Dowling reconsiders, transfers to Moorpark to play football
As dazzling as Casey Dowling was on the gridiron his senior year at South Tahoe High, his all-state status didn’t convince him the game with 100 yards of real estate was his calling in collegiate sports.
His heart and dreams were on the hardwood, where as a senior he helped the Vikings make the Nevada 4A state semifinals. One season of college basketball, however, has shown Dowling his error.
Midway through his freshman basketball season at Cuesta JC in San Luis Obispo, Calif., the 6-foot-4 Dowling decided to transfer to Moorpark College in Moorpark, Calif. – to play football.
“I had a dream to become a (NCAA) Division I basketball player. This program was a shot to be seen if I could prove myself and accomplish those things at Cuesta,” Dowling said. “If I was going to do something next year in college athletics it wasn’t going to be at Cuesta.”
With as many as five or six Cuesta players capable of attracting Division I attention, Dowling found himself spending game after game in an unfamiliar spot – the bench.
“I was competing with a bunch of very good players who were more highly recruited than I was. I also played the post in high school and I wasn’t accustomed to playing the two or three spot. At the start I didn’t have the skills I needed, but once I was playing well enough to play in games the coach never seemed to give me a shot, even though he said I was the most fundamentally sound player on the team,” Dowling said.
Consequently, Dowling made a very difficult decision. He left Cuesta after the team’s first Western State Conference game. The timing was crucial since he had only one day left to enroll in spring courses at Moorpark, which would allow him to play for the Raiders in the fall.
“I felt I needed a change in my life. Even though in high school I wasn’t pushing myself to play football, it just sort of happened. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I think my athletic ability goes along better with football,” Dowling said.
Obviously, Cuesta coach Rusty Blair was shocked.
“When you lose a player who you’ve selected, you tell yourself, ‘What about the guy you released or you didn’t select?’ The timing was quite significant because we had some injuries and finished the season with nine players,” Blair said. “I don’t have anything against Casey; he is a nice kid, but the timing of his decision was really poor.”
Ironically, following Dowling’s departure, Cuesta’s once-promising season unravelled. After starting the season 16-4, Cuesta saw its season come apart after blowing a19-point second-half lead to eventual state champion Cerritos. Although Cuesta won its third straight Western State North Conference title and earned it sixth straight state tournament appearance, the Cougars lost their swagger and confidence. They lost on their home floor to College of the Canyons in the first round of the state tournament.
While Cuesta was spiraling through the second half of its season, Dowling was settling into his new Moorpark digs with former STHS basketball teammate Alan Case, who was starring for the Raiders as a freshman.
“We’ve become very good friends. I’m glad to be down here with him. It’s a blessing in disguise because there was no housing in the football team apartments,” Dowling said.
Dowling had also considered transferring to Santa Barbara City College and Ventura, but the reputation of Jim Bittner’s Moorpark program, a consistent winner, swayed the Viking alum.
“If I’m a starting receiver here I have a chance of going Division I or Division II. Once I show I can catch the ball, everything will work out. I feel good about my chances next year. They like big receivers to block on running plays, and in me, they see a guy who can do both the blocking and catching,” Dowling said.
Dowling has no regrets about his brief experience at Cuesta. He looks back on it as a conditioning camp or unconventional redshirt season.
“I could have walked on to play football at Cal Poly or Nevada and if I contributed then I’d get a scholarship after year. Instead of doing that, I’m here and I’m really definitely better because of it. Cuesta definitely helped with that,” Dowling said.
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After more than 70 years of operating with a term deemed derogatory by many Native Americans, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has changed its name to Palisades Tahoe.