Head Coach Ty Tomlin recaps the Warriors’ big win

Editor’s note: Following Lebanon’s historic football championship victory, writer Jason Casey got a chance to chat with Coach Ty Tomlin about the Warriors’ win and what led up to it. Here’s that conversation, with slight editing (we’ve eliminated a few repeated comments):

Lebanon Local: When the season started, did you think your team could make a run like this? What were your expectations going into the season?

Ty Tomlin: I have been coaching for 16 years and four as a head coach, and every year you kind of tell kids we can do something awesome. However, this was a group that in the back of your head said we could actually have an opportunity to do this because of the group of seniors we had and their work ethic and the things they have done to this point.

So at the beginning of the year the coaching staff had this idea, “Hey, this is a special group. We have an opportunity to get into the playoffs, and at that point, we have an opportunity to make a run at this whole thing.” We were kind of preaching that pretty consistently with our kids at the beginning of the year and then they bought into it and went from there.

Lebanon Local: At what point, did you feel confident that this is real: “We could make a run?”

Ty Tomlin: I think it was after our first two league games. Beating Silverton and Crescent Valley, both of them on the road.

Silverton has always been the one for me, so far, that has always kind of thumped us. John Mannion does a great job with that program, so they are always a really solid team. I think when we got that one, even for the kids it was like,”OK, we got over that hurdle.” It was like, “OK, we can do this. We have an opportunity now to run the table in the league and get a league title.”

From there you just never know. You just get to the playoffs and kind of see what you can do. So I think those first two league games, after taking care of that, we were like “OK, we have an opportunity to do something pretty special.”

Lebanon Local: Who were the key players in the game other than Jackson Hoene, Ty Hargis, and Nathaniel Maddox?

Ty Tomlin:  Up front, our O-line kind of took over in the second half. All of those guys up front did a great job.

In the first half, we just didn’t have enough time to throw the ball. They were not giving Ty enough time to do that. They stepped up big. Then they stepped up big for Maddox to run the ball as well as he did in the second half. All of those guys did a fantastic job.

On defense, there are three other guys that really stand out. One is Jakeb Cripe, our defensive end. He is a stalwart guy that worked so hard. The last play, he had a sack to end the game for us. I think he ended up with, like, 11 sacks this year and is an awesome defensive lineman for us.

The other two guys are Ty Miller, our inside linebacker and Tanner Sallee, an outside linebacker. Those two guys were everywhere in that state title game. They played left and right; it does not seem like much when you watch it but when you look at the film, they made some plays, and if they did not make them it could have been a different situation.

Lebanon Local: Now that you’ve won a state title as a coach,  what ingredients does it take to win a state title?

Ty Tomlin:  I think that it is a lot of everything. No. 1, you have to have good young men with integrity. If you do not have that, I don’t think other things tend to fall in line. If you have that, they will do all of the little things you need to do to be in that position.

That is the No. 1 most important thing. After that, I have been on two of these now. I have been fortunate. There is a combination of one, you have got to have good kids, young men, and you’ve got to have good athletes.

I don’t think we were the best athletes ever on a Friday night, but we had a really good team – good enough athletes to where they could make plays for us .

You have got to have a good coaching staff, which we did have. We have a lot of great coaches on our staff ,that have been around the game a long time and know it really well, and knew how to help young men kind of figure out who they were.

You have got to have good support, up top, with our athletic director, which he did a great job.

And then you have got to have parents that are invested and want to see their kids do well.

I think it is really a combination of all those things.  think you have to have all those things to make it happen and make the run that we made.

Lebanon Local:: Was your time as a player at the University of Oregon helpful during the run to the championship was there anything you could point to and use as motivation for the players?

Ty Tomlin:  I think being around so many great athletes that had to work hard for an individual goal that they wanted. I was always proud; I was never a big-time player at Oregon; I was a walk-on kid.

My senior year (quarterback Joey) Harrington and (Coach Mike) Bellotti said, “what Ty does is a testament to what every player should be. Works hard, he does all of the little things he has to do. He has put himself in this position and has earned the right to be a part of this team and a leader of our seniors.”

