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St. Paul appears headed to 2A


Officials dont believe the schools adjusted enrollment will fall below the latest OSAA proposals limit for 1A

New reclassification numbers will not become official until December, but it is looking increasingly likely that St. Paul School District will make the move from 1A to 2A beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

The OSAA’s Classification and Districting Committee is set to resume meetings in September as it realigns Oregon’s six athletic classifications. The committee has been working on draft proposals since last December for the next four-year block beginning a year from now, and as it stands now the new cutoff for 1A schools would be at an adjusted enrollment of 90 students.

St. Paul High School’s current number sits at 93, meaning that if the current proposal is approved, the Buckaroos will be competing at the 2A level beginning in 2014-15. The potential move does not sit well with the St. Paul school board and Tony Smith, St. Paul’s athletic director and football coach.

“Our board has made it really clear that we like being a 1A school, we want to stay a 1A school,” said Smith in 2012 when the first set of proposals were drafted. “It’s a good fit for our community and for the history of our school.”

Fortunately, the move would likely only be temporary. St. Paul is projected to be under the cutoff in the coming years, and with successful petitions, could move back down to the 1A level in time for the 2016-17 school year.

In the meantime, the Buckaroos will brace for a potential move that would affect every sport at St. Paul. The most dramatic change would be on the football field, where the Bucks will go from playing eight-man football to the more traditional set up with 11 players on each side of the ball.

St. Paul football has become synonymous with success at the eight-man level. The Buckaroos have been to at least the quarterfinals of the 1A playoffs every year since 2006, including three trips to the state championship game in the past four years. The Bucks won back-to-back states titles in 2009 and 2010, and have a long history of eight-man football since 1982.

Before that, the Buckaroos played 11-man football at the 2A level from 1970 through 1981. The school was able to field competitive teams in that time span, making trips to the semifinals in 1974 and 1981, but success was much less consistent in the years between.

“It’s not going to be the end of the world,” said Smith. “Obviously the level of competition will be higher. I think in all of our sports, that’s going to have to raise the commitment and everything we do from our kids and our coaches.”

Under the most recent proposal released in May, St. Paul would play in the Tri-River Conference in 2014-15 along with schools like Kennedy, Regis, Santiam and Western Mennonite. The Buckaroos already compete in the Tri-River Conference for baseball, but the move to football would likely mean the end to St. Paul’s traditional rivalries in the 1A Casco League.

Smith also questions whether some schools, like archrival Perrydale, would have enough players to even make the move from eight-man to 11-man football, which would turn the enrollment cutoff line into an issue of participation, not competition.

Schools districts like Perrydale and St. Paul do have a measure of control over enrollment in that they can limit the number of transfer students they accept to ensure they would be under the 1A cutoff. That would mean less money from state, which uses student enrollment figures to calculate district funding.

While the Classification and Districting Committee won’t make its official decision until December, it appears the landscape of high school football in Oregon is on the verge of changing. Whether that change is just a shuffling of schools within classifications or a larger movement within the system remains to be seen.

“It’s really a unique time in the OSAA in terms of looking into those issues,” said OSAA assistant executive director Brad Garrett. “The OSAA itself has to continue to review how it operates and what it does. Just because you‘ve done something for 70 years doesn’t make it right.”