Longtime college assistant Thomas Casey returns to his roots as coach of the Spartans; Bend, Lowell is filling coaching positions
New Corvallis coach Thomas Casey served as defensive coordinator at Western Illinois from 2005-2011. (Photo courtesy)
Three decades have passed since then Thomas Casey began his career as a football coach at Corvallishis alma mater.
In that time, wherever Casey has coached at colleges across the country, Casey has kept an eye on the Spartans and always made sure to send a “beat CV” text to the coach on the week of the year Crescent Valley rivalry game.
“I just have this super 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 brought on as a coach at Corvallis, where the team finished 9-0 last season and will endure a 14-game losing streak until 2023.
“I wouldn’t have taken any other high school job in America, but this one was different,” Casey said. “This is my high school. That’s where my parents went to school. My family played soccer there. It was my first coaching job ever. I’m not doing this just to do it. It 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 anytime soon.”
A 1989 Corvallis graduate, Casey began coaching with the Spartans Under Gary Beck in his first two years out of high school. After a brief stint as defensive coordinator at Salem Academyhe worked as a research assistant at Oregon State (1993-97) and started his career in college football.
Casey assisted with collegiate programs at the 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’s watched Corvallis football and when Chris McGowan After stepping down as coach in 21 seasons, 99-106, he looked at the opportunity.
Casey liked that of the 48 players on last season’s varsity roster, only eight were seniors.
“I still consider myself a smart coach,” Casey said. “I compared the squad to the league and leaders and said, ‘They’re all seniors, this could be a good opportunity.’ So I have pretty high expectations.”
Casey, a 1986 reserve lineman on the vice-state team, recalls the tremendous success Corvallis Athletics enjoyed in the 1980s. He hopes to restore that winning atmosphere.
“You have 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’s 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, cutting-edge physical team,” he said. “Everything will start in this weight room.”
Casey, who served as defense 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 will create some problems,” he said. “It’s going to be pretty aggressive and offensive.”
Casey, who has returned to the home of his youth, sees taking the Corvallis job as a way in which his life closes.
“What a great opportunity to book a coaching career,” he said.
Lowell goes with Yarbrough
Lowell, a 2A quarterfinalist last season, retired Ray Yarbrough substitute Pat Toddwho resigned after 85-40 in 12 seasons.
Yarbrough has a 37-54 record in nine seasons Illinois Valley (2008-14), Churchill (2015) and oak avenue (2019). He assisted Todd at Lowell last season.
All but two starters are eligible to return next season from a team that finished 10-1, including an explosive second running back JaMar Thurman.
“I’m really excited,” Yarbrough said. “Pat has done a great job laying the foundation for a really solid football programme. It’s not often that you get your hands on the keys to a well-oiled machine. There are some groceries in the cupboard. 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 sea before transferring to Lowell where he teaches lumber trading.
Yarbrough, an Illinois Valley graduate, said he was “always a little kid.”
“I was a head coach at Churchill for a year and while I enjoyed the experience, I learned how much I love small schools and the relationships you build with the community,” Yarbrough said. “Lowell certainly fits that bill.”
Cooper takes the reins in Bend
Kevin Cooper was promoted from assistant to head coach To bendwho reached the 5A semi-finals last season.
Cooper, a 15-season member of the coaching staff, will succeed Matt Craven, who went 48-55 in 11 years with the Lava Bears. After 1988, he will be the third bend trainer Craig Walker (1989-2011) and Craven (2012-22).
“I’m absolutely honored,” Cooper told the Bend Bulletin. “Three coaches in 35 years and the legacy that comes with it is something very special. I don’t take this lightly. … We don’t change coaches very often at Bend High.”
Craven will remain on the team as defensive coordinator, the role he had as head coach.
Cooper, a California native who played quarterback at Cal Poly in college, was Bend’s offensive coordinator. His wife, Kristinhas coached Bend’s volleyball team to two state championships in the past 15 seasons.