A new four-year classification cycle begins this season and there are a few shuffles in the usual district deck of football leagues. Here is the rundown:
The Evergreen 2A Conference has returned to a six-team lineup with the inclusion of Aberdeen and Rochester, both of whom spent the past two years in the old Evergreen 2A/1A League.
State-ranked Tumwater, coached by the legendary Sid Otton, is still the 600-pound gorilla of the league. Chehalis is still a solid outfit, while Black Hills and Centralia are rebuilding. That leaves Aberdeen, which struggled on the field in one of the toughest 1A leagues in the state and expanded off the field, and Rochester, which worked its way into 2A shape after spending decades as a 1A school.
The 2A circuit will be an interesting one, especially for the Bobcats. One very good sidenote for Aberdeen — no more one-sided playoff criteria for football or any other sport this season.
With the loss of Aberdeen, Eatonville and Rochester, the Evergreen 1A League (not Conference) has shrunk to five teams — Hoquiam, Montesano, Elma, Tenino and Forks. This created plenty of troubles for schedule makers, but may have helped improve these schools in the long run.
A quick glance at the team’s schedules and they all appear to be quasi-2A lineups. On Friday, Chehalis and Hoquiam will meet. Montesano will be tested by R.A. Long later in the season. Elma has now-2A Eatonville at home on Friday. All three Grays Harbor 1A teams will meet with Aberdeen early on.
However, the biggest shakeup in alignments — in football, but not in other sports — will fall to the District IV 2B ranks. The Pacific and Central leagues have turned the district into a three-division lineup for competitive and geographical purposes.
The former Pacific League is now the Southwest Washington 2B Coastal Division — Raymond, South Bend, Ocosta, North Beach and Ilwaco. Rainier, which played in the league in the past, has moved into the SWW 2B Mountain Division and Pe Ell-Willapa Valley, the Central 2B League champion, have moved into the Coastal Division.
After the regular season, the top-four teams in each division will be placed into crossover games for state berths. Honestly, the new format should strengthen what is already considered the toughest 2B district in the state.
For Taholah, the Harbor’s lone eight-man football team, it’ll join up with its old rivals in the Coastal 1B League — Mary M. Knight, Naselle, Oakville and Washington State School for the Deaf. The loss of Lake Quinault due to a lack of players will leave a hole in the schedule for everyone, especially Taholah and an expected revival of the River Bowl.
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Editor’s Note: Remember, these picks are for entertainment purposes only. They are not meant to be taken seriously, just as a conduit for one’s opinion on the games at hand. Have fun.
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(All Season Openers)
Aberdeen Bobcats at Montesano Bulldogs, Rottle Field — Over the past couple of years, Montesano has held the upper hand against its larger in-county rival. Aberdeen has improved itself in depth and talent during that time as well. A Bobcat win will mark a new era, while a Bulldog win will signal a reload of a perennial state-title contender. … Bulldogs 28, Bobcats 21.
Eatonville Cruisers at Elma Eagles, Davis Field — Elma returns to its home turf after two years away as a traveling home-game road team. Eatonville is a Class 2A school again and has joined up the South Puget Sound League. It will be a party in Elma on Friday, but the Cruisers hold the edge. … Cruisers 34, Eagles 21.
Chehalis Bearcats at Hoquiam Grizzlies, Olympic Stadium — This will be the 57th meeting between these two longtime Southwest Washington adversaries, with Hoquiam leading the overall series, 32-22-2. However, the Bearcats own a six-game winning streak and have won 14 of the last 16 meetings. … Hoquiam 35, Bearcats 31.
North Beach Hyaks at Rainier Mountaineers — The last two years have been very kind to North Beach against its now-former league opponent. The Hyaks have outscored the Mounties, 101-29, during that span. The spread won’t be that wide this time. … Hyaks 28, Mounties 7.
Chief Leschi Warriors at Ocosta Wildcats, Griffin Field — Ocosta’s lone win in 2015 and one of two in 2014 have come against Chief Leschi. The Wildcats will be at home for the first time in this third meeting and the home fans will get a chance to cheer a win. … Wildcats 31, Warriors 21.
Pe Ell-Willapa Valley Titans at Adna Pirates — PWV is down after losing a large group of veterans from its state semifinal run last year. However, the talent and size within the Titans’ roster may be enough to carry them in the opener. … Titans 34, Pirates 7.
Winlock Cardinals at South Bend Indians, Millam Field — This is a tailor-made opportunity for South Bend to start its season on a winning note. Winlock struggled mightly in the Central 2B League for years and South Bend’s talent has grown into its roles during that time. … Indians 24, Cardinals 12.
Taholah Chitwhins at Evergreen Lutheran Eagles — Last year, Evergreen Lutheran got a slow-starting Taholah squad to face. This year, the Chitwhins will have to determine whether they are on a fast or slow start on the road to the Eagles. … Eagles 42, Chitwhins 12.
Raymond Seagulls at Napavine Tigers — This is the marquee 2B matchup of the weekend, featuring the state 2B runners-up Tigers hosting a rebuilding or reloading Seagulls. Both teams will learn just how good they are after this one. … Tigers 38, Gulls 21.
Rob Burns: (360) 537-3926; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @RobRVR