Realignment may have been the dominating theme of the summer in the college football world, but it’s far from a stranger for local high schools. Come Saturday, 16 local teams will get going in six leagues, some of which are the same as they have been for a bit, some of which look a fair bit different. Here’s how they break down.
2A Evergreen Conference
At the top of the local pyramid are the (comparatively) large schools in the 2A EvCo, which looks exactly the same as it has in recent years in terms of member schools, and relatively similar in terms of pecking order. W.F. West and Tumwater are generally expected to challenge each other for the title, with the rest of the league vying for the other two spots in the crossover week. Last year those went to Black Hills and Shelton, but Aberdeen came within a Kansas tiebreaker of its own bid, and Rochester and Centralia will try to throw themselves into that mix as well this time around.
1A Evergreen League
For awhile the smallest league in the area, the 1A Evergreen now sits around the same as its 2B brethren with five teams. Last year saw Tenino, Eatonville, and Montesano finish in a three-way tie for first place, with Hoquiam and Elma bringing up the rear. Both Tenino and Eatonville are starting new eras in 2023, with the Beavers now led by Darren Tinnerstet and the Cruisers — who made the state title game in 2021 — introducing Rex Norris as their new coach. Like with the 2A EvCo, the league gets four spots in the crossover week.
SWW 2B North
The first of two upper divisions is where things start to get new — and complicated. With the introduction of the lower “West” Division, the North is down to five teams: Napavine, Pe Ell-Willapa Valley, Morton-White Pass, Raymond-South Bend, and Forks. Napavine, which hasn’t lost a regular-season since pre-COVID times, is the heaviest of favorites, and expected to run away with the division, if not the state. Come the end of the season, the top three teams in the standings will make the crossover outright, while the fourth-place team will take on the No. 2 out of the West in a play-in game.
SWW 2B South
The true meat grinder of the area is only going to be made more so by the fact that Wahkiakum has left, leaving just four teams to battle against each other: Toledo, Onalaska, Adna, and Kalama. Stevenson, the on-again, off-again member of the Central 2B League, is officially part of the division in that the Bulldogs play all four other schools, but their games don’t count toward the league standings. All four teams make the crossover, with fourth-place playing a play-in against a West team. Expect tiebreakers to be needed.
SWW 2B West
Introduced last year as a way to limit forfeits and keep schools from dropping down to 8-man by shielding them from the heavy-hitters in the area, the lower 2B division has expanded to be larger than either of its upper brethren. Chief Leschi has left to play 8-man full time, but Wahkiakum comes in from the South and Ilwaco and Rainier enter from the North, joining Toutle Lake, Ocosta, and North Beach. At the end of the season, the West’s top team will play the South No. 4 for the right to play the North No. 1 in a crossover, while the West No. 2 will face the North No. 4 to play the South No. 1.
1B 8-Man Octet
The local 8-man league has grown to eight teams officially, suddenly becoming the largest group in the area. It still doesn’t have an official name, so we’ll keep suggesting ideas until something sticks. The mountain was Naselle’s to rule for years before Mossyrock finally toppled the Comets last year in a 10-0 start to the season. Those two come in as the favorites to battle for the league crown, but coaches expect Winlock, Muckleshoot Tribal, and newcomers Chief Leschi to also be in the mix.