Greg Lawrence leaves legacy of winning, character, love: ‘It was every kid’s dream in Sherwood to play for the Bowmen’

Lawrence stepped down after 27 years as head football coach at Sherwood High School, but ‘the Bowmen way’ he helped establish will continue to guide the program long into the future.

By Dan Brood | Photos by Dan Brood

It’s the end of August.

For the past 30-plus years, that’s meant Greg Lawrence has been busy — really, really, really busy.

And he was more than happy about that.

But this year is different — really, really, really different.

And, once again, Greg Lawrence is more than happy about it.

After spending the past 33 years as a high school football coach, including the last 27 as the head coach at Sherwood High School, Lawrence, 59, has put away the whistle, clipboard and playbook, as he has retired as head football coach and as a teacher from Sherwood High School.

“I’m really enjoying life right now,” Lawrence said by phone from his new residence in Peoria, Ariz. “We have friends visiting us a lot. Kathi (Lawrence’s wife) has a calendar, saying who is showing up and when, and that’s great. I’m staying busy. I’m playing a lot of golf, going on morning walks and working out lifting weights.”

While Lawrence has stepped down from his coaching post with the Bowmen, he’s leaving quite a legacy at Sherwood. After taking over from John Hackworth as Sherwood’s head coach during the fall of 1994, Lawrence compiled a 234-74 record. His Bowmen teams won Class 5A state titles in 2010 and 2012 and also reached state championship games in 2004, 2005, 2011 and 2013.

Even when Sherwood moved up to Class 6A in 2014, the Bowmen juggernaut kept rolling, going 9-3 that season.

“In our first year in 6A, we didn’t miss a beat,” Lawrence said. “We showed that we could compete with anyone.”

The following year, Sherwood went 12-1, reaching the semifinal round of the Class 6A state playoffs.

This past season, the revised 2021 spring season, Sherwood went 5-1, ending the campaign on a five-game win streak. The Bowmen finished the season with a 36-13 victory at Silverton. That win would turn out to be Lawrence’s final game as Sherwood’s coach.

“He was a different kind of coach. He was hard on you, but also let you know he loved you,” said Lawrence’s son, Jake Lawrence, a 2011 Sherwood graduate and a former Bowmen football standout. “He installed the Bowmen family way. And we did become like a family. It was every kid’s dream in Sherwood to play for the Bowmen.”

“I love coach ‘Law,’” said Zak Taylor, a 2015 Sherwood graduate who played tight end and outside linebacker for the Bowmen before becoming the starting first baseman for the Oregon State baseball team that won the 2018 national championship. “He had a huge impact on me as a player and as a person. What I learned from him in football helped me so much with baseball.”

“I was blessed to be around a lot of great kids,” Greg Lawrence said of his time at Sherwood. “The community of Sherwood has always been a blessing to me. I got to meet a lot of amazing people. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s always going to be close to my heart.”

After the 2021 spring season, though, Lawrence decided it was the right time to call it a career.

“It was just time. COVID took a lot out of me. School just wasn’t the same. It was as good a time as any to step away. It was a good time to leave, and I don’t regret it at all,” he said. “I’m going to miss the camaraderie with the coaches, and I’m going to miss the kids. I try to keep up on what’s happening. And there are definitely things that I miss. But right now, there are a lot of other things that I want to do.”

And he wants to do them in Arizona.

Greg and Kathi Lawrence bought their new home in Arizona in November of 2020.

“We love the area. We wanted to get a place big enough to have people visit us. I’m extremely happy. After we bought the house here, every time we came out here, we just didn’t want to go back,” Lawrence said. “I’ll be going to North Carolina in October to play in a golf tournament, and I’ll be going to Las Vegas when I turn 60 (in September). I’m still young, and I really want to be able to enjoy life.”

The journey begins

While Greg Lawrence found plenty of success — championship success — in coaching, he also was successful as a player.

Lawrence was a star running back at Gladstone High School, where he played for coach Tom Vaught. During his junior year, he helped the Gladiators win the Class AA state championship, defeating Hidden Valley 21-8 at Portland’s Civic Stadium.

During Lawrence’s senior season, Gladstone reached the semifinals of the AA state playoffs before falling to Burns.

Lawrence played college football for four years at Western Oregon University in Monmouth. He was somewhat of a workhorse running back for the Wolves, carrying the ball 203 times during the 1983 campaign, including a whopping 40 times during a game against Eastern Oregon. Lawrence rushed for 221 yards in a game against Lewis & Clark in 1984.

At Western Oregon, Lawrence played for coaches Bill McArthur and Gale Davis.

“He was the veer offense guru,” Lawrence said of Davis.

After his playing days at Western Oregon, Lawrence stayed at the school, serving as the Wolves’ running backs coach under head coach Duke Iverson.

