Prep Football: We Are Family
Onalaska Roots: Ten Members of Lawrence Family Rostered on Loggers Football Team
By Jordan Nailon
ONALASKA – Out in Logger country there aren’t many trees that are safe from the looming buzz of a chain saw that’s ready to lop off limbs and put an unceremonious end to any particular sylvan story. It’s just the way it is, and how it always has been, in East Lewis County.
However, there is one stout exception to that rule that has long been spreading its roots across Lewis County since it sprouted in Onalaska long ago – The Lawrence Family Tree.
This year’s Onalaska football team, which finished third in a rough and tumble Southwest Washington 2B Mountain Division, features a whopping ten saplings derived from that very tree. That group’s success on the gridiron has provided plenty of opportunity for the sprawling Lawrence family to celebrate together in the grandstands, but this is by no means the first time that the family has left their mark on the fields of Onalaska.
In 1962 Larry and Beth Lawrence moved from Utah to Seattle before settling down in Onalaska in 1973. That’s where their familial canopy began to spread and cast shade all over Southwest Washington. Together, Larry and Beth raised ten children who went through the paces in the Onalaska School District. That squadron of children includes sons Britt, Roy, Kent, Lee, and Lyle Lawrence as well as daughters Holly Kinsman, Loni Snodgrass, Terri Hubbard, Rita Hamilton, and Annette Talley.
While Larry Lawrence has passed away Beth still manages to make it out to Logger athletics as often as she can at the age of 85. These days she counts 40 grand children and 57 great-grand children among her progeny, the vast majority of them residing in Lewis County, especially around Onalaska.
“I’m kind of handicapped so I don’t get to see all of them but I read it in the paper and listen on the radio when they have it,” said Beth Lawrence. “I enjoy hearing about them and I hear they are doing pretty well.”
Indeed, Onalaska wrapped up their regular season on the gridiron with a 7-2 record and they are set to face off with Toledo in a crossover playoff affair at Centralia’s Tiger Stadium on Thursday evening.
This year’s Loggers roster includes Gunnar Talley (great-grandson), Kyle and Spencer Hamilton (great-grandsons), Ashton and Marshall Haight (great-grandsons), Hazen Inman (step-grandson), Tristen Lawrence (grandson), and Cade Lawrence (grandson). The Loggers are also assisted by Cooper Lawrence (grandson) and Dean Hamilton (great-grandson) as the team’s ball boys.
According to Tristan Lawrence, a senior lineman and son of Lyle Lawrence, he’s never known what it’s like to play on a team that doesn’t resemble a family reunion.
“I don’t really know because I’ve always played with them and I’ve always had them around. We’ve always had two, or three, or four on a team. Now we just have all eight,” said Tristen Lawrence. “We’ve all been ready and been waiting for this year.”
He noted that his dad, uncles and older cousins have all donned the purple and gold in Loggertown and that sort of continuation of tradition has helped to groom this current generation of gridiron gladiators. Cooper Lawrence, brother to Cade, even has a younger brother named Lane who will likely strap on the pads for the Loggers one day soon.
“They were as good as we were. My dad and my uncle Lyle played on the state championship team when they were in high school, and most of them won when they were in high school. They say it was a lot tougher than we have it, though,” Tristen Lawrence said.
He noted that the family matriarch, Grandma Beth, was able to make it out to watch the Morton-White Pass game this fall and that it was a special moment for the entire family.
“She loves watching us, but she’s getting old,” he said, with equal parts admiration and loving ament.
Indeed, Grandma Beth loves keeping tabs on her family’s vast endeavors and various successes. Still, she says in her younger days she never could have imagined a time when she would be the matriarch of such an extensive family that has somehow managed to remain almost exceedingly centrally located.
“I never thought they’d all stay together. The farthest (child) that I have is in Aberdeen but all the rest are right here close,” she said, noting that she also has a myriad of grand and great-granddaughters who fill out the ranks of Onalaska’s girls sports teams. “I’m proud of all of them. They are great kids.”
That concentration of family means that when the Loggers have a home game the grandstand is typically packed with familiar faces. One conservative estimate placed the number of Lawrence family members at any game at around 50.
“It’s great. You can see them there rooting for the boys and it’s wonderful having them all out there. Most of them show up for all the games,” said Grandma Beth. “I hope they make it to state. I’m going to really try to go to that one if they make it to that one.”
According to Tanda Inman, mother of Ashton and Marshall Haight and stepmother to Hazen Inman, the family connection that binds the Loggers together makes things interesting for the players and fans alike.
“It’s an awesome experience. Everybody is always together and even the kids at the school are say that, ‘Hey, it’s like we’re all family.’ And we laugh and say that’s because we are all family! Not to make it sound bad and too East Ender, but ya, we’re a big family,” said Inman. “We’ve all been waiting for them to get to be high school age.”
Onalaska football coach Mazen Saade says it’s a special opportunity to be able to lead such a tight knit group of football players with the extensive support group up in the stands.
“It’s pretty awesome to have that kind of family support as a coach. They’re a good group and they’ve always had our backs. They’re all about Onalaska and Logger football, and they always will be,” said Saade.“It’s what small town America, and small town football is all about. It’s super special.”
Saade says that he’s watched all of his current players come up through the youth ranks and even employed Ashton Haight, Tristen Lawrence, Spencer Hamilton and Gunnar Talley as the high school team’s ball and waterboys back when they were little tykes. He believes that having a strong football tradition that reaches back for multiple generations makes it easier for him to get kids out to the gridiron when the dog days of summer roll around each year.
“When you talk to guys about tradition, which you do to everyone, it really hits home for them because they’ve got to leave a legacy. They’re brothers and cousins and dads and uncles all played so they’ve got something to live up to,” explained Saade. “Our whole motto is that we’re trying to make ourselves into a family and they are truly a family.”