Football diary: Casey seeks to restore Corvallis’ ‘magic’
Longtime college assistant Thomas Casey returns to his roots as Spartans coach; Bend and Lowell fill coaching vacancies
New Corvallis coach Thomas Casey served as Western Illinois’ defensive coordinator from 2005-2011. (Photo courtesy)
Three decades have passed since Thomas Casey began his football coaching career at Corvallis, his alma mater.
In those days, wherever Casey coached at colleges across the country, he kept tabs on the Spartans, always making sure to text the coach “Beat CV” the week of the rivalry game. of Crescent Valley.
“I just have this really high affinity and passion for Corvallis High School and Corvallis High School football,” Casey said.
Now Casey, who returned to Corvallis in 2016, will try to use that emotion to inspire the Spartans. He was hired as a coach at Corvallis, where the side went 0-9 last season and will ride a 14-game losing streak through 2023.
“I wouldn’t have taken another high school job in America, but this one was different,” Casey said. “It’s my high school. This is where my parents went to school. My family played football there. It was my very first coaching job. I don’t do this just to do it. He has a purpose, and that is to get this thing back to where it needs to be, and where it deserves to be.
“I’ve never lost to CV in football in my life, and I don’t plan on starting that anytime soon.”
A graduate of Corvallis in 1989, Casey began coaching the Spartans under Gary Beck in his first two years after high school. After a short stint as a defensive coordinator at Salem Academy, he served as a graduate assistant at Oregon State (1993-97), launching his career in college football.
Casey attended college programs at Army, Feather River College (California), Tyler Junior College (Texas), Western Illinois, Augustana (Illinois), and Lenoir-Rhyne (NC).
Since returning home, Casey has embarked on a second career in commercial real estate. He watched Corvallis football, and when Chris McGowan resigned as coach after going 99-106 in 21 seasons, he considered the opportunity.
Casey liked the fact that of the 48 players in the varsity roster last season, only eight were seniors.
“I still consider myself a crafty coach,” Casey said. “I compared the roster with the league and the league leaders, and said, ‘They’re all seniors, this could be a good opportunity. So I have pretty high expectations.
Casey, a reserve lineman on the 1986 state runner-up team, remembers Corvallis’ huge athletic success in the 1980s. He hopes to restore that winning atmosphere.
“They need to understand the history of the program, what Spartan magic was, and instill some of those qualities in these guys,” Casey said. “Let them know, hey, this is a big deal.”
Casey said he has spent most of his time since being hired “creating and reshaping the culture” of the program. He renamed the weight room “Collision Enhancement Center”.
“We’re going to be a tenacious, state-of-the-art physical team,” he said. “It’s all going to start in this weight room.”
Casey, who served as defensive coordinator in his last five college jobs, plans to coach defense at Corvallis. He has yet to hire an offensive coordinator.
“We’re going to do some things on defense that are going to create problems,” he said. “It’s going to be quite aggressive and attacking.”
Casey, who has moved to the home of his youth, sees taking up Corvallis’ job as a way to bring his life full circle.
“What a great way to end a coaching career,” he said.
Lowell goes with Yarbrough
Lowell, a 2A quarter-finalist last season, has hired Ray Yarbrough to replace Pat Todd, who resigned after going 85-40 in 12 seasons.
Yarbrough went 37-54 in nine seasons at Illinois Valley (2008-14), Churchill (2015) and Oakridge (2019). He helped Todd at Lowell last season.
All but two starters are eligible to return next season from a team that finished 10-1, including explosive second running back JaMar Thurman.
“I’m really excited,” Yarbrough said. “Pat has done an amazing job of laying the foundation for a really solid football program. It’s not very often you get the keys to a well-oiled machine. There are a few groceries in the closet. It looks like we have some pretty talented football players coming back.
After leaving Oakridge, Yarbrough spent two years coaching his son, Justin, in youth football. He spent a year at Triangle Lake before moving to Lowell, where he teaches cabinetmaking.
A graduate from the Illinois Valley, Yarbrough said he had “always been a low school guy.”
“I spent a year as a head coach at Churchill, and while I enjoyed the experience, what I learned was how much I love the small schools and the relationships that you build with the community,” Yarbrough said. “Lowell certainly fits that bill.”
Cooper takes the reins of Bend
Kevin Cooper was promoted from assistant to head coach at Bend, which reached the 5A semifinals last season.
Cooper, a member of the coaching staff for the past 15 seasons, will succeed Matt Craven, who went 48-55 in 11 years with the Lava Bears. He becomes Bend’s third coach since 1988, following Craig Walker (1989-2011) and Craven (2012-22).
“I’m absolutely touched by this,” Cooper told the Bend Bulletin. “Three coaches in 35 years and the legacy that comes with that is pretty special. I don’t take that lightly. … We don’t change coaches very often at Bend High.
Craven will remain with the team as defensive coordinator, the role he had as head coach.
Cooper, a California native who played quarterback through Cal Poly University, served as Bend’s offensive coordinator. His wife, Kristin, has coached Bend’s volleyball team to two state championships over the past 15 seasons.