New Corvallis coach Thomas Casey served as the defensive coordinator at Western Illinois from 2005 to 2011. (Courtesy photo)
New Corvallis coach Thomas Casey served as the defensive coordinator at Western Illinois from 2005 to 2011. (Courtesy photo)

Three decades have passed since Thomas Casey started his football coaching career at Corvallis, his alma mater.

In that time, wherever Casey has been coaching in colleges across the country, he has kept tabs on the Spartans, always making sure to send a “Beat CV” text to the coach on the week of the 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 moved back to Corvallis in 2016, will try to use that emotion to inspire the Spartans. He has been hired as the coach at Corvallis, where the team went 0-9 last season and will carry a 14-game losing streak into 2023.

“I wouldn't have taken any other high school job in America, but this one was different,” Casey said. “It's my high school. That's where my parents went to school. My family played football there. It was my first coaching job ever. I'm not doing this just to do it. It has a purpose, and that's 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 1989 Corvallis graduate, Casey began coaching with the Spartans under Gary Beck in his first two years out of high school. After a short stint as the defensive coordinator at Salem Academy, he served as a graduate assistant at Oregon State (1993-97), launching his career in college football.

Casey assisted in college programs at Army, Feather River College (Calif.), Tyler Junior College (Texas), Western Illinois, Augustana (Ill.) and Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.).

Since moving back home, Casey started a second career in commercial real estate. He has been watching Corvallis football, and when Chris McGowan resigned as coach after going 99-106 in 21 seasons, he looked into the opportunity.

Casey liked that of the 48 players on the varsity roster last season, only eight were seniors.

“I still consider myself kind of a wily coach,” Casey said. “I compared the roster with the league, and the leaders in the league, and I said, 'They're all seniors, this might be a good opportunity.' So I've got some pretty high expectations.”

Casey, a reserve lineman on the state runner-up team in 1986, recalls the tremendous success that Corvallis athletics had in the 1980s. He is hoping to restore that winning atmosphere.

“They need to understand the history of the program, what Spartan magic was, and kind of 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 has renamed the weight room the “Collision Enhancement Center.”

“We're going to be a tenacious, on-the-edge, physical team,” he said. “It's all going to start in that weight room.”

Casey, who served as the defensive coordinator in his last five college jobs, plans to coach the 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 some issues,” he said. “It's going to be pretty aggressive and attacking.”

Casey, who moved back into the house of his youth, sees the taking the Corvallis job as a way of his life coming full circle.

“What a great way to bookend a career in coaching,” he said.

Lowell goes with Yarbrough

Lowell, a 2A quarterfinalist last season, has hired Ray Yarbrough to replace Pat Todd, who stepped down after going 85-40 in 12 seasons.

Yarbrough has compiled a 37-54 record in nine seasons at Illinois Valley (2008-14), Churchill (2015) and Oakridge (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 explosive sophomore running back JaMar Thurman.

“I'm really excited,” Yarbrough said. “Pat has done an amazing job building the foundation of a really solid football program. It's not very often you get handed 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 one year at Triangle Lake before moving over to Lowell, where he teaches wood shop.

An Illinois Valley graduate, Yarbrough said he has “always been a small-school guy.”

“I had one year as the head coach at Churchill, and while I did enjoy the experience, what I learned is how much I love small schools and the relationships you build with the community,” Yarbrough said. “Lowell certainly fits that bill.”

Cooper takes reins at Bend

Kevin Cooper has been 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 the third Bend coach since 1988, following Craig Walker (1989-2011) and Craven (2012-22).

“I’m absolutely humbled by it,” Cooper told the Bend Bulletin. “Three coaches in 35 years and the legacy with that is pretty special. I don’t take that lightly. … We don't change coaches very often at Bend High.”

Craven will remain on the staff as defensive coordinator, the role he had as head coach.

Cooper, a native Californian who played quarterback in college at Cal Poly, has served as Bend's offensive coordinator. His wife, Kristin, has coached Bend's volleyball team to two state championships in the last 15 seasons.