Bill Crowson has sported many hats during his time at Monroe High.
From teacher to coach to principal to superintendent, Crowson’s resume is sprinkled with a variety of duties and responsibilities from his two-plus decades on staff. But this week, it’s mostly about football.
Crowson, in his eighth season as head coach, will lead the second-seeded Dragons (10-1) into Saturday’s OSAA 2A state championship game against No. 5 Santiam (11-1). Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. at Hillsboro Stadium.
“These are special opportunities and they don’t come along very often,” Crowson said prior to Tuesday’s practice at Corvallis High. The veteran coach also guided the Dragons’ baseball team to the 2014 2A/1A state title.
“You have to remind yourself that you are fortunate to be there and a lot of things have to go right. It’s great for the community, great for these kids, and they’ve worked hard at it.”
Last week’s 47-42 semifinal victory over Knappa sent Monroe to the finals for the first time since 1962. The Dragons, who were Class B co-champions in 1954 and 1956, routed Merrill 52-7 in the 1962 title game but were later forced to forfeit due to an ineligible player.
Santiam is making its first finals appearance since 1994.
“Winning would be a huge thing for our city and our school because we haven’t done it in so long,” Monroe senior tight end and linebacker Trent Warden said. “Our community does such a good job of rallying behind sports teams, so it would be a big deal.”
The Dragons have qualified for the playoffs seven times under Crowson, who took over for longtime coach Max Wall prior to the 2010 season. Crowson had been an assistant under Wall since 1993.
Along with coaching football and baseball, Crowson has also been a teacher, vice principal, principal and athletic director at Monroe. Crowson, a 1989 Monroe graduate, is now the interim superintend and district athletic director.
“I think of all the positions he’s held, his top priority is student first and helping their lives be better,” said Beau Sisneros, an assistant football coach and Monroe’s interim principal and athletic director. “That is (Crowson’s) ultimate goal. He is very team-oriented and he empowers coaches just as much as he does the students.”
Crowson started teaching at his alma mater after graduating from Western Oregon. He took over the baseball program in 1994 and was athletic director for 21 years and principal for 13.
In July, he began a new challenge as interim superintendent.
“It’s a small school, and it’s a luxury to be able to do some of those things,” Crowson said. “I like being in the building and being around kids. This is a blessing to be able to come out here and do this after school every day. I am fortunate that my board lets me do that and am fortunate the school supports that. It’s a good place to be and I’m very lucky to do it.”
Crowson’s passion for coaching is evident to his players.
A stoic leader, Crowson seldom raises his voice during games and practices. Yelling isn’t his preferred method of communication.
“He always tells you what he expects and if you don’t do it, he doesn’t really get on you,” senior standout Parker Wynn said. “It’s kind of a respectful thing where you just do what he asks and give it your all.”
Added Warden: “It’s great because not only do we see him at practice, but we see him throughout the entire day. He’s not just a football coach; he’s also there in your day-to-day lives, which gives you a closer connection and makes it easier to understand what he wants.”
Crowson is a strong believer in the value of high school athletics.
In today’s society, kids are regularly insulated from one of life’s harshest realities: failure. But in sports, failure is a regular occurrence.
“Athletics is one of the few places where we allow kids to go out and strive for something, and sometimes they fail,” Crowson said. “So just that notion of going out and putting the work and commitment into something with the knowledge that it may not work out for you, but you do it anyway. … I just think there’s a lot of values that come along with athletics that are a really critical piece.”
Win or lose Saturday, it’s been a special season on the gridiron for Monroe.
The Dragons survived Knappa’s spread offense last week while piling up 394 yards on the ground. Zach Young ran for 253 yards on 35 carries while Wynn added 74 on 14 touches. Both scored two touchdowns.
Much like Monroe, Santiam will lean on its power rushing attack to pick up yardage. It’ll be strength against strength for the state title.
“This year has been a wild ride,” Sisneros said. “It helps to have great kids; they make the job a whole lot easier.”