John L. Braese
The Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) took a giant, and rightfully so, step forward on Saturday, Nov. 19 at Caldera High School. An OSAA representative walked onto the field and presented an OSAA trophy to the Spray/Mitchell/Wheeler Rattlers after a 32-13 victory over Triangle Lake. The Rattlers will now go down in the record books as the first official 1A 6-man champions.
The decision by the OSAA to make 6-man official this season came after years of a “trial period.” The Football Ad Hoc Committee and the Executive Board called this one right.
EOS covers a number of schools in the eastern part of the state, schools that have as few as 18 total students at the high school level. Just this year, Harper Charter reentered the football field after a large contingent of freshman entered high school. We have received word Jordan Valley will be back next season playing on the gridiron right off Highway 95. The Mustangs last took the home field as their own team in the 2016-17 season.
These are just two examples of why the OSAA made the right decision. There are numerous others.
EOS has spent time with the coach, the players and the parents/fans of the Rattlers. Realistically, this year’s championship was a repeat. Officially, this year’s championship was a first. However you wish to call it, Mitchell/Spray/Wheeler is the best 6-man team this year and was last year. Only one official trophy does not take away the accomplishments of the last two years of work.
The irony of small school football is there are peaks and valleys. A special group of players come through at the right time, with the right coach and with the support of a community. Those factors could occur again next year but may not see the same light for 10 or 20 years. Rattlers fans and coaches know this and discussed it with EOS. Every game, both last year and this year was special, with or without an official trophy.
This team is a gathering of three schools, three communities, one goal. However, as one Rattler player told us, “We didn’t even start practicing until rodeo season was done.”
The playing of 6-man is the right decision for many schools in eastern Oregon. However, the OSAA and Ad Hoc Committee is urged to carefully monitor the teams in this league. The concept of 6-man football is to allow schools to play football, a sport usually geared towards larger schools. The league needs to remain a specialty, reserved for schools looking down at the sixth grade and planning for a championship in five or six years and worrying that one family will move away and kill the chances for years to come.
EOS urges the OSAA and Ad Hoc committee to consider if schools with football rosters above 20 student athletes truly need to play 6-man. EOS urges the Ad Hoc committee to consider if 6-man teams should ever have a junior varsity squad. The goal of 6-man football should remain to allow small schools the chance to participate. The goal should not be an 8-man team looking for a quick route to a state title. Both 8-man and 6-man football can flourish in Oregon and provide years to excitement to communities.
Again, OSAA good job. Rattlers, great job. Ad Hoc, be vigilant.
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