Coach who won two state championships at Camas set to join Portland State’s staff as an assistant
A dream that has lasted for decades is about to come true for Camas football coach Jon Eagle.
Make that former Camas football coach Jon Eagle.
Having conquered high school football, the two-time state champion resigned from his position at Camas High School to accept an assistant coaching position with the Portland State Vikings.
“That was a dream of mine for over 40 years,” Eagle said of the passion to coach college football. “For whatever reason, it just didn’t work out. You have a family, and I decided at that point, I liked the idea of being a high school coach and being around my family as much as I could.”
Now, his children are grown, and he gets the shot to coach Division I football … while not even having to relocate.
“Not very often a guy gets to be 61 and gets the opportunity to do this,” Eagle said.
“I could have stayed at Camas forever,” he added. “I was having so much fun and our coaches are such a great group of guys … I could have stayed there forever.”
Only, Bruce Barnum was calling. Barnum, the head coach at Portland State who lives in Vancouver, told Clark County Today last fall that discussions had started in previous months. But there were so many obstacles, including the pandemic. The timing was off. The parties agreed to keep in touch.
Camas completed its abbreviated football season with a 4-1 record. Soon after, discussions resumed.
Monday was the first day of spring drills for Camas football. Eagle told his team before the school district issued a press release.
“I got pretty emotional,” Eagle said. “The moment caught me. I have so many great memories of standing on the field and kids wearing Camas jerseys. I just broke down a little bit. I just explained to them what I told you: ‘I hope if you have a dream, you don’t let that dream die.’ Mine was to do this. You never know how old you might get, but it might happen.’”
Eagle was also able to pass the torch, if you will, to Jack Hathaway. An assistant in the program for the past seven years, Hathaway was named the interim head coach for the 2021 fall season.
Hathaway said it has been an honor to work for Eagle.
“I’m so pumped for him to be able to do something he has always wanted to do, to fulfil a dream, to chase it, and go for it. That’s just awesome for him,” Hathaway said. “We’re losing a great one.
“He is a legend around these parts. We just love him so much and love what he did for our program.”
Camas High School thanked Eagle for all of his contributions.
“We are very excited that Coach Eagle has this opportunity to move onto the next level, and I can think of nobody more deserving,” said Rory Oster, Camas’ athletic director, via press release. “I have not come across a stronger leader of young men than Coach Eagle, and we are all in support of his next challenge.”
Oster added that Eagle’s resignation will be a loss felt deeply throughout Camas.
“He is a future Washington State Coaches Association Hall of Famer, and a leader who meant so much to our kids, our school, and our entire community.”
End of an era? That’s an understatement at Camas.
Eagle went 127-22 in his 13 years as the head coach for the Papermakers, going undefeated in 2016 and 2019 and winning Class 4A state titles. In all, Camas played in three state title games and reached the semifinals two other times. His teams won nine league titles.
Prior to his years at Camas, he was the head coach at Evergreen when the Plainsmen reached the semifinals in 1995. He left Evergreen to coach at Redmond. He returned to Clark County and was an assistant to coach Bob Holman at Camas prior to taking over the head coaching position.
Holman helped turn Camas’ football program around from winless seasons to the postseason. Eagle then took it to the next level, and beyond, becoming a state powerhouse.
“We’re all standing on Bob Holman’s shoulders,” Eagle said. “Bob really got this thing ignited.”
Holman took over a program on an 11-game losing streak, then lost the first 11 games of his tenure. By his fourth year, Camas finished with a winning record.
Eagle took over in 2008, after four years under Holman. Eagle said one can go back to Holman’s teams to see just what it takes for a program to become so successful.
“It’s never one guy. You can’t do something this big, this successful, for this long without a large number of people having a hand in it,” Eagle said.
Eagle will leave high school coaching as a defending state champion. There was no state playoff in the abbreviated 2021 season as the WIAA and school districts dealt with the pandemic. The 2019 Papermakers went 14-0.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity that the Camas administration gave me. I’m grateful for all the hard work from all of our players and coaches over the years,” he said. “It was a cumulative effort by several people that has led to whatever success we’ve had.”
It is Hathaway’s job now to lead the Papermakers in an effort to maintain that success level.
“The last couple of days have been pretty fast moving. It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Hathaway said.
“It’s exciting. I’m thrilled. I’m excited for the challenge. It’s bittersweet as well,” Hathaway added. “Coach Eagle has been such a mentor. I couldn’t ask for a better man to work for the last seven years. A tradition has been built.”
Hathaway was the head coach at Heritage High School for three seasons before moving to Camas. He is a physical education teacher at the school.
Hathaway, 39, said he is more prepared to be a head coach now.
“Coach Eagle has taught me how to prepare for games, how to delegate coaching staffs, and the importance of having a great staff and relying on those great coaches to do what they do best,” Hathaway said. “Down the road, you grow as a person. I’m more mature. I’ve experienced a lot more football, a lot more high-quality football in the playoffs.”
Eagle does not yet have a title with the Portland State staff. He expects to know more in the coming weeks, but he is certain he will be working with the offense.
As successful as he has been in the high school ranks, Eagle acknowledged he always wondered what it would be like in college.
“Coaching football is coaching football, but I wanted to look at a new challenge,” Eagle said. “I wanted to help Bruce. If he thought I could help, I’m in.”
Eagle will leave Camas with too many favorite memories to count. He said it was special to coach his son, Zach Eagle. Of course, the state championships come to mind, as well. But those are not the biggest accomplishments of a high school coach, he said.
“Everybody sees the championships in the dome or wherever, but what I’ll remember is telling a kid, ‘You need to do better in the classroom,’ and the look on his face when he got better grades,” Eagle said. “Because of football, he got better grades. Maybe the only people who knew about it were him, his parents, his coaches. That’s the thing that stands out to me, the things that coaches do that people don’t even know about.”