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  • Ednold

Wrap-Up 2022 12/2/22

The time has come for closing books, and long last looks must end. I never envisioned using any of Lulu’s lyrics in this blog, but that line is kind of fitting. This season is in the books and we’ll be taking one long last look at this long last weekend. If “To Sir, With Love” is stuck in your head now, then you owe me. That girl could sing. Probably still can.

As usual, this championship Saturday was filled with more than just high school football games, and I had that old familiar feeling of being almost overwhelmed with things to watch and listen to. Things were a little different this time around, though. Usually the 6A class plays their championship game a week later, but this season they played the same weekend as everyone else. In fact the 6A and 5A games were played first, on Friday, with the others on Saturday, except for the 6-man game, which took place last weekend. And including that 6-man game there were a total of eight championship games this year instead of the 6 played prior to this season.

Things had gotten started Friday morning with the championship of the Columbia Cup at Hillsboro stadium. I have mixed feelings about the Columbia Cup, a new competition this year featuring 6A teams ranked 17 through 32. It’s kind of like the NIT tournament held for college basketball teams. The OSAA thought it would be good to give these teams a chance to win a playoff game or two instead of just getting blasted in the first round by one of the powerhouse teams at the top, and North Salem’s playoff run has been a good example of the advantages of this idea. In previous seasons they would have been facing a first-round matchup with Central Catholic. Central Catholic would almost certainly have crushed the Vikings and their season would have been over. Playing for the Columbia Cup as the 28th ranked team in the state, they had still been underdogs in each of their games, but had beaten Newberg, Jefferson, and Liberty to make it to the championship game against Westview. That’s nice. But it does take away the possibility of a team coming out of nowhere to win it all. By competing for the Cup a team has a chance to at least win something, but they also have to accept that no matter how well they play they aren’t in the running for a state championship. If I had the choice of being ranked either 16th or 17th I know which one I’d choose. I’d want that chance for a once-in-a-lifetime, against-all-odds, history-making upset of #1, even if it meant almost certain defeat by a large margin in the first round. And if you’re wondering, #16 Grant lost to West Linn in the first round 59-0, so maybe I’m crazy.

I pulled up the OSAA broadcast feed on my phone, put on my headphones and settled in for a long day of high school football, starting with the Columbia Cup final. North Salem lost state championship games in 1960 and 1962 before tying Grant in 1963. Westview, in the Beaverton school district, opened in 1994 and the Wildcats football team has never played for a championship, so when the two teams took the field on this cold, cloudy and drizzly day one of them was sure to win their first outright football trophy. North Salem has a quarterback, TC Manumaleuna, who received a scholarship offer from the University of Oregon before he was even in high school, but my favorite Viking player is running back Sammie Davis. Last year he was a sophomore, so this year Sammie Davis is a junior. That’s funny. And if you’re under about 70 years old you’ll just have to take my word for it. Westview’s Jordan Fisher doesn’t have as good a name, but after a scoreless first quarter Westview started handing him the ball a lot, which was bad news for the Vikings from Salem. Fisher ran for one of the Wildcats’ three second quarter touchdowns and Westview was up 20-0 at halftime. In the second half Fisher ran for three more touchdowns and North Salem never could figure out how to stop him. He ended up running for 418 yards in the game; almost unheard of in a 6A game. Especially a championship game. Fisher scored again early in the second half to make the score 28-0, but North Salem never gave up and played the Wildcats to a virtual draw after that point. The Viking defense only allowed 24 passing yards for the game, but it was clear that their defense just wasn’t up to the task of stopping Fisher. Since this was the inaugural Columbia Cup, every record for this game instantly became an all-time Columbia Cup record, but that rushing record is one that I would expect to stand for quite a while.

After a short break to catch up on the World Cup scores, it was time for the main event as Sheldon and West Linn took their turn on the field in the 6A championship game. The Sheldon Irish would be playing in their seventh state championship game, having won it in 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2012 and losing in 2001, 2011 and 2018. West Linn have played for the championship twice, losing in 2015 and winning it the next year. Both teams had been dominant all season and cruised through the playoffs to meet each other in this game. Sheldon was undefeated and West Linn had lost only once, to Sheldon back in September: 31-35. That had been the only close game for either team all season, including the playoffs, so these two were clearly the cream of the 6A crop.

