Last Friday, Holly beat then-No. 2 Hoehne in what head coach Dayne Eaton called the biggest win the program has had for as long as he's been around. But the night was just beginning for Coach Eaton. The team bus got back from Hoehne at about 1 o'clock in the morning and one of Eaton's players had a car that wouldn't start. So, Eaton gave the player a ride home. After getting home at about 2 a.m., Eaton had to turn around and get his son to a football game in Lamar at 8:30 a.m. Eaton and his son got there safe, sound and on time. And they won. Eaton also coaches baseball at Holly and won the 2016 1A state championship. Eaton was selected as this week's Denver Broncos High School Coach of the Week. The award is selected in partnership with the Broncos, CHSCA, and the InSideOut Coaching Initative, which seeks to transform the current win-at-all-costs sports culture. Find a complete list of winners on this page.
Years as head coach: 6 (25-18)
Years at Holly: 6
Previous stops: Holly assistant (1997); Holly head coach (1998-99); Holly assistant (2003-05); Holly head coach (2014-present).
Q: Why did you become a coach?
Eaton: Do you want the funny story or the straight up? When you can no longer play, you referee. When you can no longer referee, then you coach. When you can no longer coach, then you're the loud mouth on the end of the field. I can no longer play, so I referee basketball and now I'm coaching football. More than anything, the story of me coaching football is kind of interesting. When I student taught, they found that I played football and basketball and baseball in high school, and they needed a junior high coach, so I coached junior high for — jeez, I guess it's been 20 years. As far as high school, I'm sitting with my son, we're a 1-8 team, and we're watching the high school play. He says, 'Why don't you help them?' Because our junior high was so successful. I said, 'Well, that'll be less time that I can spend with you,' but I agreed to come on as an assistant. At that point in time, the varsity coach had some health issues with his child, so he stepped down and I was all by myself. So then I ask a guy, a local farmer, to help me. Then, we just instilled the same kind of things that we were doing in junior high. That you want to work to get better, you always have to show good sportsmanship. You know, just instilling the hard work and that the journey is more important than wins and losses. Learning to work hard and being rewarded for that.
Q: Is there a reason you coach the way you do?
Eaton: I guess, more than anything, I've been on both ends of it. I've coached those teams that didn't have much talent, and our goal for the season was to improve. Right now, we're kind of on an upswing as far as talent, so we've got to make sure that we're doing things right as far as sportsmanship, as far as setting good examples for the young kids in our community. I have the luxury of coaching the high school, junior high and the peewee football team. I get all of them, and I try to include other people to help out. You asked me how I coach the way I do, and I really wish more people got to see this. My high school put on a youth camp, and the players and my assistant coaches would go through this camp. Everyone had a buddy, they went through the same stretches and warm-ups that our varsity team does. We talked about fundamentals and three-point stance. The high school guys, I was amazed at how well they worked with 6, 7, 8-year old kids. It's like they instantly found a best friend.
Q: What would you say it's like to be coached by you?
Eaton: Number one, they know that I care about them most as a person. I've been in a number of weddings of former players. They call on me when they've lost a job or when they're in a rough time. A number of my players have had their parents pass away. They come by and just talk. I try to be there for them number one as a person. They know that I care about them as a person. Number two, I'm a little bit of a jokester. We like to have fun. I tell the kids, if we're not going to have fun, then we're out here for the wrong purpose. That's probably most important as far as my philosophy. They know how much I care about them, and then two, they know that we're going to have fun out here. We're going to work hard, but if we're not having fun, then we're in the wrong place, and they need to be doing something else.
Q: Is there a favorite moment or memory you have as a coach?
Eaton: Coaching in general. You could say, 'Hey, it's when we won the state championship in baseball.' That isn't necessarily it. It's when we have the comebacks. The game Friday night against Hoehne, and for as long as I can remember, we hadn't even come close to beating them. And then, Friday night, it was a huge homecoming crowd there at Hoehne. We were down 14-7 at halftime, and kids just looked at each other and said they were just going to give all they've got. When the kids were saying that, I knew we had a chance. Of course, the game turned out our way, but what makes you feel good as a coach is when the kids are being the leaders and not blaming others. One of our big sayings is "Who's got my back?" Everybody has your back. We really had that. We had guys going down with soreness and injuries, and our reserves basically won the game for us because they did their job.
Q: To start the season 3-0, and to beat the then-No. 2 team in the state in Hoehne, what does that mean for your season?
Eaton: You could say a lot of different things. One of the big things is the way that we won it as a team and the enthusiasm that we had. Just the belief in one another. Afterwards, we said that we didn't want it to be the end of our season or the high point. We want bigger and better things. I told them that this was the biggest win that I have ever had in my football coaching career, and I thanked them. I believe in them, and we'll see how far this run will take us. This was the biggest win of our program for as long as I've been around.
Q: Can you point to one thing that has stood out to you the most this season?
Eaton: I bought this sign in June, right after school. It says, "Football" Around it, it says, "Attitude, effort and commitment." I said, 'Boys, this needs to be our mantra. This summer, we went to the Denver Broncos 7-on-7 competition. I thought I was going to get maybe seven or eight guys. I had 13 jump in the van. It was a 15-passenger van. So, we went to Denver which was about a four-and-a-half hour drive in that van. We did really well. We tied once, and we won four of them. It felt like we could really compete. We got done early, so we got Rockpile tickets and went to the Rockies game. They ended up winning that game in the ninth, so we had a good time there. Then, we went to a team contact camp. You never know how many guys are going to be able to get off during baling season in July, and we had some guys take some time off. It was three days up at Buena Vista. That was a great team builder. We went white water rafting, we went on the ropes course, and then we did a lot of fundamental football. We slept on the gym floor. Putting in that extra time, just making that commitment made me really think we had something special this year.
Cannon Casey - CHSAANow.com