Former Camas coach Jon Eagle leads West Linn against Central Catholic, coached by Vancouver’s Steve Pyne
It was early in 2022 when Jon Eagle and Steve Pyne were talking at a football coaches clinic in Portland.
Pyne, the four-time Oregon state champion head coach of Central Catholic High School, was trying to help Eagle, a two-time Washington state champion, with a decision he was about to make.
Eagle had spent a year as an assistant coach with Portland State University after he led the Camas football program the previous 13 years. Eagle was looking to get back into the high school ranks.
West Linn High School had an opening.
“I tried like hell to talk him out of it,” Pyne said this week with a laugh.
OK, Pyne wasn’t really trying to help Eagle with that decision. Pyne was trying to help his own football program, and other top-notch teams in Oregon.
“The best thing West Linn could have done, and the worst thing for the rest of us,” Pyne said of the hiring.
On Friday, these two Clark County residents will cross the Columbia River and lead their teams against each other in Oregon’s 6A state semifinals. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Oregon City’s Pioneer Memorial Stadium.
Pyne lives in east Vancouver, while Eagle still lives in Camas.
“He had a good chuckle,” Eagle recalled of Pyne’s advice.
Seriously, though, Pyne told Eagle it was a heckuva job.
“He was right,” Eagle said.
The two coaches have been friends for years. Pyne visited Camas practices during spring drills.
“I’ve always had a ton of respect for the way he runs his program,” Pyne said. “And he’s a guy you can sit and talk with about football or life.”
Eagle said he has always been impressed with what he has seen with the Rams.
“A lot of what we did at Camas, we kind of copied what he was doing at Central,” Eagle said. “We made it our own. We were admiring his program from afar. At Camas, we got some program ideas from him.”
On the field of competition, Eagle is 2-0 against Pyne’s Central Catholic teams. The Papermakers beat the Rams to open the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Camas won its first state title in 2016.
Pyne does have the lead in state titles, though. Pyne, in his 20th season with Central Catholic, is 181-53 with four Oregon championships.
Eagle went 127-22 in his 13 years at Camas with two Washington championships. (Eagle also led Evergreen to the state semifinals back in 1995.)
Which is why Pyne would have preferred Eagle stick with college coaching.
“No disrespect to anyone else, but that guy knows how to build a program. He’s going to rally that community, and he’s already done it. West Linn is kind of a one-horse town, similar to Camas. He knows the right buttons to push.”
West Linn entered the playoffs as the No. 1 team in the OSAA seedings after an 8-1 regular season. The Lions have outscored their two playoff opponents 115-7.
Central Catholic is the 5-seed after an 8-1 regular season. The Rams won easily in the opener, then held off rival and 4-seed Jesuit in the quarterfinals.
“In the last 10 years, it’s hard to find someone doing it better in Oregon than Central Catholic,” Eagle said. “It’s inevitable that we would run into each other.”
On Friday night, one of them will advance to another state championship game. Their day will start, though, in Washington.
“I just like the vibe of Clark County,” said Pyne, who grew up in Portland. “It’s laid back. Everything is easy and accessible. Everything we need is right there. We can get to Portland in 15 minutes when we need to.”
Eagle never left his home in Camas when he left the Papermakers. In fact, he was able to attend Camas’ playoff game this year. Eagle said he will always support the team and the friends who are still coaching there.
Now, instead of commuting to downtown Portland for the college position, he’s going to West Linn every day.
“It’s the first time I’ve had a (high school) coaching job that I’m not teaching in the building,” Eagle said, adding there are pros and cons to that. “I miss making that connection with the kids in the classroom, but I’ve got more time to work on football.”
Not exactly what Steve Pyne wanted to hear.
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