McNary won its first league championship since 2005 last Friday.
The Celtics reward?
A road first round playoff game against one of the best teams in the state.
While the OSAA power rankings have never been exactly accurate, this season’s schedule, which featured five non-league and four league games, has shown a brighter light on its imperfections.
McNary finished seven spots behind West Salem, a team it beat handily just two weeks ago. The Titans have one more win and are benefiting from playing games against No. 1 Lake Oswego and No. 3 Sheldon. But neither of those contests was close and overall the Celtics played the tougher non-league schedule as two of West Salem’s wins came against No. 29 Grant and No. 23 Bend.
Of course, McNary also defeated Bend, in a league game.
North Medford didn’t do the Celtics any favors. After blowing out McNary to open the season, the Black Tornado lost six of their final seven games to finish No. 32 and barely make the postseason.
But the Celtics other non-league games came against No. 6 West Linn, No. 9 Tualatin, No. 13 South Medford and Tumwater, who finished 8-1 in Washington.
The Bend schools also have to be scratching their heads as Bend finished one spot ahead of Mountain View even though the latter just won 24-7 last Friday. Even more ridiculous, Sprague, who missed the playoffs after finishing No. 36, trounced No. 23 Mountain View 34-6 on Oct. 19.
The Olympians, who played an even tougher schedule than McNary, could not overcome a one-point loss to South Salem on Sept. 21.
How did McNary and West Salem’s non-league schedules prepare them for the playoffs?
Southridge at West Salem
Neither of these teams enter the playoffs with a lot of momentum. While the Titans did blow out Sprague last week, they are just two weeks removed from falling at home to McNary. The Skyhawks ended the regular season with a 30-14 loss at home to Aloha. On paper, West Salem and Southridge have similar resumes. Both defeated Mountain View. The Titans lost at Beaverton by two points while the Skyhawks won at Beaverton by five. Southridge hasn’t won a playoff game since 2014 when it then lost by 42 points to West Salem in the second round. I’ll take the team coming off a win and playing at home.
Pick: Titans 38, Skyhawks 28
McNary at Lakeridge
Before Tom Smythe ever won a state championship at McNary, the legendary head coach won the title at Lakeridge in 1987. Smythe went a remarkable 157-32 in his first stint as head coach of the Pacers. But Lakeridge hasn’t had the same success as of late, posting a 7-20 record over the previous three years before finishing 6-3 this season. The Pacers, who last won a playoff game in 2014, were riding a four-game winning streak this season, before falling to No. 1 Lake Oswego 30-14 last Friday. That stretch included a 48-38 victory at No. 5 Tigard. Like McNary, Lakeridge also has wins over Sprague and Bend and lost at West Linn. This game will definitely test just how much the Celtics have improved after 28 and 44-point losses at West Linn and Tualatin in September. McNary is riding high after going 4-0 in league play. But the Celtics still haven’t played their best game.
Pick: Celtics 44, Pacers 40
Derek Wiley is the associate editor of the Keizertimes.
Last week: 4-0, Overall 30-16