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Dowling’s two-sport prowess unmatched

Michael Traum

Casey Dowling stood out among a class of exceptional athletes.

While other sports had individuals whose performances were worthy of top individual honors, Dowling quietly and humbly earned all-North and all-state honors in two sports – a feat rarely if ever accomplished in this day and age of single-sport specialization.

For his dedication, determination, hands and heart, the senior is the 1998 Tahoe Daily Tribune Male Athlete of the Year at South Tahoe High.

“He’s one of those kids that’s one in a 100 or 200,” said Tahoe football coach Tim Jaureguito. “His work ethic and commitment was the difference.”

“For all the hard work, this is a capper and shows it pays off,” Dowling said. “My senior quote was, ‘The greatest feeling is to accomplish something that you only thought was a dream.’ That’s what I lived out this year.”

Dowling, who for good measure even tried his hand at baseball, will play basketball at Cuesta Junior College in San Luis Obispo next fall. With him he’ll take myriad memories and a handful of distinct moments that capture the essence of his three years at South Tahoe.

An up-and-coming, gangly, pass-catching freshman at his hometown school of Truckee High, Dowling played junior varsity football and worked his way into one varsity game that year.

But, wanting to play basketball for the Vikings was his longtime desire and earning a hoops scholarship the foremost thought in his mind. So his family moved to the South Shore. By the time his senior year rolled around, Dowling had made a respectable name for himself in the hallowed hall called the Blue Gym.

Something, though, was missing. So he decided to go out for the football team.

“I really wanted to have fun. I’d only have one senior year and I wouldn’t be able to play two sports in college. I figured that if I was going to do it, I might as well do it,” Dowling said.

And the gridiron was where the first signs of a special senior year began to show.

“I wanted to go out and be a starter. But once I got the idea I could do better, that’s when I thought I might as work as hard as I can. The team needed that and those guys helped me as much as I helped myself. I just wanted to win football games and put points on the board so we could win,” Dowling said. “My part was to run crisp routes, catch the ball and do what it took to win the game. Your senses take over. When you see the ball over your head and it’s just you, the ball and the defender, getting to it and making the catch is the most exciting thing I’ve done in sports. And there’s been some pretty exciting moments.”

His standout moment in football came when he caught the first of a state-best nine touchdowns in the first game of the season at Reed.

“It’s most vivid. We ran a 65, which is a fade route that turned out to be a key one for me. I knew I had separation from my guy. I stuck my hands out and the ball just landed there. It was like, ‘Wow.’ I looked down and I was in the end zone. It was very shocking and a great feeling. Those are the most exciting moments.”

The Vikes went on the finish 6-3 and made the first round of the playoffs. Dowling’s end results were state bests in three categories – 857 yards, nine TDs, 57 receptions and an all-state and all-North first-team selection.

“Casey is kind of gangly looking, but he runs well, jumps and has great hands. It’s the total package and he was a clutch guy,” Jaureguito said. “Honestly, had he played as a junior, he probably would’ve been all-state and somebody (a college) would’ve looked at him. He could still find a place that would take him with open arms. You never know what’ll happen in the future.”

But Dowling’s collegiate dream was to play college basketball. And while the halls of higher playing hadn’t been tearing down his door, the senior, who as a 6-3, 180-pound center was playing out of position for major college consideration, knew he had one more shot to impress potential suitors.

After a slow start, despite forever knowing that he got an “and-one” against Dominguez Hills’ all-everything freshman Tyson Chandler during the Viking Rotary Classic, Dowling and the Vikings started to roll. Tahoe surged to an undefeated league season and spot in the state semifinals and Dowling earned second-team all-state honors.

“Casey became one of the best players in the conference and helped us win a championship. But the first thing you think of is he’s a very caring, sincere young man,” said Tahoe basketball coach Tom Orlich. “It’s not the end of the world to not get a scholarship. The most important thing was to have fun. He accomplished quite a bit in high school and is going on to play in college. He exceeded all of our expectations here. Who knows what he’ll accomplish there.”

The hardwood memories of playing in front of packed gyms, launching miracle three-pointers to help beat Galena in the “Battle of the Lake,” and excelling in a high quality program are something Dowling knows he’ll forever call his own.

But removed from it all is a fine young man who’ll undoubtedly represent the South Tahoe area in the utmost manner wherever he goes in life.

“In the back of my mind, I know that not too many kids have the opportunity to do what I did. To look back in the yearbook down the road, it’s something I’ll feel great about. To perform like that, especially back-to-back, it’s something I’ll never forget. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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