The stage — or at least, the league — has been set for Canby football’s first year at 5A. The OSAA Executive Review Board met in Wilsonville this week and voted to accept the alignment proposal from the Football Ad Hoc Committee as presented.
This places the Cougars in the 5A Special District 2 with seven other teams: Hillsboro, Scappoose, St. Helens, Forest Grove, McKay, North Salem and the perennial powerhouse and predicted Canby rival Wilsonville.
The proposal was tweaked slightly from an earlier plan, in which Canby would also share a district with two teams from Redmond, but the central Oregon teams protested. After all, the pass is not the easiest driving in the fall, and sharing a league with six Willamette Valley teams would have meant making that trip several times a year.
In the new league, Canby swaps a trip to central Oregon for one to Northwest region, most likely either Scappoose or St. Helens. Interestingly, this proposal also puts three of the four teams playing down at 5A into the same league: McKay, Forest Grove and Canby, leaving out only South Eugene.
Canby’s move to 5A came up on a recent podcast by the OSAA discussing the committee’s reclassification proposal, with a member of that committee, Tony Smith, saying he thinks it “will be interesting to watch.”
“You know, you’re talking about a school that has a really unbelievable tradition for the past 30 years, that’s just struggled recently,” said Smith, who, as the head football coach and athletic director at St. Paul High School, knows a thing or two about changing classifications. “I think them being allowed to play at 5A will be a real positive thing for that program.”
Smith said he remembers having to play Canby when he was coaching at Silverton, and the Cougs were still in their heyday just after the retirement of the legendary coach Erv Garrison.
Host Bob Akamian agreed, pointing out that while Canby remains competitive in most 6A sports, in football, they were in the toughest league in the state, with perennial powerhouses Tigard, Tualatin, Lake Oswego and West Linn.
“That’s a pretty good medium for them, to be at 5A,” Akamian said.
The proposal will also cover the 2021 season, as the OSAA preps for what many expect to be much more comprehensive redistricting considerations in 2022 and beyond. If the Cougs win more than two-thirds of their games at 5A, or a single playoff game at that level either year, they will automatically be bumped back up to 6A, where Canby currently plays all of its other sports.