Oregon high school football playoffs: ‘The eliminator’ prediction tool says the 6A champion will be …

By Mike Wilson | Photo by Taylor Balkom

After a year’s hiatus caused by the postseason-less 2020-21 OSAA football season, the eliminator returns to help you fill out your 2021-22 Class 6A playoff bracket.

For those who don’t remember the first two editions of the eliminator, it is a tool that leverages historical precedents (and employs nuanced reasoning and contemporary observations) to narrow the 32-team Class 6A field to a smaller and smaller population, ending with a champion.

How did the eliminator perform in its first two seasons?

In 2018, it projected Jesuit of Southwest Portland to win the title. The Crusaders were among the final four teams but lost to eventual champion Lake Oswego (which was among the eliminator’s final five teams before the final cut was made).

In 2019, the eliminator correctly projected Central Catholic of Southeast Portland as the champion.

Let’s get started on 2021.

– Scoring at least 40 points in at least five regular-season games

Of the past seven Class 6A champions, all but one scored at least 40 points in at least five regular-season games. The exception was Lake Oswego in 2018; the Lakers scored 40 or more four times and put up 39 against the reigning state champion. (If you’re wondering, the 2018 eliminator recognized the value of the Lakers’ 39-point effort against Clackamas and advanced Lake Oswego to the next stage of evaluation.)

Which teams get weeded out from the 2021 playoff field?

Bend, David Douglas, Grant, Jefferson, Lakeridge, McNary, Mountain View, Mountainside, Newberg, North Medford, Oregon City, Roseburg, Sherwood, South Medford, South Salem, Sprague, Summit, Sunset, Tigard, West Linn and West Salem.

Here comes the first application of “nuanced reasoning” to keep two teams alive.

Sunset: The Apollos of Northwest Portland hit 40 points four times and beat a Washington team 39-2 in a game they probably could have named the score.

West Linn: The Lions scored at least 40 points in three games but gain entry to the next stage — in part because each of their regular-season opponents made the playoff field.

– A head coach with at least 10 years’ tenure at his current position

Six of the past seven Class 6A champions have been led by a coach with at least 10 years at his current job, as of the season he won the championship. This counts Central Catholic’s Steve Pyne three times, for winning in 2013 and 2014, in his 11th and 12th seasons at the school, and in 2019.

This threshold would eliminate Barlow (Tracy Jackson, first season), Clackamas (James Holan, second season), Roosevelt (Ryan McCants, second season), Sandy (Josh Dill, third season), Sheldon (Josh Line, fifth season), Sunset (Damien Merrick, eighth season), Tualatin (Dan Lever, fifth season), West Linn (Chris Miller, eighth season) and Westview (Ryan Atkinson, seventh season).

Two of the above teams get byes for this round:

Sheldon: The Irish of Eugene are the most recent school from south of the 45th parallel to win the Class 6A title and have in Brock Thomas the type of player who might be the biggest difference-maker in Oregon. Too early to count out Sheldon.

West Linn: The Lions get ushered to the next stage in the eliminator because, of the past seven champions, they have been the lone exception to this guideline, winning the title in 2016, Miller’s third season.

– No more than two regular-season losses

In the past seven seasons, among all six OSAA classifications, all but two state champions had two or fewer losses in their title-winning seasons. And in defense of the eliminator’s foundations, the 2018 Class 5A Thurston team — one of the outliers from this test — absorbed one of its losses that season against a Class 6A opponent (Sheldon).

This criterion eliminates Liberty (6-3) of Hillsboro. Few know better than us how Falcons quarterback Hiro Diamond has a habit of pulling off last-minute — not just fourth-quarter, but last-minute — comeback wins, but the eliminator can’t bank on such feats.

– Perfect league record

The past seven Class 6A champions entered the playoffs unbeaten in league games. This eliminates Lake Oswego (4-1 Three Rivers League) and West Linn (4-1 Three Rivers League).

Yes, yes, we know that losing a game in one’s conference can be a sign of top-to-bottom competitiveness in that league. We know that. But we also know what the eliminator tells us.

We’re down to three teams: OSAA No. 4 Central Catholic, No. 7 Sheldon and No. 9 Jesuit.

– Average scoring margin and scoring margin in regular-season finale

The eliminator is going to examine two final factors: average scoring margin and how dominant a team is entering the playoffs, as measured by its scoring margin in Week 9. Let us emphasize that the eliminator regards scoring margin as a sign of a team’s ability to control games, not its willingness to rub it in.

Six of the past seven Class 6A champions had an average regular-season scoring margin of at least 29 points (discounting games against teams from outside Oregon). The exception was Lake Oswego in 2018 (17.6 points).

Here’s the average scoring margin for the three teams remaining (margin including games against teams from outside Oregon in parentheses):

Sheldon: 11.7 points per game

Jesuit: 27.9 points per game (25.6 if a game against Camas, Wash., is included)

Central Catholic: 45 points per game (37 if games against Washington teams Camas and Tumwater are included)

The three survivors’ margin in their regular-season finales: Jesuit 42, Sheldon 28, Central Catholic 18.

Given the lack of unanimity produced by the eliminator’s established guidelines, we’ll use a couple of ad hoc judgments (see “contemporary observations” in the second paragraph of this article).

One of the three teams was never in trouble in the second half of any game against an in-state opponent. Looking at each team’s closest win, this team had the largest margin of victory. Looking at each team’s biggest win, this team had the largest margin of victory. This team is the only one that is undefeated.

For the second consecutive playoff season, the eliminator projects Central Catholic to win the OSAA Class 6A championship.


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