That was a big thing for me to hear that and feel like if you do work hard and continue to grind for what your dreams are, you are going to be rewarded in one shape or form. I think that always kind of stuck with me in that regard at Oregon. I have a lot of respect for those two guys, especially; it was nice to hear that and kind of gave me that confidence that this is something that I kind of use consistently and carried with me to motivate me to do what I need to do.

Lebanon Local: What did you tell the team at halftime in the state championship game? (The Warriors were trailing 10-7 going into the locker room.)

Ty Tomlin:  That “We are fine; it was just little things. A couple of things on offense, that we are the better team. Right now we are not playing that way. We have just got to trust each other.”

For Ty (Hargis), it was little tiny things where Ty was looking at stuff in the secondary; he was not trusting that it was there. We just said, “Look, Ty, you have just got to trust us. Do you trust us as coaches that those things are going to be there? Then throw the ball.”

We asked our linemen, “Are we better up front than those guys?” and they were like, “Yeah.” “OK, we are going to run the ball behind you and grind this thing out behind you guys. You need to get it done.” Maddox basically said,” Look, I want the ball,”  and “OK linemen, get it done for him.”

(To) our defense, I said, “Look, we are fine. Let’s just keep doing what we are doing.”

So we made tiny little checks that we need to do. I think we kind of reaffirmed that we deserved to be here. We just needed to perform and do what we have done all year long.

I think in the first half we were kind of feeling things out and let the moment get a little bigger than what it needed to be. Then we settled down and played our game, and that is kind of what we have done all year long.

The second half was kind of that testament of our kids saying, “OK,” and our coaches settling our kids down a little bit getting them refocused on what we have done all year long. “Just go do it because you have got 24 minutes to go do it,” and they did that.

Lebanon Local: Do you think the loss to South Albany (16-14 in the Warriors’ second-to-last league game) helped the team?

Ty Tomlin:  I have no doubt that it helped us.

I think our kids are very humble and I think our kids understand the work that it takes to get to that point.

However, It was kind of a wake-up call, and you cannot just walk onto the field – we were 7-0, and they were 2-6 or something like that. So (the players) saw that and just thought, “We are just going to roll these guys,” and I think that was a definite taste of humble pie. Were we the better team? I think if we play them nine or 10 times, we win nine.

They showed up that night, and I give full credit to them and their staff. I think that showed. Our kids did not show up and thought they were just going to roll through these guys and got punched in the face, and we definitely deserved that loss.

I think that woke them up for the next game, having to a play a really good Dallas team. I think we always go to go back to that and say, “Hey look, you guys, just can’t show up; remember that one.”

Nobody wants to lose, but it did re-motivate or refocus our kids about, “Hey, we can’t just-show-up-kind of mentality.”

Lebanon Local:As a local guy from Lebanon what does it mean to you to bring a state title in football to Lebanon?

Ty Tomlin:  I don’t know if I have words for it yet, honestly. It is really humbling.

No. 1, I always tell kids every day, “Why can’t we do this here? How many guys walked down these halls, played at that stadium, put on these uniforms, and have never done what you guys have done?

“There are so many people who are rooting for you and what you to do this for the community of Lebanon.”

I am one of them. I never got the opportunity to do that. My dad, being here for so long, and never getting it done.

I guess it’s like this combination of all the stuff he taught me as a coach and mentor and what he did for the players in the community, because he was part of this process.

It was kind of like the way we do things is the right way. You create good young men, and you do something for a community.

I am proud to be part of this whole thing because I think Lebanon is a great place and I think the kids here and the people here deserve something like this and they can do something like this if they put their minds to it. I think that is what it is really about. I am so proud for that and that we got to do something positive for the community, and hopefully we keep on trying to do it down the road.

Lebanon Local: After that reverse on third and long then fourth down conversion I thought everything kind of swung in your direction, did you notice the same?

