Camas football is all In the family

Following football not just a Thanksgiving tradition

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

CAMAS — Thanksgiving football. Check.

Thanksgiving turkey. Check.

Thanksgiving Eagle? You bet.

For one family in Camas, they all go together, this year more so than any previous day of feasts.

Instead of sleeping in on the holiday, Zach Eagle, a sophomore wide receiver for the Camas Papermakers, had to get up early for football practice.

He got a ride to practice from his dad, Jon Eagle, who just happens to be the head coach.

The Camas Papermakers are playing football late into November — the first time the program has reached the state semifinals. Camas takes on O’Dea at 7 p.m. Friday in the Tacoma Dome.

But before that big game, the Eagle family celebrated a big day.

“It felt weird because we had practice on Thanksgiving,” Zach Eagle said. “It was fun, getting up, seeing all the guys. And then we come back to spend time with the family.”

“It’s a pretty special deal to be able to practice on Thanksgiving,” Jon Eagle said.

This is the second time Jon Eagle has been the head coach of a team working the holiday. He led the Evergreen Plainsmen to the semifinals in 1995 — when Zach was 3 months old.

You can imagine this trip to the semifinals is a little more special for the family.

“It was awesome,” Jon said of he and Zach going to practice together Thursday morning. “I just tried to stop and enjoy it.”

Jon and Debbie Eagle have been married 25 seasons, er, years. They also have three daughters — Natalie, a senior at the University of Washington, Olivia, a senior at Camas, and Sophia, a seventh-grader. The children have grown up around the game, led by a mom who did not need to marry a coach to enjoy the game.

“I’ve always loved following football, even before I met Jon,” Debbie Eagle said. “Guess that worked out well.”

Jon, who has 137 wins as a head coach, credits his wife for his coaching career.

“It all starts with Debbie. If you coach football, it’s about putting in the time,” Jon said. “Without her support, I couldn’t do it.”

Debbie keeps the team’s statistics, with help now and then from Natalie. Olivia is enjoying her senior year at Camas, cheering on the football team that is more than just a team to her. And Sophia is used to several screens at home dedicated to football.

“Dad will have a (college) game on TV while he’s watching (video) of his team’s game from the night before,” Sophia said.

“Well of course,” Jon explained.

Natalie likes going to games with friends who do not follow the game as much. She becomes the expert.

“I love knowing everything about the game, explaining why they called that play or something,” Natalie said. “I just love the game. It’s a great game.”

Olivia said she had watched Zach play youth football and always envisioned watching him on varsity, playing for her dad.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, so I could finally watch him play Friday nights,” Olivia said. “It’s just awesome. Your dad’s on the field. Your brother’s on the field. Your mom’s taking stats. And I’m in the stands. It’s just awesome.”

Zach Eagle used to be the ball boy for the Papermakers.

“I’ve gone from saying, ‘Hey look, there’s my brother, the ball boy’ to ‘Hey look, there’s my brother who just made that catch,’ ” Olivia said.

Zach has been making a lot of receptions this season. He is the team’s second leading receiver with 32 catches for 574 yards and six touchdowns.

“At the beginning of the year, I just thought I’d try to play some receiver, help when I could,” Zach said. “I’ve had the opportunity to play a lot of different positions and help on special teams.”

Debbie said in 25 years she had missed a game or two now and then. But not now. Not with a son on the team, too.

“It’s fun to have a football player in the family,” she said.

A few months into Zach’s first season on varsity, these Papermakers have become the best in the program’s history in the playoff era.

Jon Eagle said he can still remember that Thanksgiving practice at Evergreen in 1995.

“When you do it, you think it’s going to happen every year,” Eagle said. “When it doesn’t happen every year, you realize how special it is to get that far.”

Jon and Zach have gone up to the Tacoma Dome as fans in previous seasons, to watch the final four and then the championship.

“It’s been great with my dad. We’ve always talked about wanting to go there,” Zach said. “We’d go up and watch the teams and say we want to be here eventually.

“We made it happen.”

Zach Eagle also said he hopes to make this a holiday tradition, going to the semifinals every year. That’s the goal, anyway.

But the family also knows there are no guaranteed victories in football. That’s why the Eagles are enjoying this ride so much.

For this football family, the whole family, going to the semifinals is a brand new experience.

The Eagles are enjoying every minute of it.