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Union hires 5-time Oregon state champion coach Steve Pyne to lead Titans’ football program

Pyne, a Vancouver resident, built Portland’s Central Catholic into Oregon high school football power

By Meg Wochnick, Columbian staff writer
Published: February 8, 2024, 3:05pm

Union High School has hired one of the Pacific Northwest’s prominent high school coaches to lead its football program. 

The Titans named five-time Oregon state champion football coach Steve Pyne of Portland’s Central Catholic High School as their next head coach, the school announced Thursday.

The veteran coach won five state championships in Oregon’s largest classification and compiled nearly 200 victories in 21 seasons at the southeast Portland school. In November, Central Catholic capped a 13-0 season to win the 6A title with a 49-21 victory over Tualatin. In that game, the Rams set a 6A finals record for total yards in a championship game (639). 

Under Pyne’s guidance since 2003, Central Catholic climbed as a state power. The Rams won five 6A state titles over a 10-year span (2013, 2014, 2019, 2021 and 2023), captured 14 Mt. Hood Conference titles, and have been a state playoff regular by reaching the quarterfinals 12 times.

Pyne’s five state titles are the most all-time by a coach in Oregon’s largest classification. The Oregon School Activities Association, the state’s governing body for high school sports, began recognizing football team champions in 1940. 

To leave Central Catholic for a new challenge, Pyne said Thursday, “it had to be the right situation, the right administration, and the right vision.”

Union checked all those boxes. 

Union will be Pyne’s third head-coaching stop. Before Central Catholic, Pyne led Portland’s Ida B. Wells High (formerly Wilson High) from 1999-2002. His career record is 216-71.

While Pyne is new to Union and new to Washington high school football, he isn’t new to Vancouver. He and his wife, Erica, have made Vancouver their home since 2018. Erica Pyne also is associate principal of Evergreen Public Schools’ Illahee and York elementary schools. 

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For everything Pyne’s done on the field in 25 seasons as a head coach, what will make his Union coaching experience already different starts with this: he lives just minutes from the school. 

“I’ve never worked in a community I’ve lived in as a head coach (before now),” he said, “so there’s something about it that’s attractive to me as well.

“That will be unique, and I think it could be fun. It can be special.”

Last fall, Union went 2-7 and hasn’t reached the postseason in consecutive years. Pyne said he’s always viewed Union as a “really competitive” program that’s represented Southwest Washington well since the school opened in 2007. 

He pointed to Union’s 2018 undefeated state championship team as a byproduct of executing a mission, vision and getting buy-in from players, parents, coaches and a community. 

“A sense I get is the community really, really wants to build something special and get back to where they were,” Pyne said. 

Pyne also raved about the quality of football in Southwest Washington. Not just the teams, but also the coaches.

In 2012, Central Catholic faced Skyview, and also played Camas in 2016, 2017 and 2021. He said he has nothing but respect for some of the area’s long-standing coaches who’ve been around Clark County since the early- and mid-2000s: Mike Woodward (Battle Ground), Steve Kizer (Skyview) and new Camas coach Adam Mathieson (formerly at Mountain View). 

“I’m excited about the competition level,” Pyne said. “I think it’ll be great. … We’re going to focus on kids first and winning second and that’s going to be the mantra. And I think we can get kids, parents and the community members to buy into what we’re doing, and it’ll take care of itself.”