“On my journey, I got to learn from a lot of great coaches,” Lawrence said. “I made a long circle of being around some really good coaches.”

He soon got to meet another one.

Lawrence ended up doing his student teaching at Canby High School with John Hackworth.

“I learned a lot from him,” Lawrence said. “When he got the head coaching job at Sherwood, he asked me to come over with him and be an assistant coach. He said there wasn’t a teaching job open at the time, but I could substitute and coach football with him. That sounded good to me.”

Lawrence served as Hackworth’s defensive coordinator from 1988 through 1993. Their 1993 team reached the Class 3A state championship game, losing 15-7 to Junction City.

Before the 1994 season, Hackworth took a job in administration at Sherwood High School, leaving the football head coaching position open. It was an opportunity Lawrence wanted.

“When John went into administration, I interviewed for the head coaching spot at Sherwood,” Lawrence said. “I ended up interviewing with Ad Rutschman down at Linfield, and he ended up recommending me to be hired. He said it was the best decision he ever made. And, of course, I ended up coaching his grandson (Adley Rutschman).”  

Excelling at Sherwood

Lawrence took over as Sherwood’s head coach during the fall of 1994. His Bowmen squads were known for their deceptive wing-T offensive attack, and the team quickly developed a tradition of hard-hitting power football — and success.

But Sherwood football was about more than that.

“We created a culture in our school for football that was second to none,” Lawrence said. “We wanted the kids to have fun, but also to know that they had to work hard, and that it’s a team game. All of the kids bought into that. They wanted the team success.

“We had something unique, something to be really proud of.”

Friday night football at Sherwood High School became a happening — for the entire town.

“Friday nights at Sherwood were pretty special,” Lawrence said. “We involved the student body, the fans, the parents and the community. Everyone felt like they were part of the team. Coach Hackworth started that, and we just tried to keep making it bigger and bigger.”

“He made it a community event,” said Keegan Lawrence, Greg Lawrence’s youngest son, a 2014 Sherwood graduate. “When you think of Sherwood football, you think of Greg Lawrence.”

“I loved Friday night football at Sherwood, even more than baseball,” Taylor said. “He created a culture with Sherwood football. The whole community was involved. It was something that everyone wanted to be a part of.”

Lawrence’s 2004 squad reached the Class 3A state championship game, where it fell 37-13 to rival Wilsonville at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. The next year, the Bowmen again reached the Class 3A title tilt, where they were edged 17-13 by Marist at Autzen Stadium.

Sherwood wouldn’t get to the state championship game again until 2010, and this time, the Bowmen wouldn’t be denied. Sherwood claimed the school’s first football state title, tipping Marist 26-23 in overtime in the Class 5A final at Hillsboro Stadium, with Taylor Bonawitz booting a winning 25-yard field goal in the extra period.

The victory ignited an amazing run by the Bowmen at the Class 5A level. They were edged 14-13 by Mountain View in the 2011 state championship game. Sherwood came back to claim the 2012 state crown, beating Marist 46-20 in the final. In 2013, the Bowmen lost another one-point championship-game thriller, with West Albany getting a 21-20 victory.

“We had a great four-year run,” Lawrence said. “We really dominated in 5A.”

The Bowmen family

During that four-year run, Greg Lawrence was very familiar with many of the Bowmen players, but he was especially familiar with two of them.

His oldest son, Jake, was a receiver and defensive back for the team that won the 2010 state crown. Keegan was a standout running back and defensive back.

Of course, Lawrence also was close with the group of kids Jake and Keegan grew up with in Sherwood.

“I got to know a lot of those kids as more than just football players, because of my sons,” he said. “They all grew up visiting at our house. That was a close-knit group of kids.”

Taylor, who was good friends with Keegan, was one of those kids who spent a lot of time at the Lawrence household.

“He was a great coach on the field, but it was about a lot more than football,” Taylor said. “He developed men of character. He showed you what it meant to be a good teammate. He was a great football coach, and we loved playing for him. He was someone who always wanted the best for us.”

He certainly wanted the best for his sons.

“It was really nice having my dad as coach,” said Jake Lawrence, who played college football at Pacific University in Forest Grove. “And off the field, we were able to flip the switch.”

“I didn’t know any other way. There were challenges, but it was cool, too. It’s a special experience to have your dad as your coach,” said Keegan Lawrence, who played football at Southern Oregon University in Ashland. “All I wanted to do growing up was to be a Bowmen football player.”

“It was a special time, and I’ll never forget it,” Greg Lawrence said.

There was one particular moment Lawrence got to share with his youngest son that he, and many Bowmen fans, will never forget.

It happened during Sherwood’s 2012 title-game victory over Marist. Keegan Lawrence had a huge game for the Bowmen, rushing for 132 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries.

