The Cowapa League is trading one “Indians” team for another this coming football season.
While the Scappoose Indians have made the jump to Class 5A, the Cowapa will welcome the Molalla Indians — for football only — to keep it as a six-team league. In all other sports, the Cowapa League will be a five-team league.
It’s better than nothing, said Astoria athletic director Howard Rub, after the offseason realignment by the Oregon School Activities Association.
“It’s kind of a weird, funky way for us to even things out for football, but I’m glad it happened,” Rub said. “Because, unlike a lot of other sports, it’s impossible to find a good nonleague matchup in the middle of a league season.”
If the Cowapa had remained a five-school league for football, it would have created a bye week for one team every week of the league season.
Astoria begins the 2018 season Aug. 31 — ironically, for a nonleague game at Scappoose. Seaside will host Henley on Aug. 31, while the Fishermen and Gulls open the league season Sept. 21 against each other, at Broadway Field.
Meanwhile, Molalla competed in the Tri-Valley Conference last year, along with Crook County, Estacada, Gladstone and Madras.
The Tri-Valley (for football) is now known as Special District 2, with Crook County, Estacada, Gladstone, North Marion, The Dalles and Woodburn. The Cowapa will be known as Special District 1 in football.
The Oregon West Conference (Special District 3) is now comprised of Cascade, Newport, Philomath, Sisters, Stayton and Sweet Home. Special districts 4 and 5 have five schools for football, while Special District 6 has four teams.
In other sports, the Cowapa contains five teams (the usuals, minus Scappoose), while the Oregon West will have seven.
For Cowapa football teams, “We still have a five-game league schedule, and it just creates so much better balance for us as a league” with Molalla moving in, Rub said. “It was really great of Molalla, their athletic department, their entire school district to recognize the imbalance and the problems that the Cowapa only having five teams in football was going to create.”
So the Cowapa will lose one traditionally strong football program in Scappoose, and gain a program that struggled last season.
Molalla finished 3-6 overall in 2017, ranked 21st out of 39 schools. That’s compared to Scappoose, which was 8-2 and ranked second. Molalla was 6-3 in 2016, 7-2 in 2015 and 7-3 in 2014.
The Fishermen are not totally unfamiliar with Molalla. Astoria played a nonleague game with the Indians in 2013 (defeating Molalla, 37-14). Molalla won by forfeit in 2012, and the Indians knocked off Astoria 41-13 in a 2011 play-in game. Seaside has not played Molalla since 2003.
Halfway between Portland and Salem and east of Interstate 5, Molalla will be the farthest road trip for the Cowapa’s coastal schools of Astoria, Seaside and Tillamook.
“One of the things Molalla wanted to make certain was that they did not want to make three trips to the coast in any one season,” Rub said. “So they won’t play at Astoria, Seaside and Tillamook in the same year.”
Still, the Indians are scheduled for back-to-back road trips this season to Tillamook and Seaside (Sept. 28, Oct. 5), then the Indians will host Astoria on Oct. 12.
“It’s actually the same amount of travel Molalla would have had in the Tri-Valley,” Rub said. “No difference in travel. The mileage won’t be bad.”
And, Rub said, “that’s how it will stay, at least for two years. But you never know. Never say never.”