Both teams had been putting up gaudy offensive numbers all season, but in the first half Sheldon, despite moving the ball well, just couldn’t find a way to score on the Lions defense. Meanwhile, West Linn also moved the ball well and managed three touchdowns against the Irish to make the halftime score 20-0. Unlike the first game of the day, this 20-0 halftime score didn’t give me the feeling that the deficit was just too much to overcome. Sheldon had proven all season that they had the ability to score points and I had a hunch they were still very much in the game, and they proved my right. The Irish came out and put together an 11 play scoring drive to start the second half and were within 13 as the fourth quarter started. They struck again midway through the final quarter to get within 6 before West Linn kicked a 35-yard field goal with under four minutes remaining to seal the victory. It was a fittingly tight game between the two top ranked teams that didn’t feature the offensive explosiveness that everyone seemed to be expecting, but was exciting right to the end.

I had a little time after the game to shovel in some Thanksgiving leftovers, then the headphones went back on for one more game. The nightcap would be the 5A championship between #1 Summit of Bend and #2 Wilsonville. Summit High School has been around since 2001 and won the only other championship game they were in, in 2015. Wilsonville, which is six years older than Summit, has lost championship games in 2003, 2016, and 2018, but did win one in 2004. Both teams had losses to 6A Tualatin early in the season, but otherwise the only blemish on either schedule had been Wilsonville’s non-league 33-21 loss to Summit back in September.

After Wilsonville capitalized on a Summit turnover on the game’s opening play, and then went right back down and scored on their next possession to take a 13-0 lead midway through the first quarter, I was expecting Summit to settle down and get their offense going, and they did not disappoint me. They took the ball on their next possession and threw to one of their giant receivers for a touchdown of their own before the first quarter expired. Then the teams traded long possessions before Summit completed another long touchdown pass just before halftime. They went into the break up 14-13 and seemed to have all the momentum.

With just a few minutes left in the third quarter Summit ran back an interception to extend their lead, but before the quarter had ended Wilsonville connected on a long pass play of their own and, with a successful two-point conversion, had tied the game heading into the final quarter. Summit scored twice more to make it 35-21 before Wilsonville answered to pull within 7 with less than three minutes remaining, but their onside kick was unsuccessful and they never got the ball back. The final score was almost identical to the score from their matchup earlier in the season, so it’s safe to say Summit was the better team, but not by much. Both teams had passed the ball well, but Summit had a running game to complement their passing attack that kept the Wildcat defense off balance all game, and that made the difference.

That’s one day done. The US had had to be satisfied with a less-than-enthralling draw against England in the World Cup, but I’d listened to a couple of pretty dramatic football games and still had four more to go.

The early games on Saturday started just about the same time as the Rivalry game between the Ducks and Beavers, so it took a little juggling between my phone, laptop, radio and television to keep track of the action. On what turned into a warmish, bright afternoon, I built a roaring fire in the backyard so I could listen to the crowd at Reser while one game played on the radio and I kept track of the other through the gamecast on my phone. Due to the lag time between the action at the stadium and the television broadcast, I was able to run inside and watch a play on TV whenever I heard a particularly loud roar or some thunderous booing coming from down the street. They couldn’t have picked a better day to play some football.

Oakland and Weston-McEwen/Griswold got things started at Hillsboro Stadium in the 2A championship at the same time Lost River and St. Paul were squaring off at Cottage Grove High School in the 1A 8-man championship. Oakland High School, in Douglas County, has played for the championship a couple of times and won both of them, in 1964 and 2012. Interestingly, Weston High School also played for a championship in 1964, but they lost that 8-man game and 32 years later, after they’d merged with McEwen High School, Weston-McEwen lost another championship game. McEwen never played for a championship of their own before the merger. This year Weston-McEwen has been joined by the boys from nearby Griswold High School in Helix, who have never been to a championship game either, BUT… Griswold are the Grizzlies, and guess who their mascot is? Seriously, guess what name they chose just this year for their new mascot. Yes!! Clark Griswold!! Man, those kids are lucky. Unfortunately, I can’t find who the school is named for or why there’s a Griswold High in a town named Helix, but I’m afraid future generations will assume it was named for that guy in the Vacation movies. The real Mr. Griswold, whoever he was, is either rolling over in his grave or laughing the last few teeth out of his empty skull.

The TigerScots/Grizzlies had come into the game with a 9-2 record and had already beaten Oakland back in September, 24-16; the only blemish on Oakland’s 11-1 record. It looked like this game might end differently, though, when Oakland scored on 3 of their first 4 possessions and led 22-0 early in the second quarter. Each team got another couple touchdowns before halftime and the Oakers went into the break with a 34-14 lead. It wasn’t over, but W-M/G would have to find a way to stop the Oakers’ running game, which they hadn’t been able to do in the first half.

They couldn’t do it in the second half either, and it looked like things might get downright ugly when Oakland took a 46-20 lead early in the fourth quarter. Then W-M/G threw a touchdown pass, recovered an onside kick, and marched down the field for another score. There were only 4 minutes left in the game, though, and when another onside kick attempt failed Oakland was able to run out the clock and preserve their 46-32 victory, avenge their lone loss of the season, and win a third state championship. Weston-McEwen were probably pretty bummed to have lost another championship game, but those guys from Griswold have a mascot named Clark Griswold so how sad could they have really been?

While all this had been going on there had been a serious beatdown taking place in Cottage Grove. The Lost River Raiders had scored on their first three possessions of the game and looked to be unstoppable. The St. Paul Buckaroos held them for the rest of the half but couldn’t find any offense of their own and yet another game went to the break with the score 20-0. This was another matchup of teams that had already played each other once this season, when St. Paul beat Lost River 46-32 in September. That was the only loss of the year for either team coming into the championship. St. Paul has played in more championship games than just about anyone in the state: This would be their sixteenth and they’d won six of them, the last coming in 2010. Lost River, from just north of the border in Klamath County, has played in four championship games, winning half of them.

When the Raiders came out, took the second half kickoff, and went 80 yards in 3 plays it did not bode well for the Buckaroos chances of getting back in the game, and they didn’t. The team that had run for 425 yards last week against Myrtle Point could only manage 30 for this entire game, and they couldn’t find a way through or around the Raider defense, and it didn’t help that they gave away one fumble and threw four interceptions. Lost River scored once more in the third quarter and added a final score early in the fourth to make the final 43-0. Not what I was expecting between two teams that must have been closely matched a couple of months ago, especially considering the team that won that game ended up on the losing end this time.

Meanwhile, at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, the U of O coaching staff appeared to be in some sort of contest with the officiating crew to see which group were the bigger boneheads. That’s one contest that was not a blowout, as each side took turns outdoing each other for stupidity. It was quite entertaining, in a strange way, and the jury is still out on who won that contest between the refs and the Duck coaches, but it all resulted in a win for the Beavers that won’t be easy for the Ducks to forget.

Mrs. Ednold had just gotten back from her pizza run just as all the games were finishing up, so I opened a bottle of wine and we dined on some fine Italian food before the next round of games. I suppose this is a good place to say a few words in honor of Charles Franzia, the man behind Two Buck Chuck and the guy responsible for me being able to afford any wine at all. Is it the best wine in the world? Maybe not. But it’s the best wine in my house and I honestly can’t tell the difference anyway. Charles passed away during the season, back in mid-September. I don’t know if he was a football fan, but this football fan was a fan of his.

The final two games of the season were again taking place simultaneously in Cottage Grove and Hillsboro. Tillamook and Estacada were going at it in the 4A title game at Hillsboro Stadium in a game featuring two teams who had each been to a single championship game but had never won one. For Tillamook, it had been 45 years since their lone appearance in 1977, and Estacada’s only trip to the game had come in 1953. The Cheesemakers had lost their first two games of the season, but then went on a ten-game winning streak. The Rangers from Estacada had lost their first game before winning 11 straight. Someone’s streak would be ending soon, but one of them would be taking home their first championship trophy.

