HILLSBORO – When Steve Turner returned to Cascade High School as its football coach in 2012, he had a resume that demanded respect.
It was the homespun manner of the professional wrestling aficionado and occasional acquaintance of Dolly Parton that got everyone to buy in that he is for real.
Turner came back to Cascade wanting to help make the program great again, and its state championship Saturday did just that.
“The very first time I met him, I definitely had an immediate trust,” said senior linebacker Malachi Gonzalez. “I talk with him for 10 minutes every day during lunch. He’s been a great coach, a great role model for everyone.”
After graduating from Willamette – where he was a standout as a defensive player – Turner spent six seasons as an assistant at Cascade under Karl Elliott, including Cascade’s 1980 state championship season.
He spent time at Rainier, North Medford and Mountain View – including coaching Mountain View to the 2011 Class 5A state championship – before coming back to Cascade to take over a program from Elliott that was 3-7 in its previous two seasons
He never advertised that getting Cascade to the state championship level would be easy.
“It was that group of seniors when I first came in that wanted to win, the Cody Crawford’s, the Justin Kruse’s,” Turner said. “They were tired of losing and they wanted somebody to come in and say this is how you do it. And whether or not it was the right way, we did it.
“And it’s the old fashioned way. It’s hard work. It’s not smoke and mirrors. It’s doing all the work that nobody else wants to do. In this society of immediate gratification these kids learned how to persevere and put their teeth to the grindstone. We have some great coaches.”
Turner’s down-to-Earth manner connects with people – be they players, coaches or fans – on a level at which most coaches can only dream.
And it got the players to buy in to a level where they could be state champions.
“The relationship, it’s huge,” Cascade quarterback John Schirmer said. “He’s our coach, without a doubt, but he’s one of like our friends. We know we can trust him with anything, we can go to him for anything, and we just know he has our backs.
“The first thing he ever said to me my freshman year is I’m going to be all over your butt for the next four years so you might as well get used to it. He stayed true, and it’s just the trust that we have in him.”
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6701 or Twitter.com/bpoehler