One of Keegan’s touchdowns came on a 27-yard run in the second quarter. After scoring on the play, Keegan came sprinting to the Bowmen sideline. That’s when father and son tried a spontaneous leaping chest bump celebration. Well, Keegan, with all of his momentum, sent his father sprawling to the rain-soaked Hillsboro Stadium turf. The moment, captured on video, ended up getting the No. 7 spot on the SportsCenter top 10.

“That was awesome,” Keegan Lawrence said. “It was a moment we had that was both cool and hilarious. I’m going to remember that forever.”

“That was the type of moment that not many coaches get to share with their son,” Greg Lawrence said with a laugh. “Those are the special memories.”

And there are plenty of those special memories.

“When I was in high school, our wrestling coach and our football coach both coached their sons. I remember thinking, ‘It’s so cool to have your dad be your coach,’” Lawrence said. “There is nothing more special than the bond between the three of us. And it’s a bond that will never be broken. I’m very proud of both of them.”

“That started from a very young age,” Jake Lawrence said of the family bond. “When I was 5 or 6, and Keegan was 3 or 4, every day during the summer the three of us would go to the high school and move the big irrigation pipe across the field, so the whole field would get watered. That’s something that I’ll always remember. Growing up, we were there for every practice and every game. It was fun looking up to those guys. The high school became like a second home to us.”

“It’s definitely special,” Keegan Lawrence said. “He’s the reason we love football.”

Greg Lawrence also shares a special bond with Kathi, his wife of 32 years.

“Kathi has been my most diehard supporter,” he said. “She’s been so special and so supportive. She’s always had my back.”

Kathi Lawrence recently retired from her job as Escrow Officer for Fidelity National Title Portland.

“She’s been at the top of her field for 33 years,” Greg Lawrence said. “It’s kind of funny. She was very successful in her industry. She said, ‘When I’m at work, I’m Kathi Lawrence. But in Sherwood, I’m Greg Lawrence’s wife.’ Now, she’s both. She’s really stress-free right now, and that’s wonderful.”

The Bowmen way

When you look at the names on Lawrence’s Sherwood football coaching staff — and there are a lot of names — many of them should be familiar to Bowmen fans.

That’s because many of Lawrence’s players became coaches, with many of them returning to coach at Sherwood.

“It’s good to see that they want to give back to the game,” Lawrence said. “Two of the Balfours (David and Michael) came back to coach. Mark Gribble is a former player of mine.”

And there are many, many others.

“I want to get them back to Sherwood,” Lawrence said. “That’s why we have so many coaches. They know the way things are at Sherwood — like, there’s no lying down on the field unless something is really wrong. I remember Greg Caster (now the defensive coordinator at Shadle Park High School in Spokane, Wash.) hobbling off the field with a broken ankle. I remember Kevin Hausner hobbling off the field with a broken ankle. I still have a picture of Kevin on my refrigerator.”

One of Lawrence’s favorite former Sherwood assistant coaches is Wes Montgomery, who served as the Bowmen’s defensive coordinator for many years.

“Wes has always been my right-hand man,” Lawrence said. “He’s been a big instrumental part of getting the youth football program going here in Sherwood, and he’s been a big part of all the success that we’ve had. I’ve had the opportunity to coach with my best friend. You can’t ask for anything more.”

Montgomery, like Lawrence, retired from coaching after the 2021 spring season.

Lawrence and Montgomery will be honored at Sherwood’s first home game this season, on Sept. 10, when the Bowmen play host to Lake Oswego in a nonleague contest, which also will be new head coach Kevin Hastin’s first home game with the Bowmen.

“Yeah, I’ll be coming back to Sherwood,” Lawrence said.

When he’s there, Lawrence likely will see a lot of people for whom he’s grateful.

“I would like to thank all my coaches for their commitment and hard work in helping build the program like we did,” Lawrence said. “I’d like to thank the Sherwood School District, and the community of Sherwood, for embracing me and the football program for more than 30 years. I’d also like to thank all the coaches in the state for their friendships. Finally, I’d like to thank all the former players for being part of the Bowmen football family, and the lifetime of memories that they have given me.”

All that said, Lawrence hasn’t completely ruled out coming back to coaching — that is, if Jake or Keegan ends up following in his head-coaching footsteps.

“He’s a big reason why Keegan and I want to get into coaching,” Jake Lawrence said. “It’s something cool to want to follow in your dad’s footsteps.”

The younger Lawrence brother agrees.

“My end goal is to be a teacher and football coach, like my dad,” Keegan Lawrence said. “You know you’ve done a good job as a parent if your kids want to follow your footsteps.”

“Hopefully, I was able to pass down some things to them,” Greg Lawrence said. “I know they both may want to get into coaching. And, if they wanted, I just might show up to help them out.”

You can bet that Greg Lawrence would be more than happy about that.  

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