Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
North Medford's newest addition to its football staff just happens to be someone who has one of the longest relationships with head coach Mike Mitchell.
Mitchell has brought on board a familiar name to Rogue Valley football fans in Jim Figoni, who stepped down in January as head coach at Hidden Valley after 19 seasons with the school during his second tenure in Murphy. Figoni also coached Hidden Valley from 1984-86 for 22 overall seasons with the Mustangs.
For the Black Tornado, Mitchell said Figoni will serve as the offensive line coach this fall. Current North Medford assistant coach Tom Powell will move to linebackers.
"I think Jim's going to be a real addition to the staff," Mitchell said Monday. "I think he's an outstanding line coach and I'm really excited to get him."
Figoni was in Florida on Monday and unavailable for comment. He compiled a 114-103 record while at Hidden Valley, making the playoffs 10 times and advancing to the state quarterfinals on three occasions.
The relationship between Mitchell and Figoni spans 40 years and began innocently enough in 1973 when Mitchell was the head coach at South Albany.
"I was teaching and minding my own business one day when the principal called up and said I better come down and talk to this guy," said Mitchell. "(Figoni) had dropped in as an English teacher at the time and we had an opening and we hired him within an hour, he was that impressive."
In their second season together, South Albany won seven straight games to finish 7-2 and secure its first winning season in school history.
"We became decent in a hurry and I attribute a lot of that success to him," added Mitchell.
When Mitchell left to become head coach at Grants Pass High in 1975, Figoni remained at South Albany and inherited the head coaching duties.
Mitchell later moved over to Hidden Valley High and brought Figoni on board during his final season in 1983. When Mitchell left for Oregon City, Figoni took over as head coach of the Mustangs in 1984.
Once Mitchell returned to the Rogue Valley last season he put a call into Figoni but was rebuffed for the time being.
"I almost got him when I first got here but he wanted to go at least one more year at Hidden Valley," said Mitchell.
A little more sweet-talking from his long-time friend helped seal the deal for the 2013 season.
"He's excited about this," added Mitchell. "He sees the challenge here and he'll have fun with this."
Of particular interest for Mitchell is Figoni's ability to mold smaller-built linemen. When Figoni was a three-year letterman for the University of Oregon and served as center in the Dan Fouts era, Mitchell said he was the smallest listed center in the Pac-10 at 212 pounds.
"What I always liked about him is he's really good at taking smaller guys and molding them by teaching really good techniques in blocking," said Mitchell. "We're a little undersized sometimes up front and I think he's going to be a really great addition to help us with that."
One piece of their history will have to change if Mitchell has anything to say about it.
"I'm not going to give this job up to him in a year," laughed the Black Tornado head coach. "I'm not close to being ready for that."
Last year, North Medford finished 2-8 overall and went 1-6 in Southwest Conference play to finish seventh, while Hidden Valley was 5-4 overall and fourth in the Class 4A Skyline Conference at 2-3.
SOME SLIGHT MOVEMENT on upcoming reclassification occurred last week but still nothing that stands to appease those in southern Oregon hoping for a five-classification system.
The Oregon School Activities Association's classification and districting committee reaffirmed their consensus on recommending a six-classification system during an April 30 meeting, along with the implementation of adjusted average daily membership (ADM) figures for a school's classification total.
What did change were the cutoff limits for each of the six proposed classifications, altering the Southern Oregon Conference and Midwestern League lists that are populated by this area's Class 6A and 5A teams. With the cutoff point for Class 6A moving to 1,260-and-over and the 5A from 710-1,259, Thurston (1,263) was elevated from the MWL to the SOC.
The new SOC draft includes North Medford, South Medford, Grants Pass, Roseburg, Sheldon, South Eugene, Thurston and Willamette. The MWL would consist of Ashland, Crater, Eagle Point, Churchill, Marist, North Eugene and Springfield.
In making the move, committee members said they believed having eight teams in the SOC at 6A was more critical than having eight MWL teams since 6A schools in this region often have a more difficult time scheduling teams from other classifications.
Other cutoff levels were adjusted to 325-709 for Class 4A, 191-324 for Class 3A, 90-190 for Class 2A and 89-and-under for Class 1A.
The change in cutoff points also brought about a new grouping for the 3A Southern Cascade League, with Cascade Christian, St. Mary's, Rogue River and Illinois Valley joined now by Bandon, Coquille and Glide.
The committee will meet throughout this school year and will make its final recommendations in October for the 2014-18 time block to the OSAA Executive Board. The next meeting is May 20 in Wilsonville.
CHANGES COULD BE on the horizon when it comes to state championship formats. The OSAA's state championship committee held its second meeting on April 29 and, among other issues, is debating a revision to the basketball and volleyball tournament formats. That revision involves the potential elimination of consolation games and/or creating a Final Four format.
The committee has reached a consensus to support implementing regional qualifying models in all individual sports except swimming. This change would include cross country, golf, tennis and track and field. Regional qualifying already takes place in wrestling.
The next meeting of the state championship committee is June 3, with a final recommendation to be made in February for the 2015-18 time block.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry