Starting Monday, we start the crunch time countdown to the state playoffs. Every game counts, one loss or dub can make or break your chances. There isn’t any room to screw up if you’re on the bubble, as there’s a team ready to hunt you down and take your playoff spot away. This edition of the playoff picture is my most detailed yet, giving y’all an even deeper insight into where seeding sits, along with specifics on the cut line for those final playoff bids. Here we go into the wild world of the OSAA state playoffs…..
Specifics: 21 Automatic Bids, 11 At-Large Bids: Top 3 in every conference go to the playoffs automatically, the highest ranked 11 teams without an automatic bid go to the playoffs
Current Auto Bids
Portland Interscholastic: Lincoln, Grant, Wells
Metro: Jesuit, Beaverton, Mountainside
Pacific: Forest Grove, Sherwood, Liberty
Mt. Hood: Barlow, Centennial, David Douglas
Three Rivers: Lake Oswego, Tualatin, West Linn
Mountain Valley: Bend, Summit, West Salem
Southwest: South Medford, South Eugene, Sheldon
Top 5 Seeds: Jesuit, Beaverton, Lake Oswego, Bend, Grant
Party Crashers (Teams Outside The Top 32 With Auto Bids): David Douglas (#34)
Current At-Large Bids: Sunset (#12), Oregon City (#8), Sprague (#18), Southridge (#21), Westview (#22), McMinnville (#27), Lakeridge (#23), South Salem (#26), McKay (#24), Cleveland (#29), McNary (#30)
Teams Just Outside The Playoffs: Mountain View (#32), St. Mary’s Academy (#33), Central Catholic (#35)
There is only one party crasher, which is a guarantee from the Mt. Hood Conference this season. However, that means #31 is the cutoff spot to make the playoffs this season, with that number possibly shrinking to #30 if Sheldon falls out of the Top 32 with their auto bid out of the Southwest Conference. Either way, it shouldn’t change more than that down the stretch. So the magic number will be #30 or #31 for the playoffs this season, and which teams have the easiest and roughest paths? Let’s dive deep!
I consider Sunset, OC, Sprague, and Southridge locked into the playoffs, leaving seven spots open in the at-large category. Westview is likely the next to lock themselves in, with dates against Jesuit and Aloha remaining, which won’t really hurt them as long as they don’t drop to Aloha in the finale. After that, anything is realistically possible in the at-large arena.
Lakeridge: The Pacers have two showdowns with Top 10 Lake Oswego and Tualatin, closing the season against Tigard in the finale. They’re capable of beating their TRL competitors, but can also just as easily lose as well. As long as they don’t get blown out and take a draw alongside a dub over Tigard, then the Pacers can feel pretty good about their playoff chances.
McKay: The Royal Scots have Sprague and Mountain View left on the schedule, a pair of winnable games or at least a draw and the dub. After drawing scoreless with South Salem, they have to feel good about their chances with the Olys and Cougars, which in turn will help their playoff chances. Sitting at #24 right now, they have a small cushion that should be enough to hang on for a playoff spot.
South Salem: Saxon Nation took a draw with McKay, with a showdown still to come against Bend and Sprague. While the Lava Bears likely have their number, Sprague is looking beatable after falling to West Salem 2-0. An 0-1-1 or 1-1 record is likely through this two game stretch, which would be enough to make the playoffs. South Salem should feel good, but not let their guard down.
McMinnville: A date with rival Newberg and Top 15 Forest Grove loom on the horizon for the Grizzlies, whom are sitting four spots from the cutoff line. A dub over Newberg is likely, while a loss or draw to Forest Grove is also likely. Its hard to say where they will ultimately end up, especially being so close to the line, so McMinnville needs to be doing their homework and guaranteeing their own destiny.
Cleveland: Last week, they went from the last PIL auto bid to out of the playoffs, now they sit back inside the playoff picture at #29. Roosevelt and Wells await them, with a 1-1 split looking likely. Their destiny is half in their hands, then half in the hands of everyone around them. If it were two guaranteed dubs, then I’d feel great about their chances, but that’s not the script sitting before them.
McNary: The Celtics are the most likely team to be knocked out of the playoff picture, riding a five game losing streak with no end to their free fall in sight. The team directly behind them, Mountain View, awaits them on Wednesday afternoon before closing with West Salem. Anything involving going 0-2 is going to be their dagger to a playoff spot so they are in a must win position, period.
Teams Looking To Find Themselves In
Mountain View: McNary and McKay, that’s it! The Cougars are catching the Celtics at the perfect time and can pounce on their down luck, while the Royal Scots are a tougher task to conquer. However, getting the dubs is a whole different animal, and any draw to them might shoot their chances short. Its a must win for the last week, so how will Mountain View respond?
