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Draw a triangle between Tigard, Lake Oswego, and Jesuit.

Then draw a line down the valley to Sheldon and turn the triangle into a little kite flying over those soft Portland suburbs.

Before stereotyping them as hot beds of fast food and video games, remember these sleepy bedroom strip malls are also home to the big thumpers who rule the 6A turf.

Call it the Oregon SEC plus 1.

Tigard rides a big wave from the Pacific Conference. Lake Oswego paddles in from Three Rivers. Jesuit rides the Metro and Sheldon floats the ducky Southwest.

They all have one thing in common, legacy coaches building championship teams.

Coach Ruecker for Tigard, Coach Potter at Jesuit, Coach Coury with the Lakers, and Coach Johnson of Sheldon all live for football. They breath it. Every football family in the state wants the same high commitment leaders roaming their school fields.

In tomorrow’s semi-finals, three out of four teams practice on fields so close to each other you don’t need a freeway to drive between them. That’s when it sinks in.


Except for the big surprise kid moving from out of town, freshmen rarely show up ready for football unless they’ve been playing all along. You know what that means.

Youth leagues coached by baby boomers are the pipeline of championship football. If your coach was born between 1946 and 1964, they’re a boomer. They saw Jim Brown get dirty in black and white. They were the first to wear Broadway Joe Namath’s white cleats and grow hair.

And they are getting older.

They cared enough about football to play the game, then play a part in youth coaching. They’re one reason teams gel. Strong youth coaching bonds winning traditions and gives their guys an edge in high school.

A player might not think about it until after they win it all, but they had to learn to be champions. They pushed themselves. They got pushed. It was worth it, but something is missing and they want the whole experience.

Maybe this happened to you.

You look at team pictures of your earlier playing days and a boomer coach’s face smiles back. You look closer and almost hear them whisper, “I knew you’d be a champion from the first practice.”

In the Oregon SEC you see boomer faces like Neil Lomax, Andy Hansen, Jerry Howe, and Mark Vanderyacht. Of the four teams meeting Saturday afternoon, they built three. After the final four grinds to the final two, one will be named champion next week.

Coaches Lomax, Hanson, Howe, and Vanderyacht know their math. Unless it’s Sheldon, one of their teams take it all.

Like youth coaches all over Oregon, they’ll be as happy for their players as a human can be. They’ll see a block they taught, a pass caught right, a break-away cut in the middle, and they’ll smile.

You know they’re watching. They want to see that block, that catch, that cut, as much as you want to make it. That’s what winners do.

Before the finals, do a boomer a favor. Look at your old team pictures and find the moms and dads who made you feel like a winner.

You take it from there. Let them know you remember. Say hello. Give them a high five.

If you send a card and they might keep it forever. Boomers are like that.

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About David Gillaspie
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