They knew it would be a challenge. And they came out of the fall season with lessons learned and a deeper understanding of what it takes to compete at the highest level of high school sports in Oregon.

The move from Class 5A to Class 6A as part of the OSAA’s latest school reclassification included a variety of both positives and negatives for fall sports teams at Bend High, Mountain View and Summit, but the coaches seem to agree that 6A is where they belong.

The most notable accomplishments from among the three Bend schools included a state championship for the Summit girls cross-country team — its 11th straight overall but first in 6A — and a state runner-up finish for Summit boys soccer.

In volleyball, Summit fell to Mountain Valley Conference rival Sprague in the state semifinals; Bend also lost to the Olympians, in the second round of the playoffs.

In girls soccer, Bend and Summit both reached the second round of the playoffs, where Bend fell to eventual state champion Jesuit 8-0 and Summit lost to league foe West Salem 2-1.

Football

The move to 6A perhaps had the greatest effect on Central Oregon football teams. Mountain View, which reached the 5A state semifinals in 2017, this year lost to Tualatin 49-20 in the first round of the 6A playoffs. Bend also fell in the first round, 40-7 to Sunset.

Mountain View football coach Brian Crum said the biggest difference he noticed in moving up to compete against Salem-area schools in 6A’s Special District 6 was the depth of quality athletes.

“You’ve got more schools, a higher socioeconomic status in those schools, and so you’ve got a higher quality of athlete that you’re going against,” Crum said. “We might play a Hermiston last year who has one game-breaker on offense, but Southridge or Tualatin have two or three. We were looking at the record book at Mountain View in the 100-meter dash and we don’t have one kid in the history of Mountain View who was as fast as one of the top four kids from West Salem this year.”

Mountain View and Bend both finished the season 5-5. Summit was 2-7 and did not reach the playoffs. Perhaps most telling: Central Oregon teams were a combined 2-5 against Salem-area schools.

Crum said his players had to adjust to facing a high-caliber opponent each week.

“We know where the bar is now,” Crum said. “Now we can go back and reflect on what we need to do to reach that bar consistently. I think we can compete (with Salem schools). Everything takes time. I think we competed pretty well with them this year.”

Crum said that the three Bend schools need to start retooling their youth programs, their freshman and JV teams, and most important, their strength and conditioning programs to keep pace with other 6A football programs.

If they had remained in 5A this season, Crum said, he is confident the Cougars would have returned to the state semifinals.

“I kind of felt for our seniors,” he said. “They drew the short straw their senior year. But in the long term, it always makes you better when you play teams that are better. Our kids know that they can compete. We played some good teams, but it’s nothing we can’t aspire to.”

Volleyball

Bend High volleyball was coming off back-to-back 5A state championships as the Lava Bears started their first season in 6A.

Coach Kristin Cooper said she enjoyed the stiffer competition and saw her team improve by “leaps and bounds” through its season in the Mountain Valley Conference, which produced two of 6A’s four state semifinalists.

“We had to be at the top of our game, every week, two games a week,” Cooper said. “I think that was good in helping create better volleyball players. This last season showed the girls where we need to be, and we know now what we need to do in the offseason and how we need to mentally prepare.”

Bend finished third in the MVC with a league record of 10-4 before falling to Sprague in three games in the second round of the state playoffs. Summit was second in the MVC at 13-1 before losing to the Olympians in the state semifinals. Mountain View finished fifth in the MVC (5-9) and did not make the playoffs.

Cooper said the increased travel with the move to 6A this season offered pros and cons.

“There were games where we were getting home at 1 a.m.,” Cooper said. “And then you have to get up and be at school the next morning. That was hard. But we had a lot more time as a team. We created great memories on the bus rides.”

Boys soccer

Central Oregon boys soccer teams proved they belong in 6A, especially Summit, which won three consecutive overtime playoff matches to reach the state final, where they lost to perennial power Jesuit 2-1 in a shootout. The MVC-champion Storm were 7-0 in league play and finished 17-2 overall.

Bend (3-1-3, 7-4-4) finished tied for second in the MVC and lost in the first round to Jesuit 2-1. Mountain View (1-6, 2-11-1) did not make the playoffs.

Bend coach Nils Eriksson said the move up to 6A went about as he expected.

“It was nice to play somebody else,” Eriksson said. “The same rest stop (on the route between Bend and the Willamette Valley) got old, but other than that, it was fine. They were good teams. By no means were they overwhelming.”

Eriksson said one difference in 6A is tougher competition earlier in the playoffs.

“The Mountain Valley is probably not quite as strong as the Metro League, which year in and year out has state contenders,” he said.

Girls soccer

Bend and Summit both had solid seasons in their first year of 6A girls soccer, but no team was going to beat Jesuit this season. The 19-0 Crusaders outscored their opponents 128-1 en route to the state championship.

Bend was unfortunate to have to face Jesuit in the second round of the playoffs on the Crusaders’ home field, where the Bears lost 8-0.

“It’s fun to think about playing them, but they should be able to win every year,” Summit coach Jamie Brock said of Jesuit, a private school in Portland. “They can recruit players. As public schools we can’t do that.”

Bend (4-3 MVC, 11-4-1) finished fourth in the MVC, while Summit (7-0, 11-5) won the conference before falling to West Salem in the second round of the playoffs. Mountain View (2-4-1, 5-5-3) did not reach the playoffs.

“For a decade I was begging to be in 6A, because we’ve been pretty solid,” Brock said. “Our season becomes a little more competitive. We’ve played quite a few 6A teams in our preseason before. Playing everybody twice in league was different. That was a little stressful.”

Cross-country

Summit’s cross-country girls continued their state dominance this season even with the change of classification, beating out new rival Jesuit for the Storm’s 11th straight state title.

Was the 6A title sweeter than the 5A championships Summit teams had won the previous 10 years?

“Yes,” said Summit coach Carol McClatchie. “But we can’t say that all those others in 5A were all that easy. We never take for granted that we’re going to do it. It’s never over till it’s over.”

Summit junior Fiona Max won the individual state title and will lead the Storm — competing as STORM OVER BEND — at the Nike Cross Nationals on Dec. 1 in Portland, where they will race for a national title.

“It’s really nice coming up to this class (6A) and proving that we belong here, and that we’re here to stay,” Max said.

The Mountain View girls also qualified for the state meet and finished 17th.

In the 6A boys cross-country state meet, Summit finished seventh and Bend was 13th.

— Reporter: 541-383-0318,

mmorical@bendbulletin.com

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