Tactics, talent, trust bond Camas coaching staff

Willingness to listen, compromise empowers head coach Jon Eagle, assistants

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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photoMany of the Camas assistant coaches have been working with head coach Jon Eagle for many seasons.

(/The Columbian)

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Jon Eagle and Reilly Hennessey can talk football for hours.

Actually, that is exactly what they do.

The head coach and the quarterback for the Camas Papermakers, the two can often be seen in front of a white board, Eagle drawing up defenses, Hennessey trying to find the best option. Eagle might show a defensive back reacting one way, Hennessey might opine that there is some open space over there.

"You have to have an outstanding relationship. It's gotta be give and take," Eagle said. "You've got to be willing to listen, compromise."

Same could be said for the entire coaching staff.

The Camas Papermakers are playing for the Class 4A state championship Saturday night in the Tacoma Dome. Kickoff against Chiawana of Pasco is 7:30 p.m.

The Papermakers got there with talent, execution, and of course, coaching.

Jon Eagle certainly knows how to coach. He led Evergreen to the 1995 state semifinals. At Camas, the Papermakers have reached at least the elite eight in each of the past four seasons. His record as the head coach at Evergreen, Redmond and Camas, now stands at 164-60.

"I don't think about it," he said of the number of wins. "If that's all you in it for, that's a pretty shallow approach to things. Most coaches will tell you the games are fun, and the preparation is fun, but you have to enjoy the people you work with."

That is what makes this staff at Camas so special.

Eagle took over as head coach in 2008. Eight of his assistants on staff today have been with him since the beginning.

Dan Kielty, the defensive coordinator, began working with Eagle in 1991. Kielty was on staff at Evergreen when the Plainsmen went to the semifinals. Kielty later won a state title as an assistant at Evergreen in 2004 when Eagle was coaching in Redmond. When Eagle returned to Southwest Washington and joined the staff at Camas, Kielty rejoined his colleague.

"Continuity. We don't have to meet very long to know what each guy's job is," Kielty said.

Kielty said the same theory that players who like each other play for each other also applies to a coaching staff.

"I don't want to let anyone down," Kielty said. "You root for each other's success."

Of course, with a program-wide staff of 15 coaches, there are going to be occasional differences as to the best way to prepare for the next game.

"All the time," Eagle said. "You have to have an opinion. You have to believe in something. We have an offensive philosophy. The only way you get there is to continue to discuss the nuances of football."

Eagle, also the offensive coordinator, has changed his views on offense over the years, going with the fast-paced offense. That can sometimes conflict with a defensive coordinator's mindset, of wanting the offense to kill some time during possessions.

They work it out. And at 13-0, clearly, whatever Eagle and Kielty have worked out, is working.

Together, they hope to get to 14-0 this year, with a state championship.

Eagle said it will not change who he is.

"Regardless of the outcomes, I will still have to take the trash out and I'll still mow the lawn," he said with a smile.

One thing he does want, if the team wins a state title, is some recognition for former head coach Bob Holman. It was Holman who took over the program in 1997 when the Papermakers were on an 11-game losing streak. That first season under Holman, the team lost every game. However, Holman kept working, eventually leading the Papermakers to winning records for eight consecutive seasons from 2000 to 2007, with playoff appearances in six of those years.

"We're all standing here on his shoulders," Eagle said. "He laid the foundation for what we are today."

That would be on the precipice of a state title.

Technically, if Camas wins Saturday night, the victory would go on Eagle's coaching record. He said it really should be a staff record.

"It's a dozen (or so) guys all working a piece of the puzzle, putting it all together," Eagle said.