Les Schwab Bowl: Coach Chris Casey, Aloha players savor final go-round
By Jerry Ulmer
Oregonian, June 21, 2011
The season is more than two months away, but the football carousel already is spinning at a dizzying pace for Aloha coach Chris Casey.
Six months after leading the Warriors to their first state championship – completing a storybook turnaround – he presided over spring practices that included nearly 200 players.
He's been busy tracking the eligibility of players, spearheading fundraising efforts and dealing with the logistics of taking about 130 players to Aloha's annual team camp in Gold Beach next week.
If that's not enough, he is coaching the North team in the Les Schwab Bowl high school all-star game this week. The game is 6 p.m. Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium, and Aloha leaves for team camp at 6 a.m. Sunday.
“It never ends,” said Casey, a father of four. “When people ask me if I recharge, truthfully, the wheels are always turning. The timing of the game isn't perfect, but I think it's important to do.”
The round-the-clock dedication is a big reason why Casey's star has quickly risen in the last two seasons.
Before he arrived at Aloha in 2004, the Warriors had won 17 games in the previous 14 seasons. In 2009, they ended a 22-year playoff absence. Last season, they won their first Metro League title since 1984 and the Class 6A championship.
Casey was a no-brainer pick as Class 6A coach of the year. This year, everyone is waiting to see if Casey and the Warriors – who have adopted the blue-collar image of their community in unincorporated Washington County – can contend for another title.
Casey already is working on the motivation for the Warriors in 2011.
“Everything we do is with a chip on our shoulder,” said Casey, a college assistant for 19 seasons at Linfield (1985-93) and Whitworth (1994-2003) in Spokane before joining Aloha.
“We have to do that at Aloha because even though many things have changed with overall belief and pride, the community and confidence, we still don't have the money and the socio-economic factors that influence the people around us in our league. Everything we do has got to be blue-collar.”
The lunch-pail gospel of Casey has struck a chord at Aloha. Four members of Aloha's senior class are hearing it one more time this week as members of the North team – linebackers Jesse Bresser and John Shaffer, defensive back Caylen Clardy and defensive end Michael Plueard.
They are savoring every moment.
“I'm looking forward to playing, but then again, I don't want it to be my last game with Coach Casey,” said Clardy, who also played quarterback for Aloha. “It's definitely going to be emotional for us. To be able to play one more game, to have him as a coach one more time, I feel privileged.”
Bresser said he is interested to see how Casey's message gets through to his North teammates.
“Coach Casey's message works for me not only in sports, but in life,” Bresser said. “You could almost say he's a father figure to me, outside of my home.
“He's probably the most mild-mannered guy you'll ever see, but he's a fierce competitor. I feel like that's how I am, so that's why I kind of got hooked. He wants to get the best out of every minute he has, and he pushes you to do that.”
Casey has created a monster of sorts at Aloha, which has an enrollment of more than 1,800, 11thhighest in the state, according to figures from 2009-10.
In his first season, he had about 120 players in the program. This season, after everything washes out, he expects to have more than 150. Included in the nearly 200 that turned out for spring football were more than 70 incoming freshmen.
The turnout was so large that Aloha had to order extra equipment.
“We've never seen that many in the Beaverton School District,” said Sunset athletic director Pete Lukich, who helps oversee the athletics budget for the district. “That was huge.”
As they rise to become one of the state's elite programs, it's important to Casey that the Warriors stay true to their identity.
The team did its annual fundraiser, “1,000 yards to Gold Beach,” on June 11. The previous week, they passed out fliers around Aloha, offering to do yardwork for donations. Players and coaches amassed on a Saturday and tackled the jobs, raising $11,000.
“We want them to have to invest and appreciate it,” Casey said. “People love it because we're providing a service, and the kids are having to work, instead of going door to door asking for money.”
Aloha players are the embodiment of Casey's work ethic. This week, Casey is seeing it reflected back to him one more time in his seniors.
“There are so many things we have that have helped us develop an identity, and it's fun to be with those guys and do that stuff again,” Casey said. “I care about our players about as much as anybody in the world, outside of my own family. It really means a lot to me.”
