Coming off his best season in 11 years as Bend's football coach, Matt Craven has decided to step down.
The senior-dominated Lava Bears went 10-2 last season, their most wins since 2003. They reached the semifinals for the first time since 2007, losing to 5A runner-up Wilsonville.
But it marked the end of the line for Craven, whose son Sean was a senior on the team. He went 48-55 in his tenure, falling in the first round of the playoffs five times before last year's run.
“It was my own decision,” Craven said. “I wanted to take a reduced role. Being the head football coach is very much a year-round job, and I no longer have the desire to basically coach football year-round.”
Craven said he will continue to teach math and history at the school, where he graduated in 1993.
“I think that you'll see me coaching football next year in some capacity, most likely at Bend High, but I just don't want all the administrative work,” he said. “All the stuff that goes along with being a head coach, quite frankly I had grown weary of doing it.”
Craven competed in football and track at Bend and Linfield College, where he was inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame last fall.
Craven became Bend's head track coach and a football assistant in 2005 after coming over from Sisters. When Craig Walker stepped down as Bend's football coach in 2012 to take over as athletic director, Craven replaced him and became a track assistant.
Craven's father, Mick, was Bend's boys track coach (1978-2003) and also served as the freshman football coach for three decades, staying on after Matt became head coach.
“I've truly enjoyed my experience at Bend High,” said Matt Craven, whose daughter, Leah, is a sophomore at the school. “It was an unbelievable opportunity to come back to the school that raised me.”
The Lava Bears, with 34 seniors on their roster, thrived in 5A last season after four seasons in 6A. They recorded seven shutouts, holding foes to a 5A-low 7.1 points per game.
“To have a great senior class come along that was extremely coachable, at the same time being extremely talented, made it really fun for everyone,” Craven said. “They had a lot of character as well as talent.”
Craven kept the team's success last season in perspective.
“It's unbelievably fun to win and be successful and make the semifinals, and be a couple plays away from the state championship. But if you let the wins and losses define you, you will hate the job of coaching football,” he said.
One of the highlights of last season was a showdown at cross-town rival Summit with first place in the Intermountain Conference at stake. The 5A champion Storm prevailed 35-21 before a massive crowd.
“That reminded me of Bend football in the '80s,” Craven said. “I was a ballboy on the sideline for some of those donnybrook games between Clyde Powell and Mountain View and Craig Walker and Bend High, before things were on the internet and there would be 5,000 people at the games.”
Bend now faces the task of replacing Craven. A big challenge for the new coach will be keeping the program stocked with athletes after the opening of Caldera in 2021 cut into Bend's enrollment.
“I have full confidence that they're going to hire someone that offers stability,” Craven said. “I think you're going to see a stable transition.”