10 years after record-setting day, Oregon still hasn't quite seen anything like Thomas Tyner
“You know those dragsters that use high-octane for short bursts to go 300 miles-per-hour? That’s Thomas."
PORTLAND — Andrew Theen didn’t think much of it when he volunteered his Friday night.
He was still relatively new at The Oregonian in 2012 and the newspaper’s Hillsboro sports staff was thin that weekend. Theen grew up in Medford and loved sports, and while hoops is his passion, he could appreciate the pull of a football Friday night.
And he certainly knew the name of Thomas Tyner.
So yeah, the then-Hillsboro City Hall reporter said, he’d love to write a few hundred words on Lakeridge at Aloha on deadline.
How hard could it be?
By then, Aloha was two games into the 2012 season and Tyner, a 6-foot, 207-pound senior was flirting with superstardom. A 5-star prospect in a state that doesn’t produce 5-stars, Tyner started playing on varsity as a freshman, set the state record in the 100-meters as a sophomore and rushed for 513 yards and four touchdowns in just three games before injuries ended his junior season.
He was the No. 1 player in the state. He was the No. 2 running back in the country. He was so popular that, one time when he decommitted from Oregon for a period of days, it caused national headlines and pandemonium across the Aloha cell towers.
“Thomas said he might still visit UCLA to prove that Oregon was the right fit, and I ended up spending an hour on the phone that day with Chip Kelly on a Ducks game day,” then-Aloha coach Chris Casey said. “Thomas had so many people calling him he had to change his phone number by lunch.”
Tyner and Aloha versus Lakeridge and the Syracuse-bound quarterback Eric Dungey was about as good as it gets for September sports around here. Theen was stoked and consulted with a few sports writers he knew about how to take stats.
That’s the challenge with high school sports — unlike college press boxes where stats and quotes and fun facts are printed out and sent to inboxes — it’s everyone for themselves. If you’re lucky, you’ve made friends with the team statistician or an assistant coach who can quickly pass along numbers. But old-faithful is a notebook filled with chicken scratch marks for downs, distances, numbers and what happened on every play of the game. Reporters pray for low scoring games not just for deadline, but so the stats have a chance of being accurate.
Theen made the trip west out to Aloha and pulled up to the sideline ready to give the game an honest effort. It was Tyner’s 18th birthday, and on Aloha’s first drive he broke free for a 20-yard touchdown and the home crowd serenaded him with “Happy Birthday.”
Seven points down and Theen felt like he had his footing. Unfortunately, he had a state-record 140 more points to go — highlighted by a second quarter where the teams combined for 55 points, with Tyner ripping off touchdown runs of 62 yards, 60 yards and 65 yards in successive drives in Aloha’s eventual 84-63 win.
“Within minutes I was overwhelmed,” Theen said. “I must have burned through an entire notebook. And it wasn’t just Tyner, there was another guy on the other side of the field who I didn’t know was as good as he was.”