By Paul Valencia | Photos by Ken Waz
Guess it takes a state champion to beat a state champion.
Jon Eagle, a two-time state champion soccer coach in Washington, will seek his first state championship in Oregon after his West Linn Lions defeated Central Catholic, led by four-time state champion coach Steve Pyne.
These two friends knew that if Eagle actually took the job at West Linn, they would eventually face each other in a big game.
In fact, Pyne attempted to steer Eagle away from the position when the two spoke in early 2022 when Eagle was trying to decide whether to return to high school coaching.
Eagle won two state championships for Camas in his last four full seasons with the Papermakers. Last year he was an assistant coach with the Portland State Vikings.
However, high school football called him back. West Linn had an opening.
“I tried like hell to talk him out of it,” Pyne said earlier in the week.
OK, Pyne wasn’t really trying to help Eagle with that decision. Pyne tried to help his football program and other top-flight teams in Oregon.
“The best thing West Linn could have done and the worst for the rest of us,” Pyne said of the hiring.
Sure enough, by Friday night Eagle had their Lions prepped and ready, driving to a 49-17 win over the Rams in a Class 6A semifinal at Pioneer Memorial Stadium in Oregon City.
After the game, Pyne had more advice for Eagle.
“He needs to stay closer to home,” he said, imploring a Washington school to hire Eagle next season. “The commute is killing him.”
Actually, the two buses have similar commuter routes. This was Pyne’s 20th season as manager of Central Catholic. A few years ago, the Pyne family moved across the state line to Vancouver. Eagle never moved away from Camas after leaving high school football to coach at PSU’s college.
This season, the two started their days in Washington, but they’ve been battling for Oregon’s high school football grand prize.
Something was needed when they faced each other on Friday.
For the first time since 2018, a team other than Central Catholic will be the Class 6A champion.
Eagle said it was special to beat such an incredible program, but he was a little blown away by the end result. The game turned to a running clock early in the third quarter as the Lions took a 49-10 lead.
“I’m very proud of where we are,” said Eagle. “It takes me almost 24 hours to process what just happened. Wow. I didn’t see that coming at all. Wow.”
Eagle will seek his third state championship as head coach, while West Linn hopes to capture the second state title in program history. The Lions won their first state title in 2016, the same year Eagle led Camas to their first big school title in Washington.
West Linn, the No. 1 seed, meets No. 2 Sheldon in the championship game on November 25 at 3:00 p.m. at Hillsboro Stadium. It will be a replay of a Week 2 matchup that Sheldon won 35-31.
To get there, Eagle had to pass a friend.
Pyne visited Camas’ offices during spring practice.
“I’ve always had a lot of respect for the way he runs his program,” Pyne said of Eagle. “And he’s a guy you can sit down with and talk about football or life.”
Eagle said he’s always been impressed by what he’s seen at the Rams.
“A lot of what we did at Camas, we sort of copied what he did at Central,” Eagle said. “We made it our own. We admired his program from afar. At Camas we got some programming ideas from him.”
In the competition, Eagle is now 3-0 against Pyne. Eagle’s Camas teams beat Central Catholic to open the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Pyne still leads 4-2 in the state titles, and Eagle is hoping to get a little closer this week.
Because of this, Pyne would have preferred Eagle to remain in college coaching or be employed in Washington.
“No disrespect to others, but this guy knows how to build a program,” Pyne said. “He’s going to rally that community around him, and he already has. West Linn is sort of a one-horse town, much like Camas. He knows the right buttons.”
The respect is mutual.
“In the last 10 years, it’s hard to find anyone in Oregon doing better than Central Catholic,” Eagle said. “It is inevitable that we shall meet.”
This is Eagle’s first job as a high school coach without being a teacher. He said there are pros and cons to this scenario.
“I miss making that connection with the kids in the classroom, but I have more time to work on football,” Eagle said.
Not exactly what Steve Pyne or the rest of Oregon’s elite programs wanted to hear.
Despite Pyne’s pleas, Jon Eagle is now an Oregon High School football coach.
And the West Linn Lions are heading into the state championship game.
Note: Paul Valencia is a reporter from Clark County, Washington who has covered Camas football for 22 years, including all 13 years of Jon Eagles tenure. Valencia went to high school with Central Catholic coach Steve Pyne. Valencia also assists SBLive Oregon with reporting from time to time.