Ty Tomlin:  Yeah, it was that series. It was 17-20, and then we got into the end zone, and that reverse was like it one of those things we have been running that dang reverse forever, and I was like, “We are going to run this thing.”

It was kind of one of those moments where it was all set up for that play we have been practicing. Hoene had been running that route well in all the practices. Ty threw the ball really well in practices. It was just a combination of those kids practicing well and in the game, it just kind of came down to what they did in practice.

We had practiced for so long, just run it and see what happens. It worked out – just ran it, their end bit, Hoene made a great adjustment, Hargis threw a good enough ball so Hoene could make a play on it and he had to make a great play, and I think that was kind of the moment when our kids came onto the sideline, and at that point it was 27-17.

“OK, we got this. We have got to get one more stop.” They came up with the turnover Rice had that pick. That fourth-down play is something we had been practicing all week because we felt like their corners bite really hard on our slants and they play on the inside position, so Hoene was in my ear all second half. We call it Sluggo; “Hey, can we run that Sluggo?”

I said, “Yeah.” (But) I just made sure not to run it in the third quarter because I didn’t want the wind in his face. It came to that fourth-and-16, and it was either play it safe or let it go.

I said,  “No, dang it; we have been practicing this all dang week.”

I called Hoene, “Where you at?” and I said, “Let’s go run it.”

He smiled, and he said, “Let’s go get it.”

Lebanon Local: Can you talk about how the offensive line played specific guy?

Ty Tomlin:  Leaf Cripe he is a junior for us, and he is probably one of our biggest, strongest and physical guys that we have on the offensive line. He has really kind of taken over that spot this year because he was not that big O-line guy last year, but he was just like, “Tomlin, you are going to run behind us. Please run behind us.”

And Cooper Brooks, the guy next to him, was shaking his head. “Yeah, yeah we can get this guy. We will get Maddox a nice big hole.”

Our guy in the middle, Owen Baker, has just been a stalwart. He broke fingers on his right hand, I think, in the third or fourth game. So, he had to go from his right hand to his left hand to snap, and we have never had a bad snap all year long. He was just a tough guy up front.

He was just like, “Tomlin, we got these guys,” and he doesn’t say hardly anything, so when he says something, you go, “OK, I better listen to this kid.”

And right now next to him is Corbin, who is just a big puppy, who is a sophomore. He’s like, “Yeah, I just want to hit people. Come on, Tomlin, let’s go.”

Our other tackle is Jacob Rossman, and he is a guy that didn’t play ball. This was his first year since eighth grade, and he has just grown into that position and became a starter for us on a state championship team, and he was in there just shaking his head, like, “Come on, Tomlin, we got this, we got this.”

So, all of those guys kind of nodding at me. I thought, “OK, these are our guys. They got us here, let’s ride them and make this happen.”

Then you’ve got Maddox chiming in my year, “Yep, let’s go.” It kind of became a no-brainer in the second half. We were going to pound this thing away a little bit, and that set up some of our throws that we had. It’s really a testament to those guys having faith in what they do and giving me a ton of confidence to say, “These guys want it. Let’s run behind them.”

Lebanon Local: Maddox’s running style – he is a punishing, violent runner, do you think that wore on Wilsonville?

Ty Tomlin:  Yeah, I do think so, Maddox kind of had something to prove this week. He was really disappointed in how he played in the semis against Dallas. He really was like, “Tomlin, I need to make up for that. I didn’t play to my teammates’ standard.”

He really wanted to prove something (in the championship game). He had been running that way, for the most part, all year long, so that combination of wanting to prove that to his teammates and saying “This is how I can run the ball” – he is a load, he is strong, and he is tough to bring down.

Over time, it is going to wear down on a defense. I do think that had some effect on them.

Lebanon Local: Anything further?

Ty Tomlin: I am just proud for our kids and proud for our community. Again, I am very humbled that I get to be part of this with this group of kids. I am super thankful for my staff that I have. I have an amazing staff that I am super lucky to have.