St. Mary’s Academy: Tying West Linn but being blown out by Lakeridge? Meet the Blues and their gauntlet schedule awaiting them. Lake Oswego, Oregon City, Tualatin, by far the toughest schedule of any team on the playoff bubble. They’ve shown they can beat La Salle Prep and tie West Linn, but can they do it for three straight games? If so, no question they’re in. If not, it’d be a victim of scheduling circumstances.
Central Catholic: Don’t nap on the Rams, they can very possibly go 3-0 to close the season and find themselves in the playoffs. Sandy, Gresham, and Nelson are all beatable opponents, especially for a team that hung around with Centennial and Barlow.
Clackamas: Too far back for an at-large bid, the Cavaliers are in striking distance of David Douglas and the final auto bid in the Mt. Hood Conference. They get a showdown with them on Thursday, potentially shaking up the final results from a chaotic conference that gets an almost guaranteed party crasher this season.
IN: Lakeridge, McKay, South Salem
Too Close To Call: McMinnville, Cleveland, McNary, Mountain View, Central Catholic
OUT: St. Mary’s Academy, Clackamas
Specifics: 15 Auto Bids via the top four teams in each conference (Intermountain gets 3 auto bids). The at-large bid is awarded to the fifth place Mid-Willamette or Midwestern League team.
Current Auto Bids
Northwest Oregon: Wilsonville, Hillsboro, La Salle Prep, Scappoose
Midwestern: Ashland, North Eugene, Springfield, Thurston
Mid-Willamette: Crescent Valley, Silverton, Corvallis, West Albany
Intermountain: Pendleton/Weston-McEwen, Redmond, Ridgeview
Top Seeds: Wilsonville, La Salle Prep, North Eugene, Pendleton, Corvallis, Crescent Valley, Ashland, Redmond
Party Crashers (Teams Outside The Top 16 With Auto Bids): Ridgeview (#17)
Current At-Large Bid: Churchill (#12)
Teams Just Outside The Playoffs: Putnam
Two current conference races will significantly impact how it goes down: The NWOC and Midwestern conferences, both of whom have fluctuation between teams for their final auto bid position. In the NWOC, its between Scappoose and Putnam, while the Midwestern has Thurston and Churchill.
Scappoose: They have a gauntlet schedule left with Wilsonville and La Salle Prep on the front end, with a softer back end of Parkrose and St. Helens, so they have the hardest path between the four teams to getting a playoff spot. Sitting at #12 as of this writing, they can outdo Churchill for the at-large bid, but not Thurston. Picking up a dub from Wilsonville or La Salle would be extremely clutch, but the two back end games are must wins for the best opportunity to make the playoffs.
Putnam: Unlike Scappoose, the Kingsmen have only one huge challenge in La Salle, while Hillsboro sits as a bit of an unknown game. They can very likely go 3-1 or 2-1-1 and overtake Scappoose for the final auto bid, barring that Scappoose pulls an upset.
Thurston: The Colts are the unexpected playoff team of the season, rising from the ashes to tie North Eugene and Marist, then beat Springfield to put themselves in the auto bid slot and #10 in the state. Their biggest game sits on Tuesday when they host Churchill, the team sitting tied with them in that Midwestern spot. A win either direction gives them a full game advantage over the other, making it their biggest game of the season. They get Crater and Eagle Point to wrap up the season, so a tie would be acceptable but the dub over Churchill is the big bet.
Churchill: The Lancers close with the Colts, North Bend, and North Eugene. Either way, the Lancers are going either via auto bid or at-large berth, as the OSAA has restricted it to just between the Midwestern and Mid-Willamette conferences for the at-large bid. Their closest competition is Central from the Mid-Willamette, who sit in the high 20s position as to Churchill’s #14 position.
Every one of these teams odds to make the playoffs predicate on their own successes, along with a slimmer of hope to get some help from an underdog team. Its all simply too chaotic and too close to make a prediction on what will happen, so instead grab some hot chocolate and kick your feet in front of the fireplace, this is going to be an exciting week!
Specifics: Top three teams in each conference qualify, with each conference champion and the highest ranked #2 conference teams obtaining a bid to the main bracket. The remaining ten automatic bids, along with six at-large bids, compete in a play-in bracket to advance to the main one. A total of 24 teams will qualify for the playoffs in this model.
