West Linn Athlete of the Year Tim Tawa: A winner's winner
West Linn's Tim Tawa has statistics to die for.
In football, he virtually re-wrote the record book for Oregon high school quarterbacks.
In baseball, he racked up big hits, highlight-reel defensive plays and more big numbers.
And in both sports, Tawa raked in awards like no one else, winning Class 6A Player of the Year honors in football, Gatorade Player of the Year in both football and baseball, Three Rivers League Player of the Year and first-team all-state in both football and baseball and much, much more.
But that's not what Tawa was about, not during his spectacularly successful senior season and not ever.
Those "other" things, the records and rewards, were merely byproducts of what Tawa was really all about — hard work and winning. And his teams won like no one else's, the Lions going 14-0 in football and giving West Linn the first state championship in school history back in December, then leading his baseball team through a 21-game winning streak and into the Class 6A title game for the second time in three seasons.
For all those reasons and more, Tawa has been named the West Linn Tidings 2017 Athlete of the Year for West Linn High School. The Athlete of the Year honor is awarded to the top senior athlete at West Linn High School. Tawa will continue his athletic career next year as a member of the Stanford University baseball team.
"Records are awesome and they're meant to be broken, but they're not what matters to me," Tawa said. "What matters to me is winning, winning for my team, for my coaches and for my community."
"The number one thing about him is his drive to be great," said West Linn football coach Chris Miller. "He's very competitive and highly motivated, and he's a terrific athlete."
Even before his senior year, Tawa had already accomplished a lot on the football field. In his previous two seasons as West Linn's quarterback, Tawa threw for 2,943 yards and 38 touchdowns in 2014, then tacked on an Oregon record of 4,420 yards and 50 touchdowns in 2015 as the Lions advanced to the state championship game for the first time in school history.
With all that as pretext — and with a ton of talented teammates in tow — Tawa and the Lions came into the 2016 season expecting greatness.
"Everyone was confident we had a great team and had a great chance to do something special," Tawa said. "A lot of guys believed it and stepped up."
While Tawa worked to become an even better football player as a senior, Miller took note of his quarterback's growing maturity.
"It's been fun to watch him mature and get comfortable in his own skin," said Miller, also mentioning Tawa's grade point average (above 4.0) and outreach to special needs children. "He kind of found his groove and became a good young man."
As to the season itself, Tawa and the Lions did not disappoint, with Tawa amassing 3,994 yards through the air with 55 touchdowns — one shy of the Oregon record of 56 that Beaverton quarterback Taylor Barton notched back in 1997 — and just one interception. He also rushed for 456 yards this year (including two 100-yard games) and nine touchdowns
"He became more effective each year," Miller said. "He led with effort, film time and practice. He had confidence in himself and he held guys to high expectations. He didn't put up with dropped passes."
Most important to Tawa, however, his Lions finished what they'd started the year before. West Linn went unbeaten in 2016 at 14-0, won its second straight Three Rivers League title, played its way into the Class 6A state championship contest for the second consecutive year and beat Central Catholic 62-7 — the largest big-school, title-game blowout in Oregon history.
"You think about a moment like (winning state) for a while," Tawa said. "There was a feeling that (the win) was easier than I thought it would be … but we did it. We got to be on top. It was extremely rewarding."
The key to it all, Tawa said, was the hard work and preparation that the Lions and their coaches used to forge West Linn's championship season.
"Our coaches did a real good job getting us prepared, and the guys were all working so hard to get ready. They … deserved all the accolades and attention they got."
Miller, likewise, pointed to his team's preparation — and Tawa's in particular — as a key to its championship. He recalled that, on the bus ride to Providence Park for the title game, he sat down next to Tawa and saw his senior quarterback writing in a notebook.
"He was just taking notes, studying what we went over this week just to make sure," Miller said. "I thought it was really impressive to see a kid prepare like that."
Needless to say, Tawa was no slouch in the spring season either, leading the Lions to another TRL title, the No. 1 ranking in the state, a 21-game winning streak, and eventually, a berth in the Class 6A state championship.
While that championship-game appearance — a 5-1 loss to Clackamas at Volcanoes Stadium on June 3 — did not go the Lions' way, almost everything else in 2017 did. And as was always the case with Tawa, his preparation for the all-important 2016 season was exhaustive.
"His preparation is second to none," said West Linn baseball coach Joe Monahan. "His preparation is off the map."
After going just 6-4 in its first 10 games — including a loss to Sherwood in its Three Rivers opener — West Linn settled itself, hit its stride and just flat caught fire.
"After we lost to Sherwood … my dad came to me and said 'You've got to get out of this win-loss, win-loss thing,'" Tawa said. "We knew we were a good team and that was a turning point for us."
Over the next 57 days — from April 8 through June 2 — the Lions didn't lose a game. They closed the TRL season with 16 straight victories, took out No. 8 Gresham in an endowment game, then won four straight in the playoffs to reach the championship.
Monahan said that Tawa's leadership played a big role in that stretch as well as the team's entire season.
"Between him and Jake Porter, I couldn't have asked for a better pair of leaders," Monahan said. "He was very focused this year, but everyone was loose on the field. Our senior leadership this year was very special."
By year's end, Tawa had again proven his worth in spades. He was named to the all-Three Rivers League first team as both a pitcher and shortstop, and shared Player of the Year honors with Porter after hitting .365 with a team-high five home runs, 14 doubles, 24 RBIs, a team-high 40 runs scored and a team-best on-base percentage of .500. Tawa also went 7-2 on the mound with a 1.26 ERA, 70 strikeouts and 24 walks in 55 2/3 innings pitched, and an opposition batting average of .215. Later, he was named the Gatorade Player of the Year, a first-team all-state pick, and winner of the Johnny Carpenter Prep Athlete of the Year and Prep Baseball Player of the Year awards that were announced at Sunday's Oregon Sports Awards.
"On the field, I'll remember the great plays he would make that you just rarely see in high school baseball," Monahan said. "And his coachability, too, especially for a player who performed at such a high level."
The title contest itself was not the end that Tawa and his teammates had envisioned. Clackamas pitcher K.C. Reilly threw a gem of a game, shutting down the Lions' potent bats on three hits and three walks while also striking out three.
That result, however, could not tarnish Tawa's memories from his final high school campaign.
"I'll always remember walking off the field with all my teammates and giving them a hug one more time and taking pictures with them," Tawa said. "I never had a bond with a team like that. Hopefully, I'll be friends with them for the rest of my life."