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Oregon West Conference football preview: 10 questions, projected order of finish

10 questions for the Class 4A Oregon West Conference entering the 2022 Oregon high school football season

By Mitchell Forde 

Here are 10 questions for the Class 4A Oregon West Conference entering the 2022 Oregon high school football season. At the bottom is Mitchell Forde’s predicted order of finish.

AJ Sargent (Marist Catholic) photo by Leon Neuschwander  

1. Can Marist Catholic reload?

The Spartans have been at or near the top of the league standings for the past three seasons, culminating in a state runner-up finish last fall. More than half of the starters from that team have graduated, however. Marist Catholic lost 11 seniors who earned all-league honors last year. Longtime coach Frank Geske believes the players who will be charged with filling in have enough talent to keep the Spartans in the mix for another state title, and the 15th-year coach has proven he knows what buttons to push, but the new-look team is going to have to prove it’s still one of the best in Class 4A.

2. How will Cascade replace Jacob Hage and its other graduated seniors?

Cascade, which has dominated the Oregon West with Marist Catholic in the Sky Em the past few seasons, finds itself in a similar position. The Cougars have to replace four-year starting quarterback Jacob Hage as well as eight other players who earned first-team all-league honors last fall. New head coach Tyler Turner believes there still is plenty of talent in the program and said his team has taken note of the fact that the Cougars haven’t generated much preseason buzz as a state title favorite. 

3. Will Turner do enough to earn the head coaching job full-time?

As if the personnel turnover wasn’t enough, the Cougars also will be breaking in a new coach this fall. Brandon Bennett left for Sherman High School in Texas following six seasons at Cascade. The school promoted Turner, an assistant under Bennett for his entire tenure, to the head job, but only on an interim basis. Will the Cougars look different with Turner at the helm of the program? Will he find enough success to keep the job permanently? A Week 2 clash with defending state champion Marshfield could provide an early indicator.

4. Can Junction City and Philomath keep up their success in Class 4A?

The Oregon West will feature a couple of teams that have moved back up after spending the past two seasons in Class 3A. Junction City went 8-4 over the past two seasons and Philomath went 10-6, although neither program won a playoff game at the lower level. Still, the coaches of both schools identified making the postseason again as a goal for this year and believe they have the talent to do so, despite the uptick in competition. Key for both programs will be finding a new starting quarterback after the Tigers lost Colby Evans to graduation and the Warriors lost Caleb Jensen.

5. Is this the year Stayton breaks through?

The Eagles have been solid during Randy Nyquist’s five years leading the program, but they have not won a playoff game. With quarterback Cody Leming headlining a long list of returning players, could this be Stayton’s year to take a step forward? Nyquist believes so, saying his goal is not just to win a playoff game but to have his team practicing on Thanksgiving — meaning it has made the state title game.

6. Will Sweet Home find a fix on defense?

The Sweet Home offense, and particularly its passing attack, looked impressive in coach Ryan Adams’ first season. Unfortunately for the Huskies, the defense struggled, allowing 32.6 points per game. Adams is planning to switch to a base formation that features a three-man front in search of improvement on that side of the ball.

7. Can Cottage Grove finds its footing?

Third-year coach Joe Polamalu has been dealt a tough hand, having to overcome the 2020 season being shortened and moved and a lack of practice time with his team prior to last fall’s season. But Polamalu has finally gotten the chance to spend a full offseason with his players and has his roster numbers back in the 50s. While we wouldn’t expect the Lions to suddenly turn into a playoff contender, even mustering a couple of wins would be a step in the right direction for a program that has one win — total — the past three seasons. 

8. Who emerges as the league’s top quarterback?

A couple of second-team all-league signal-callers are back in Leming and Sweet Home’s Heath Nichol. Last season, Nichol finished second in Class 4A in the regular season with 1,548 passing yards; he was fourth in touchdown passes with 16. Leming was more of a dual threat. Keep an eye on Nolan Abrams, who has the unenviable job of replacing Hage behind center at Cascade but has the confidence of his head coach. 

9. Who can stop the run?

The Oregon West is full of potent offenses, particularly on the ground. Cascade and Marist Catholic finished first and third, respectively, in scoring in Class 4A last season. Both did their damage primarily via the run — especially the Cougars, who featured two 1,000-yard rushers and another who nearly accumulated 800 yards on the ground. Junction City runs a wing-T style power offense and Stayton runs the ball plenty, too. Being able to stop the run likely will be pivotal to the chances of any team looking to earn a playoff berth out of this league. 

10. With Marist Catholic and Cascade now in the same league, who will emerge at the top?

The Spartans and Cougars are no strangers to high-stakes battles with each other. Cascade beat Marist Catholic by four points during the regular season last fall before the Spartans took revenge with a win in the state quarterfinals. But the two programs haven’t been in the same league in recent seasons. With Marist Catholic coming to the Oregon West from the Sky Em this year, the Spartans and Cougars have to be considered the two favorites to win the league title. An Oct. 21 matchup in the penultimate week of the regular season could be the decider.

Predicted order of finish

1. Marist Catholic

2. Cascade

3. Stayton

4. Junction City

5. Philomath

6. Sweet Home

7. Cottage Grove

More Oregon West football

Find each team’s complete season preview at the following links:


Cottage Grove

Junction City

Marist Catholic



Sweet Home