Aerial view of the PHS sports complex
Philomath High will remain in the 4A Oregon West for another four years. (File photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

Philomath High School teams will remain in the Oregon West Conference over the next four-year block in a Class 4A that has been reduced from 34 to 31 teams. That’s what came out of an Oregon School Activities Association executive board meeting on Dec. 13 with the approval of classifications for 2022-26.

The Oregon West will be losing Sisters and Woodburn and picking up North Marion. That puts membership in the league at six schools — Cascade, Newport, North Marion, Philomath, Stayton and Sweet Home.

Philomath will be the smallest school in the league based on enrollment. The school’s adjusted three-year enrollment average came in at 335 students. Cascade is the largest school at 514 students followed by Stayton (499), Sweet Home (443), North Marion (393) and Newport (354).

Football special districts, which differ from regular districts, are to be determined. The football ad-hoc committee planned to tackle that topic at a meeting this week. And the playoff committee has not yet met to dive into how the state playoffs will look, how many teams will qualify and so on, in various sports.

Overall the OSAA’s classification process, which takes place every four years, saw no major realignment moves with the executive board opting to go again with a six-classification system.

Philomath High School Athletic Director Tony Matta said he was disappointed to see only 31 teams in 4A and 32 in 5A and believed the numbers could’ve been adjusted to bring those up to the mid-30s. In fact, Matta had such a proposal that he had submitted to the OSAA for consideration.

With the 31-team 4A, “If you’re talking about a 16-team bracket … half of the teams in the classification will make the playoffs,” Matta said. “Hopefully, the 4A play-in then goes away because then, that’s 24 teams (playing beyond the regular season).”

And what if you’re the 24th team in a play-in scenario?

“If you’re that 24th team in any sport, you probably are really ready for the season to be over and use the offseason to get better for the next year as opposed to playing somebody at the top of the rankings way better than you are,” Matta said. “None of them are good matchups.”

Then you have a league like the Greater Oregon League with just four schools. Pendleton will go into the league with Baker, La Grande and Ontario. Current member McLoughlin will drop down to 3A.

It was believed that the classification would have 32 teams but Banks decided to rescind a previous request to remain in 4A and opted instead to accept the drop down to 3A based on enrollment.

Sisters is among eight schools dropping from 4A to 3A. The Outlaws have been in the Oregon West for the past four years and was a school that has created the most challenging situation for Philomath when it comes to travel.

“We eliminate the Sisters road trip in conference play, which is fine, and it’s a benefit to Sisters to not have that same travel,” Matta said.

The addition of North Marion, which is located in Aurora, is a bit of a road trip but is basically the same distance as Philomath’s trips to Woodburn, which will be leaving 4A for 5A. North Marion was a member of the Oregon West from 2014-15 until 2017-18.

Schools dropping from 5A down into 4A include Crook County, North Bend, St. Helens, Scappoose, Pendleton and The Dalles.

Besides McLoughlin and Sisters, others heading out of 4A into 3A will be Banks, Corbett, Elmira, North Valley, Siuslaw and Valley Catholic.

Central Oregon saw the biggest changes with Bend, Caldera, Mountain and Summit going from the 6A Mountain Valley to the 5A Intermountain, which will also include Redmond and Ridgeview. Caldera just opened this academic year, which lowered enrollment numbers at the other Bend schools. has no paywall and to keep it that way, we rely on voluntary memberships. If you’re already a member, thank you for contributing. To join our community as a member or to make a one-time contribution, please CLICK HERE.