As seemed to be the theme of the weekend, the team with the stronger running game got the upper hand in this one, and Estacada ran for a touchdown on their first possession. They ran for two more in the second quarter and Tillamook had no answer as they went to the break down 22-0. The Rangers added a 30-yard field goal to start the second half before the Cheesemakers finally got on the board with a rushing touchdown of their own at the end of the third quarter. Down by 17, there was still hope that they could hold the momentum and make the game close, but their offense could never quite make the big plays they needed to. When Estacada ran in another one with just two minutes remaining, any doubt as to their victory had already been erased.

By that time, any doubt had already been gone for quite a while in the 3A game in Cottage Grove. The Cascade Christian Challengers of Medford went up 27-6 in the first half on the strength of their combined running and passing attack, and never looked back. The Kennedy Trojans from Mt. Angel had started the game with a spotless 12-0 record, but so had Cascade Christian, who had beaten their opponents by a cumulative score of 589-87. The Challengers had gone 3-2 in their five previous trips to the championship game, and Kennedy had won only one of their seven attempts, including the past two 2A title games. To their credit, they were a 2A school competing at the 3A level this season and still managed to dominate their competition until meeting a Cascade Christian team that was just better on both sides of the ball. The Challengers threw for touchdowns in each of the two final quarters and the Trojans couldn’t move the ball against the stingy Challenger defense. I hadn’t expected either undefeated team to lose 41-6, but Cascade Christian was just that good, and when it was over Kennedy had lost a state championship game for the seventh time.

And that 6-man title game in Bend last week? Our friends in Wheeler County had another championship to celebrate after beating the Triangle Lake Lakers 32-13, and Spray/Mitchell/Wheeler were the only team to repeat as champions from last season. But that title last season had been unofficial, and this was the real thing. Since 2018 the OSAA had run 6-man football as a pilot program with no official champion, but this year the state’s smallest schools finally crowned their first official state champion. I didn’t get to listen to that one, but by the looks of the box score it would have been fun to watch. The Rattlers went up 20-0 in the first quarter but were actually outscored the rest of the game. The one stat that sticks out is the fact that Triangle Lake had 8 different players catch a pass. That’s probably close to being every single player on the team!

Wow. This story got kinda long somehow, so let me wrap this up. It’s been a long weekend and a full season. We chased down the Lakeview football team and eventually caught up with them and watched them play the most ridiculous 30 seconds of football I’ve ever seen. Klamath Union gave us the slip, though, so my “very particular set of skills” will be put to the test next season. We didn’t spit on Nellie Oleson’s grave, but we did find Willie Nelson’s old hangout. We saw Scapoose win the Big Fish, watched a homecoming court dance the hula, and survived the Easy-Bake Oven Day storm. We crowned 8 champions - two more than last season, with one of the craziest Rivalry games ever thrown in for good measure.

I get the feeling that I’ll look back on this season someday as the beginning of the end for cash entry into football games, or anywhere else for that matter. It’s not a big deal for me: I have a phone and a credit card, so it’s just an inconvenience. But it’s strange that the education establishment will talk your ears off about equity and inclusion, and then put up barriers for people who just want to get in to watch a school activity. You’d think they’d be trying to make it easier for people. The fact that OSAA has adopted an all-electronic ticketing system for their playoff games is a bad sign. Now that the policy’s in place it’s hard to imagine them ever going back to a sensible system. And I can just hear my great-great grandchildren laughing at grandpa Ednold now. That’s OK. Go ahead and laugh. To you, with your computer chips embedded in your brain stems and your silly teleportation devices it probably sounds funny that Ednold liked to pay for things with green pieces of paper instead of a computer, and he drove around in an automobile that wouldn’t go anywhere unless he paid to have it filled with an expensive liquid. I guess it is kind of funny when you think about it, but that’s the way I like it.

Next season is only 9 months away, but hopefully you'll hear from me before then. Arrivederci.

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