Numbers Support Move by Canby Football to 5A, Coaches, Administrators Say

Hey, give me five! …A?

After a 2-7 season, albeit one that ended with the positive momentum of a two-game winning streak, Canby Football is mulling a possible move from the top OSAA classification, 6A, down to 5A.

The different rankings don’t really have anything to do with the quality of play. It’s not like the minor leagues in baseball, where the higher number of “A’s” means better and more experienced players.

In high school football, the classifications are all about size. 6A schools are the biggest ones; 5A slightly smaller.

Canby has been offered the opportunity to move down this season because our winning percentage has been under 22 percent for the past two seasons. But, as coaches and district officials explained at a community forum on Wednesday night, we actually are small enough to qualify for 5A based on enrollment numbers alone.

The classifications are determined based on a school’s “average daily membership” or ADM, which includes raw enrollment numbers adjusted to reflect the percentage of students that qualify for free and reduced lunch.

When OSAA reclassified in 2017 and set the 6A threshold at 1,260, Canby’s ADM was 1,270. But that number dropped to 1,259 this year, and is expected to continue declining.

Of course, size isn’t everything. Canby’s fellow Three Rivers League rivals, Lake Oswego and Lakeridge, are both smaller than Canby, and are perennial playoff contenders.

Lake Oswego, in particular, finished third in the state this year, and is set to face Jesuit in the semifinals this Friday for a chance at the title.

To head coach Jimmy Joyce, the difficulty is not size, but demographics, declining participation in youth football and the high powered buzzsaw that is the Three Rivers League.

Our league includes not only Lake O and Lakeridge, but three other top 10 teams: Tigard, West Linn and Tualatin. Not only are these schools bigger in raw population, they also have much more robust numbers in terms of the number of kids who turn out for football: more than 120 for Tigard, West Linn, Tualatin and Oregon City, compared to 84 here in Canby.

Coach Joyce said it actually became a running joke among Three Rivers League coaches this year, that Canby, well, just “doesn’t really fit” in the TRL. We’re the only community with only one high school, except Oregon City, whose school population is pushing 2,200 kids.

“This isn’t a 5A or 6A issue for me. This is a Three Rivers League issue for me,” Coach Joyce explained. “We have to play against teams that don’t match our numbers and demographics. It is very hard to increase numbers when you are rebuilding in a league with teams that are demographically better.”

Coach Joyce said what he was most excited for, if Canby does move down, is the opportunity to play against schools that “look like us.”

A move to 6A would be no guarantee of success. Two other 6A schools who were playing down this season, McKay and Wilson, finished 2-7 and 0-8, respectively. 5A is no cakewalk. But at Wednesday’s meeting, the coaches and administration did seem supportive of the opportunity to be more competitive, rebuild the program’s numbers and, yes, move out of the Three Rivers League, where we don’t really seem to fit.

The move would affect only football, no other sports or activities. And, Canby would automatically move back to 6A after two years, if the Cougs won more than two-thirds of their games or a single playoff contest.

If the school does decide to drop classifications, the current 5A leagues would be redrawn, and it’s not certain exactly where Canby would land. However, Coach Joyce said it’s likely we would be in a league with nearby Wilsonville, which is a perennial powerhouse at 5A.

A decision must be made by Dec. 1.

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