The calendar says it is summer. The weather says it’s summer, too, and high school sports have yet to even begin practice for the 2022 fall season.
That said, the first games of the ‘22 high school football season are due on Sept. 1-2, and let’s be honest, it’s never too early to start looking ahead to the biggest games of the upcoming gridiron campaign.
While Central Catholic walked off with the 2021 Class 6A state championship — the Rams beat Tualatin 44-14 to claim their fourth title since 2013 — the Three Rivers League proved itself to be the state’s best conference, and there wasn’t really a close second.
In addition to No. 3 Tualatin’s title-game berth, No. 2 West Linn — a TRL co-champion along with Tualatin and No. 1 Lake Oswego — played its way into the 6A state semifinals where the Lions lost to Tualatin 35-13.
The Lakers, meanwhile, won twice to reach the state quarterfinals before falling to Jesuit 56-49. And No. 10 Lakeridge, which placed fourth in the 2021 TRL regular season, also won twice in the playoffs to reach the quarterfinals before falling to West Linn just 10-7.
While the TRL produced one finalist, two semifinalists and four quarterfinalists, no other league had more than one finalist (the Mt. Hood Conference), one semifinalist (the Mt. Hood Conference) or one quarterfinalist (the Mt. Hood Conference, the Metro League, the Pacific Conference and the Mountain Valley Conference).
With that as pretext, it clearly makes sense to pay attention to what’s going on in Three Rivers League football — just ask the TRL’s top coaches.
“In our league, every game will be big,” said Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury. “I think the league will be better then it has ever been and anyone will be capable of beating anyone on Friday night.”
“We are lucky. We play in the TRL so we are excited for every game,” said Lakeridge coach Spencer Phillips. “(The TRL has) great players, great coaches and great environments. We have a great schedule this year — all of our opponents were 2021 playoff teams.”
“Our league games are all tough for us. Which ones are not?” asked West Linn’s first-year coach Jon Eagle. “A lot depends on league records going in, too. This is a very challenging schedule.”
So, here’s a look ahead to the red-letter days of the coming 2022 fall season.
In the 2022 non-league schedule — four games that span most of September — here’s some of the big games to watch involving the Lakers, Pacers and Lions.
For Lake Oswego, the Lakers hit the road in Week 2 to play at West Salem at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9. The Titans went unbeaten to win the Mountain Valley Conference a year ago and advanced to the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
Another game to watch for LO will occur when the Lakers host Mountainside — the Mavericks reached the second round of the playoffs last year — at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16.
“I really don’t have a favorite game — I like them all,” Coury said. “I have good friends in the coaching profession and it’s always nice to compete against friends.”
For Lakeridge, the Pacers play one of the Metro League’s best in non-league action, hosting Jesuit (a 2021 state semifinalist) at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9.
Another game to watch for Lakeridge will occur when the Pacers host Sherwood — a 2021 quarterfinalist — at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16.
“Every game is important. Every week presents a new challenge,” Phillips said. “One of the great aspects of high school football is you see different defenses, offenses and special teams strategies each week. Keeps you on your toes and makes for a great Friday night game.”
For West Linn, the Lions will also play Jesuit in the preseason, facing off against the Crusaders at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15, at Jesuit High School. West Linn and Jesuit faced off in their 2021 season opener, with the Lions prevailing 17-3 at Jesuit.
Another game to watch for West Linn will occur when the Lions host Lake Stevens, Washington — the Vikings went 11-1 in 2021, advancing all the way to the Class 4A state championship game — at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23.
“Our non-league games are all difficult,” Eagle said. “Open at a tough North Medford? Host Sheldon? At Jesuit Week 3? Host Washington state #1 Lake Stevens? But (as) we like to say, they have to play us too.”
Three Rivers League
With four state quarterfinalists a year ago, the Three Rivers League will serve up a ton of exciting, competitive football in 2022.
Here are the times, dates and locations of the 2022 games between those four teams, along with their 2021 TRL and overall won-loss records.
- Tualatin (4-1 in TRL play, 12-1 overall) at Lakeridge (2-3 in TRL play, 8-4 overall), 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29.
- Lake Oswego (4-1 in TRL play, 10-2 overall) at West Linn (4-1 in TRL play, 11-2 overall), 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30.
- Tualatin (4-1 in TRL play, 12-1 overall) at Lake Oswego (4-1 in TRL play, 10-2 overall), 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14.
- West Linn (4-1 in TRL play, 11-2 overall) at Lakeridge (2-3 in TRL play, 8-4 overall), 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21.
- Lakeridge (2-3 in TRL play, 8-4 overall) at Lake Oswego (4-1 in TRL play, 10-2 overall), 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28.