Casey's Aloha Warriors prove they were 'team of destiny'
By Kerry Eggers
Dec 11, 2010
CORVALLIS – A few seconds after Chris Casey got drenched with an ice shower from his jubilant Aloha High players, his older brother happened by.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am for him,” Pat Casey said, wearing a wide grin. “He’s done at Aloha what has always done – made people around him better.”
There can be no argument about what Chris Casey has done at Aloha, the exclamation point dotted Saturday with the Warriors’ 34-13 victory over Tualatin for the school’s first Class 6A state championship at Reser Stadium.
A downtrodden program in a blue-collar community overshadowed by its Metro League brethren is on top of the world, a long haul that began seven years ago when Casey took over as head coach.
When Casey began in 2004, the Warriors had gone 1-26 the previous three seasons. They didn’t win immediately, but they have slowly built to this season, when they finished 12-1 and got revenge against Tualatin, the only team to have beaten them.
“It’s great for the community, great for the school, great for all of us in the program,” said tailback Thomas Tyner, a breathtaking 6-1, 200-pound sophomore who carried 26 times for 163 yards and a touchdown.
The Warriors are a close-knit group of players who deflect praise to teammates and adore their coach.
“I don’t know where to start when talking about Coach Casey,” said Tyner, the state 100-meter champion as a freshman who will be the focus of a national recruiting push the next two years. “To sum it up in a word, it would be, ‘Hard worker.’ I guess that’s two words.”
“The hardest worker I’ve met in my life,” said Jesse Bresser, a senior who had the game of his life on the state’s biggest stage. “The only time Coach Casey is away from working for our football team is when he goes home to go to church. Then he
rests up so he can get back here and do it again.”
Casey’s principles were born during his playing days at Linfield under the great Ad Rutschman. His position coach there was Mike Riley, and he later spent nine years working with Jay Locey running the Wildcat defense. Casey loves to win, especially at a place where it hadn’t happened for the longest time.
“We’ve had to overcome so much,” Casey said. “We don’t have a lot of things most of the other schools have. There were a lot of years of losing. I’m so happy that’s over.
“You don’t a chance to get to the state finals very often. We couldn’t let this opportunity slip by. We were a team of destiny.”
Aloha was opportunistic Saturday, taking advantage of four first-half turnovers by Tualatin to seize a 24-0 lead. The Timberwolves made it interesting with a pair of touchdowns to get to within 24-13 late in the third quarter, but the Warriors were not to be denied.
Tyner was Aloha’s meal ticket on Saturday, but there were other heroes for Aloha.
Bresser scored on a 42-yard reception and a 40-yard interception return, one of his two picks. Quarterback Caylen Clardy, a shifty senior listed at 5-11 but probably closer to 5-9, was brilliant running the option and threw just enough to keep the Timberwolves honest.
“Caylen can make things happen,” Casey said. “We talk about having balance on offense; that’s not just running the dive play. He made a lot of good decisions tonight.”
Bresser and linebacker Nicolas Brockhoff – who had a game-high 13 tackles and a sack – led a defense that kept Tualatin’s pistol attack holstered most of the way.
“Our defense carried us again,” Casey said.
As the final seconds ticked away, the large throng of Aloha supporters chanted, “We’re No. 1!” Afterward, the students rushed the field and celebrated with their classmates.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without them,” Bresser said. “They’re our 12th man.”
Throughout the game, and especially in the closing minutes, Warrior players often would point a finger to the sky.
“That’s not for, ‘We’re No. 1,’ " Casey said. “That’s for Alex Vaandering.”
The Warriors dedicated the season to the 11-year-old ballboy, who died in his sleep on Oct. 1.
“He’s been our No. 1 motivation,” Bresser said. “I know Alex is looking down at us right now. I hope he’s real proud.”
Pat Casey was real proud of his brother on Saturday. But Casey – who coached Oregon State to back-to-back national baseball championships – couldn’t resist a dig.
“He needs one more title to catch me, dad gum it,” the younger Casey said. “As soon as he gets a second one, we’ll start talking.”
“I have two – got one at Linfield,” Chris Casey said with a smile. “Pat conveniently forgets about that.”
The Aloha coach will attend his church service as usual Sunday morning. Then he’ll begin working on that second one.