Kyle Lavender assisted at Mountain View for one year before spending the last three seasons as Redmond's defensive coordinator.
Kyle Lavender assisted at Mountain View for one year before spending the last three seasons as Redmond's defensive coordinator.

Kyle Lavender, hired to replace Brent Wasche as Redmond's football coach last month, will draw on the influence of two of the state's all-time great coaches in his first head coaching job.

Lavender's father, Gary, is No. 8 on the state's career win list for girls basketball, compiling a 544-190 record at Lake Oswego (1977-2004) and Sheridan (1974-76).

Lavender's football coach at Lake Oswego, Steve Coury, is 272-95 in 32 seasons with the Lakers, tied for No. 10 for most wins in state history.

“Having my dad, growing up around him, and being able to play for Steve Coury, I'm pretty lucky to have two mentors like that,” Lavender said.

Lavender, Redmond's defensive coordinator for the last three seasons, has been coaching since his playing days at Western Oregon University ended in 2012. He assisted at Western Oregon (2012-14, 2018-20) and Lewis & Clark College (2014-18) before moving to Central Oregon, where he joined Mountain View's staff in the COVID-shortened season in 2021.

After three seasons on the staff at Redmond, where he also has coached JV boys basketball, he gets a chance to run his own program.

“It's something I've always wanted to do,” said Lavender, who played tight end in high school and college. “I didn't think that it would happen this fast.”

Lavender said he will carry forward the philosophy of his father, who coached with the motto YGLI – “You've gotta love it.” He said his father is “extremely supportive” of his opportunity to be a head coach.

“He was quick to tell me that it's a lot, but he thinks I'm going to do a great job,” Lavender said. “He's excited to have even more of a reason to come over the mountains and come to some Friday night games.”

Lavender said that Coury had a “huge” impact on him. In his first meeting with the Redmond players after getting hired, he told them about his experience at Lake Oswego, where the team lost in the state final in his sophomore year and fell in the semifinals in his last two seasons.

“Playing for a legend like Steve Coury, I want to emulate what he did for me for these guys over here,” Lavender said. “I truly think he's one of the best coaches around. If I could have half the career, and half the impact, that he had on me and other kids at Lake Oswego, I'd be pretty happy about it. Just trying to incorporate that whole state of mind.”

At Mountain View, Lavender assisted under coach Brian Crum and defensive coordinator Tanner Cook. Lavender said he had interest in the Redmond head coaching job when it opened after the 2021 season, but the school hired Wasche, who brought Lavender aboard as defensive coordinator.

After Wasche went 4-5, 2-7 and 4-5 in his three seasons, the school decided to go in a different direction.

“I was thinking about interviewing just for the experience of it, so I could get that under my belt,” said Lavender, the office manager at Redmond. “But there was a ton of support from the kids, the parents, staff members, like, 'You should go for the head coach job.' I had hour-long conversations with Steve Coury and Brian Crum and they gave me some great pointers.”

Redmond started last season 3-1 before losing four in a row and missing the playoffs.

“It was tough,” Lavender said. “It felt like we were one step away from digging ourselves out, and then we fell short. But we're excited about this year. We saw a lot of adversity last year. We have a lot of guys that played, so we're going to have a lot of experience coming back.”

The Panthers can build around two outstanding linemen in junior Jace Eveland (6-7, 340) and freshman Peyton Eveland (6-6, 281), sons of Redmond athletic director Jesse Eveland. Lavender said they also will benefit from several athletes returning to the program after not playing last season.

Lavender and his wife, Lindsey, have two children: daughter Murphy, 4, and son Beaux, 14 months.

Benson on its way back

Benson is taking the first steps toward reinstating its football program.

The Techsters, who have not had a team for the past five seasons, plan to field a freshman team next season. The school intends to build toward a varsity team in the coming years.

Benson expects a bump in enrollment in the next few years as it returns to its renovated building. Football turnout will be a key factor in the progress toward a varsity team.

“It's a numbers game,” athletic director Jessica Russell said. “We won't have the student population to support healthy levels of football for a few more years.”

The school has hired Brian Corey, a former Benson assistant who was on the staff at Cleveland the last four years, as head coach. Corey is a teacher at Benson.

“He will get to bring this first group of freshmen up to be the first varsity team,” Russell said. “He's got a great vision for how to get them there.”

The Techsters, who won a state title in 1988, went 0-9 in 2018, their 16th consecutive losing season. Corey posted on X about the opportunity to restore a winning culture at Benson.

“The goal is to take this first freshmen class and win the PIL when they are seniors, and to once again make Benson Tech the preeminent football program in the PIL, the metro area, and the state of Oregon,” he said.

Roseburg taps Watson

Roseburg also has a first-time head coach in Matt Watson.

Watson, an assistant in the program for the past seven seasons, fills the vacancy left by Dave Heuburger's resignation. Heuburger went 21-48 in eight seasons with the Indians, including 2-7 last season.

The 34-year-old Watson, who also has assisted at North Bend and Rock Springs (Wyo.), served as offensive coordinator under Heuburger.

“I couldn’t thank Coach Heuberger enough for everything he’s done for me and my family,” Watson told the Roseburg News-Review. “The mentorship and the lessons that he’s taught me. I hope to build on the traditions and build on the success and continue to find success.”

Roseburg will be dropping from the 6A Southwest Conference to the 5A Midwestern League next season. Since 2014, the Indians have had one winning season, going 9-2 in 2021.

“It’s not going to be an automatic cakewalk. Nothing is ever going to be given to us,” Watson told the News-Review. “It’s not like we’re suddenly going to be punching down. Nothing but respect for all the teams we know we’re going to be facing.”

'Zero week' returns

The OSAA delegate assembly on Monday voted to make a change to the football calendar.

The delegate assembly amended the first contest date for football to allow schools to play their nine regular-season games in a 10-week period. Previously, it was a nine-week window.

The football ad hoc committee, sports medicine advisory committee and executive board sponsored the recommendation. It creates greater flexibility for scheduling, allows for adjustments due to air quality issues early in the season and provides a bye week for during the season.

The delegate assembly also heard a first reading for girls flag football as an emerging activity. It will hear a second reading in October.

Thirty-two schools are playing girls flag football this spring. The sport will have its first season as an OSAA emerging activity next spring.