Current Auto Bids
Cowapa: Valley Catholic, Seaside, Astoria
Tri-Valley: Gladstone, North Marion, Corbett
Oregon West: Philomath, Woodburn, Sisters
Sky Em: Marist, Junction City, Elmira
Skyline: Hidden Valley, Mazama, Henley
Greater Oregon: La Grande, Ontario, McLoughlin
Main Bracket Participants: Valley Catholic, Gladstone, Philomath, Marist, Hidden Valley, La Grande, North Marion, Woodburn
Play-In Bracket Teams: Seaside, Astoria, Corbett, Sisters, Junction City, Elmira, Mazama, Henley, Ontario, McLoughlin, Estacada (#14), Molalla (#16), Newport (#18), North Valley (#12), Baker/Powder Valley (#20)
Teams Just Outside The Playoffs: Klamath Union (#21), Stayton (#22), Cascade (#25), Banks/Vernonia (#26)
There’s lots to unpack with 4A, as its the most complex setup of every class in the state. The teams currently sitting with auto bids from their conference have nothing to really worry about, its the cut-off line where all the action is going to sit. North Valley and Estacada are comfortably in the picture, while Molalla, Newport, and Baker/Powder Valley aren’t quite as comfy.
Molalla: The Indians are sitting 0-2-1 against their next three opponents this season: Estacada, Gladstone, and North Marion. The Rangers are winnable, while Gladstone and North Marion are stiff tests to take in such a tight position. This isn’t ideal for Molalla, but they have to make do with what they’re dealt. They control their own destiny, but its a tedious responsibility.
Newport: The Cubs sit two spots from the cut-off line at #20, with four games remaining against Sisters, Cascade, Sweet Home, and Philomath. This translates to a 2-2 split over the matches, putting themselves in a good position to finalize their playoff berth, as they won comfortably in their first meetings with Cascade and Sweet Home. Get those dubs, the Cubs are going dancing into the play-in bracket.
Baker/Powder Valley: This squad barely controls their destiny, which can be said given their close contention in their first meetings with McLoughlin and Ontario. A 1-1 or 2-0 record definitely puts them in the playoffs, while an 0-2 is certainly a death blow to their hopes, and an 0-1-1 or 1-0-1 split remains to be seen on impact.
Klamath Union: Unless they have a genie lamp sitting in their locker room, the idea of coming up from this gauntlet schedule against the best teams in their conference with a playoff berth looks murky at best. They contended with Mazama, with the other two won by a multiple goal margin. With that said, if they buckle down and put it into high gear, they might surprise and end up in the playoffs.
Stayton: Just like their counterparts at Klamath Union, they have an uphill battle to make it into the dance. They went scoreless draw with Sweet Home earlier this season, and this time they get Woodburn and Philomath to close out the season. Its a must-win against the Huskies, and just trying to get a draw with the Bulldogs and Warriors. If they go 1-2 or 1-1-1 or even pull an upset, that’ll be the best case for their odds. However, anything without a dub is a death blow.
Cascade: Can the Cougars pull off a comeback into the playoffs? Why not! If the programs ahead of them struggle as expected, Cascade can legitimately pull off a 2-2 run to close the season and leapfrog some squads, potentially ending up in the playoffs. Newport and Woodburn are tie salvageable, but the money sits with Sweet Home and Sisters taking an L from the Cougars. If they fail to win against SH or Sisters, then the quest is over with.
Banks/Vernonia: Its HS sports, anything is possible. The Braves close with Seaside, Rainier, and Tillamook, a potential 3-0 run to end the season. At a minimum, I see them going 2-1, but 2-0-1 or 3-0 is the goal here. They have the best chance to position themselves, then just hoping that everyone else doesn’t do their job down the stretch. It isn’t over up at Banks/Vernonia, not even close yet.
Too Close To Call: Molalla, Baker/Powder Valley, Cascade, Banks/Vernonia
OUT: Klamath Union, Stayton
Specifics: 14 automatic playoff bids, 2 at-large bids
Current Auto Bids
SD 1: OES, Riverdale, Catlin Gabel
SD 2: Dayton, Amity/Western Christian, Blanchet Catholic
SD 3: Santiam Christian/Kings Valley, Pleasant Hill
SD 4: Sutherlin, Brookings-Harbor
SD 5: St. Mary’s Medford, Lakeview
SD 6: Riverside, Echo/Stanfield
Top Seeds: Catlin Gabel, OES, Pleasant Hill, Dayton, Sutherlin, Santiam Christian/Kings Valley, Amity/Western Christian, Riverdale
Current At-Large Bids: Yamhill-Carlton (#8), Central Linn (#10)
Teams Just Outside The Playoffs: None
This class is just about set in stone, with little movement expected in terms of playoff teams. Yamhill-Carlton has the opportunity to take an auto bid from Blanchet Catholic, forcing the Cavaliers into an at-large bid scenario. However, its likely not enough to keep Blanchet from the playoffs, so the current teams in the field are the ones I’m 99% confident will make it. In other terms, barring a nuclear meltdown from Blanchet Catholic or a massive upset run by Trout Lake against OES, then this is your playoff field in the 3A/2A/1A classification this fall.