enjoyed at the 2A level the past three years, especially considering the status of the Tri-River Conference as far and away the state's toughest in several sports, the move back to 1A doesn't make complete sense.

The Bucks certainly benefited from both the challenge of competing with the top 2A teams in the state, but also from the increased level of competition it got week in and week out in the Tri-River Conference.

St. Paul will likely return to dominating the Casco League in most sports, but at the same time certainly welcomes the opportunity to return to 8-man football, which is organized by special districts.

"I was a proponent of raising that number because I thought it was too low for 11-man football," Smith said. "Even with the success we've had, there are 10 other schools in the state that have been at the number we're at that haven't had that same kind of success. In fact, it's been detrimental to their programs to the point some have had to completely drop football. I didn't even know at that point which side we would end up on."

St. Paul athletic director Tony Smith, who has testified in front of the committee, said that he and the school board have otherwise taken the mindset that the school will be fine no matter where they land.

"Our approach has been, this is where we're at, we have good programs and we're going to do the same things we've done before," Smith said. "We're going to go out and try to win championships just like we did at the 1A level. I'm really proud of our players and coaches because we've stayed pretty true to that."

St. Paul's return to the Casco League, which is a result of setting the cutoff line for 1A at 90 students (after adjusting for socio-economic factors), isn't what C.S. Lewis Academy athletic director Steve Wallo was pushing for, as the conference has been much more balanced.

That is especially true after the departure of Country Christian, which became the big dog on the block before opting to join the Valley 10 League in search of a higher and more consistent level of competition.

The changes will not affect Veritas, which only competes in cross-country, a sport which pretty much doesn't schedule or operate according to leagues at the 1A/2A level.

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