Sherwood could have to move up a classification
by: Self-portrait Sports Editor John Brewington

Neither Scappoose nor St. Helens was favored going into Friday's games against the No. 1 team in their respective classifications. Both gave their opponents a bit of a start-St. Helens at the beginning, and Scappoose at the end-before losing.

The situations were a little bit different for the two schools. The Indians, as of official enrollment from last year, are the 18th largest team in the 4A ranks with 654 students. They were facing the top-ranked and largest school in the 4A ranks, Central. The Panthers have an enrollment of 816, still a bit below the cutoff point of 870. Even so, the Indians are just 150-plus students below Central, not that big of a difference. The two teams have had some classic games over the years, and Friday was no exception. The Indians came from 20-points down to knot the score in the last five minutes, only to end up missing a point-after kick that would have given them the win. They lost in OT. Not a bad effort, and for much of the game, Scappoose appeared to have the best offense. Coach Sean McNabb thinks it could be a different story if they should meet again in the playoffs.

St. Helens was facing a formidable foe. Sherwood is the defending state champion and also the No. 1-ranked team in the 5A ranks this year. At 1,278 students last year, they are not the biggest team in 5A. We've heard that they have freshmen and sophomore classes that are around 500 students each. That will definitely push them over the limit into the 6A ranks, but that probably won't happen for two more years.

Even so, St. Helens is one of the smaller schools in 5A. With 966 enrollment last year, they have 312 less students than Sherwood. In actuality it's probably more like 700-800 less.

Still, the Lions went all out Friday and did what they needed to do at the start. They recovered an onside kick and scored, and then returned a fumble 95 yards to set up another score. The Lions were ahead 14-0. They stayed close until the third quarter when Sherwood took advantage of St. Helens mistakes, and then overwhelmed them with their depth.

Even though the locals both lost, it was a couple of exciting games, at least for part of the time.

Being the biggest school in a classification doesn't always guarantee success. The largest 5A school is Cleveland at 1,503. In football at least, they're not really very good. They're also over the limit and will have to go up to 6A if their enrollment doesn't change. And actually, it could increase with the closing of at least one high school in Portland.

Schools listed last year with fewer enrollments than St. Helens included North Eugene (952), The Dalles-Wahtonka (947), and Pendleton (906). Three other schools are smaller but they chose to play up-Madison (797), Marist (489), Jefferson (465).

Oregon high schools are just in the second year of their last alignment and it's not likely any schools will be forced to change classifications right away. That comes usually every four years. It will change some league configurations when it happens, so will be forestalled for a while, I'd guess.

The other option is to revise classification numbers. It appears there are 43 schools in the 4A ranks and 37 in the 5A. The 6A classification has 44, with nine below the cutoff. That includes Hillsboro, Crater, Thurston, (and playing up) Lincoln, Jesuit, Lake Oswego, St. Mary's Academy, Lakeridge, and Central Catholic. On the 4A side, Banks (376) is the only school below the 400 cutoff.

I suspect there will be some changes within two years, but probably only for a few schools. There is the possibility that if St. Helens enrollment continues to drop, they could go down to 4A and rejoin the Cowapa League. Then again, they'll probably just move the goalposts again.

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