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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 football coach in Washington, will be going for his first state championship in Oregon after his West Linn Lions took down Central Catholic, led by four-time state champion coach Steve Pyne. 

These two friends knew that eventually they would face each other in a big game if Eagle did, indeed, take the West Linn job.

In fact, Pyne tried to steer Eagle away from the position when the two spoke in early 2022, back when Eagle was trying to decide if he should return to high school coaching. 

Eagle won two state championships for Camas in his final four full seasons with the Papermakers. Last year, he was an assistant coach with the Portland State Vikings.

High school football was calling him back, though. 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 was trying to help his 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.

Sure enough, Friday night, Eagle had his Lions prepared and ready, cruising to a 49-17 victory over the Rams in a Class 6A semifinal at Pioneer Memorial Stadium in Oregon City.

West Linn Central Catholic 6A Oregon football semifinal November 18 2022 Dan Brood 48

After the game, Pyne had more advice for Eagle.

“He’s got to stay closer to home,” he said, imploring a Washington school to hire Eagle next season. “The commute’s killing him.”

Actually, the two coaches have similar commutes. This was Pyne’s 20th season as Central Catholic’s coach. A few years ago, the Pyne family moved to Vancouver, across the state border. Eagle never moved from Camas after leaving high school football to coach in college at PSU.

This season, the two have started their days in Washington but they have been competing for Oregon’s top prize in high school football.

Something had to give when they faced each other Friday. 

For the first time since 2018, a team other than Central Catholic will be the Class 6A champion. 

Eagle said it's special to beat such an incredible program, but he was overwhelmed a bit by the final score. The game turned into a running-clock situation early in the third quarter when the Lions went up 49-10.

“I’m very proud of where we are,” Eagle said. “I almost need 24 hours to process what just happened. Wow. I didn’t see this coming, at all. Wow.”

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Eagle will go for his third state championship as a head coach, while West Linn is hoping to claim the second state title in program history. The Lions won their first state title in 2016, the same year Eagle was leading Camas to the big-school title in Washington for the first time.

West Linn, the No. 1 seed, will face No. 2 Sheldon in the championship game at 3 p.m. Nov. 25 at Hillsboro Stadium. It will be a rematch of a Week 2 matchup, which Sheldon won 35-31.

To get there, Eagle had to get past a friend.

Pyne used to visit Camas practices during spring drills.

“I’ve always had a ton of respect for the way he runs his program,” Pyne said of Eagle. “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.”

West Linn Central Catholic 6A Oregon football semifinal November 18 2022 Dan Brood 12

In competition, Eagle is now 3-0 against Pyne. Eagle’s Camas teams beat Central Catholic to open the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Pyne still has the lead in state titles, 4-2, with Eagle hoping to get a little closer this week.

That is why Pyne would have preferred Eagle stick with college coaching, or get hired back in Washington.

“No disrespect to anyone else, but that guy knows how to build a program,” Pyne said. “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.”

The respect is mutual. 

“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.”

This is Eagle’s first high school coaching job without being a teacher. He said there are pros and cons with that scenario.

“I miss making that connection with the kids in the classroom, but I’ve got more time to work on football,” Eagle said.

Not exactly what Steve Pyne, nor the rest of Oregon’s elite programs, wanted to hear.

Despite Pyne’s pleas, Jon Eagle is an Oregon high school football coach now.

And the West Linn Lions are heading to the state championship game.

Note: Paul Valencia is a Clark County, Washington-based reporter who has covered Camas football for 22 years, including all 13 years of Jon Eagle’s tenure. Valencia went to high school with Central Catholic coach Steve Pyne. Valencia also helps SBLive Oregon with coverage from time to time.