Preseason prep football area power rankings: Thunder making some noise

The Columbian is debuting a new feature this high school football — area power rankings.

These are rankings of teams relative to the classification that they play at. Another way of looking at it is which teams have the greatest chance of making a deep playoff run in the postseason.

The teams ranked here are from The Columbian coverage area: the three Greater St. Helens Leagues, 1A Trico League, plus 2B teams Kalama and Stevenson.

So example, if we did this at the end of last year, Kalama would be No. 1 because the Chinooks won the 2B state title. Camas and Ridgefield would follow because those teams reached the state quarterfinals at 4A and 2A respectively.

If a 1A team is rated above a 4A team, it doesn’t mean the 1A team could beat the 4A head-to-head. It just means the 1A team has better chance of advancing deeper in the 1A state playoffs than the 4A team does at 4A.

Here is the preseason top-10 area power rankings.

Hockinson junior Jarod Oldham throws the ball Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, during the Hawks’ 38-28 loss to Enumclaw at Battle Ground High School. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian)

No. 10 — Hockinson (7-3 in 2021 in 2A)

It’s a little odd to start this ranking with one of the more successful programs in the area. Hockinson has reached the state playoffs six of the past seven seasons (in which state playoffs were held). But there are a couple of things working against the Hawks this year. First, they lost of load of talents players after last year. Secondly, they play in a very competitive league.

Skyview senior Tanner Beaman celebrates with the team after scoring a touchdown Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, during the Storm’s 37-7 win against Union at the Kiggins Bowl in Vancouver. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian)

9. Skyview (8-3, 4A)

The Storm have reached seven of the past eight state playoffs. Skyview returns experience on defense, but the Storm will be looking for younger players to step up on offense.

8. Washougal (3-6, 2A)

The Panthers have the least impressive win-loss record from 2021 to make our preseason list. But Washougal has loads of talent by returning the bulk of their starters from last year, topped by junior quarterback Holden Bea.

Kalama’s Jackson Esary (4) holds up the WIAA Class 2B state football trophy while surrounded by teammates after beating Napavine 16-14 on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, at Harry E. Lang Stadium in Lakewood. (Jared Wenzelburger / The Chronicle)

7. Kalama (12-0, 2B)

The Chinooks are the defending 2B state champions. But gone from last year is the core of star players topped by all-state quarterback Jackson Esary. Also gone is head coach Sean McDonald, replaced by his assistant Mike Phelps. The core of the roster is young, but still talented.

6. La Center (6-3, 1A)

The Wildcats return a load of talent around the field, especially in the trenches. The new starter is quarterback Tru Feldman, a sophomore. But the Wildcats are very high on Feldman, especially with the talent and experience around him.

Union junior Clayton Maus tackles Camas senior Jon Schultz on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021, during the Titans’ 17-7 loss to Camas at McKenzie Stadium in Vancouver. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian)

5. Union (6-3, 4A)

The Titans are the lone team on this list that did not qualify for the players. Union lost three games, but two were to league rivals Camas and Skyview, keeping the Titans on the outside. But the Titans return experience onf defense and added an impact transfer from Central Catholic in lineman Joe Merlino.

Kelso’s Hunter Letteer is pursued by Prairie defense at District Stadium in Battle Ground on Friday, September 24, 2021. (ELAYNA YUSSEN for The Columbian)

4. Kelso (8-3, 3A)

The Hilanders are coming off a year in which they reached the first round of state. Kelso returns seven starters on each side of the ball. All-league linemen Brady Phillips and Dom Kemp are back leading the way for running back Conner Noah, a University of Nevada commit.

Ridgefield’s Logan DeBeaumont (14) looks for an open teammate in the second quarter at Ridgefield High School on Saturday night, Nov. 13, 2021. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian)

3. Ridgefield (11-1, 2A)

The Spudders’ 11-win season was the program’s best season since winning a state title in 1995. Ridgefield brings back both quarterbacks — Brayden Malella and Logan DeBeaumont — and other key players around the field.

*LEADOPTION* Camas junior Sam Stark sheds a tackle Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, during the Papermakers’ 57-20 win against Mount Rainier in a 4A GSHL playoff game at Doc Harris Stadium. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian)

2. Camas (7-4, 4A)

The Papermakers took their lumps in non-league play, starting 0-4. Then they won seven in a row before falling at Kamiakin in the state quarterfinals. Camas returns eight all-league players, including QB Taylor Ioane, WR Zach Blair and lineman Holt Williams, and a ton of depth.

Mountain View quarterback Mitch Johnson throws a screen pass in a 3A State preliminary game on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, at McKenzie Stadium. Seattle Prep defeated Mountain View 38-27 to end the Thunder season. (Joshua Hart/For The Columbian)

1. Mountain View (7-3, 3A)

By a razor-slim margin, the Thunder take our top spot. The defending 3A GSHL champion brings back a load of all-league players — QB Mitch Johnson, WR/DB Kyle Chen, WR/DB Jacob Martin and WR/DB Aiden Nicholson — and they have add a few new faces that will give the Thunder a loaded lineup in 2022.

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