Crater's return to the Class 5A level became official on Monday when the Oregon School Activities Association's Executive Board unanimously voted to approve the final recommendation of its classification and districting committee.
No alterations were made to the committee's final proposal released on Oct. 9, and all changes for the upcoming four-year time block will take effect beginning with the 2014-15 school year.
The Comets had been slated to revert from 6A to 5A throughout most of the yearlong process, but few at Crater High put much stock in that until the final approval was made. When that arrived Monday, although a rubber stamp from the delegate assembly is still required, there was a sense of relief at Crater, which moves from one of the lowest enrollments at the 6A level to one of the highest among the 33 5A schools.
"I think it's going to give us a chance for our kids to experience more success," said Crater athletic director David Heard. "I just think that gives us more possibilities to have success overall by competing against schools that are similar in size, especially since our enrollment is declining. I would anticipate us staying there (at the 5A level) because of that."
When Crater moved to 5A in 2006 and to 6A in 2010, enrollment "wavered back and forth," said Heard, "but our enrollment is getting lower and I don't see that changing."
While each school has its own advantages and disadvantages in certain sports — the Comets, for example, have long been one of the state's best at any level in cross country and wrestling — the numbers haven't exactly been imposing during the 2013 fall campaign at Crater.
"Our fall sports record kind of makes it clear on where we sit with being better suited for 5A," said Heard.
Entering state play-in games today, the boys soccer team has a 0-13 record after being outscored 121-4 thus far, while the girls soccer team is 2-11 after being outscored 76-10, which is actually an increase in goals scored from a year ago.
The volleyball team tied for last in the SOH with a 1-7 mark and was 5-12 overall, including a loss Saturday to Forest Grove in a play-in match, 25-9, 25-20, 25-16. Four of its wins were against 5A foes. In football, Crater tied for sixth in the SOH at 2-5 in league play and 2-7 overall entering Friday's play-in game at Forest Grove.
After enjoying considerable success in earning conference titles as a member of the now-defunct 5A Southern Sky Conference, the Comets failed to claim a 6A league title in anything other than boys cross country in 2010.
In the new setup, Crater will fall into the Midwestern League with Ashland, Eagle Point, Churchill, Marist, North Eugene and Springfield.
Taking the Comets' place at the 6A level in the Southern Oregon Conference will be Willamette, which moves up from the 5A MWL. North Medford, South Medford, Grants Pass, Roseburg, Sheldon, South Eugene and Thurston make up the other seven 6A schools.
One considerable advantage about the new system is that it has done away with hybrid leagues, meaning schools will compete in all sports with the same conference affiliation.
"It's nice that this will be just our conference and that's it for every sport," said Heard. "The hardest part about the move is that we just don't have the rivalries that we've come to appreciate with the schools down here but I'm hoping that we can maintain our relationships with North Medford and South Medford and Grants Pass and Roseburg for some of our programs."
"That would be nice just for the nonleague games so neither of us really have to travel too much to do that," he added. "It's nice because parents can go to those games easier and maybe you have a better gate on a Friday playing basketball against North Medford instead of a team from Portland or Salem. It just makes more sense to keep those relationships going and keep those rivalries."
Heard said the current Southern Oregon Hybrid athletic directors are already set to meet Nov. 6, and he anticipates a gathering among the new Midwestern League programs sometime before Thanksgiving so all can get acquainted and begin discussions on how to handle the scheduling for the 2014-15 school year.
"I think there's some work there to be done with scheduling, for sure," said Heard. "I think that's going to be the biggest piece of the puzzle that comes next. I'm sure everyone has different visions on what, say, basketball schedules might look like and whether we go to Eugene on a Friday and stay over and play again Saturday. We'll see, but it's things like that I expect will take the most time figuring out."
Going off the average daily membership figures (ADM) used by the OSAA's classification and districting committee, Crater stands as the eighth-largest school at the 5A level with an ADM of 1,148. The cutoff point for 6A was 1,258 and higher, with the 5A range from 676 to 1,257.
The largest schools in the proposed 6A Southern Oregon Conference are Roseburg (1,576) and Grants Pass (1,524), with the smallest being South Eugene (1,258) and Thurston (1,262). Newest member Willamette is at 1,318.
Eagle Point (1,006) and Ashland (865) rank third and fifth, respectively, in the proposed seven-team MWL.
FOR THE UPCOMING time block, the Class 4A Skyline Conference and Class 3A Southern Cascade League will stay the same, while the Class 1A Mountain Valley League will include Butte Falls, Prospect, Rogue Valley Adventist, Central Christian, Chiloquin, Gilchrist, Hosanna Christian, North Lake, Paisley, Triad and Trinity Lutheran.
NORTH MEDFORD'S football records for a single season have been the subject of much discussion as of late so I thought it might be nice to document what the Black Tornado has in its locker room at Spiegelberg Stadium.
Kevin Foreman passed for 2,041 yards in 2000 and Beau Hovland passed for 24 touchdowns in 2003, although the record board has those years mixed up and apologies for the misinformation that's been passed on. With his efforts this season, North Medford junior quarterback Troy Fowler has eclipsed the single-season passing total with 2,170 yards through nine regular season contests. Fowler's 23 touchdown passes leave him one away from tying Hovland with at least one state playoff game still to come on Nov. 8.
In other North Medford records, Kerry Curtis (1993) and Ryan Folsom (2005) share the record for rushing touchdowns in a season at 25, and Folsom's 1,743 yards rushing in 2005 is the standard for running backs. Mike Olson set receiving records for yards in a season (852) and TD receptions in a season (13) in 2000 while Duane Patterson's 47 receptions in 1993 still stand as the single-season high.
On defense, Brian Dorsey's 10 interceptions in 1993 stand as the single-season record at North.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry