High School Football

After beating cancer, 100-win milestone is no big deal for this Idaho football coach

Vallivue High football coach Layne Coffin enters Friday night with a chance to earn his 100th career win.

Not bad for someone who almost never picked up a whistle.

Coffin graduated from Pocatello High in 1979 before bouncing around a couple junior colleges as a track and football athlete. Realizing he “just wasn’t that good,” he returned home without a degree to build houses with his father and even started his own construction company.

But a testicular cancer diagnosis at 23 years old forced Coffin to re-examine what he wanted out of life. He always admired his high school teachers and coaches. So after surgeons removed a 1.5-pound growth from his stomach cavity, he enrolled at Idaho State to get his teaching degree, become a coach and pass on all he’s learned to the next generation.

“I liked the kids’ energy, and I liked being around that environment,” Coffin said. “I felt like I could enjoy life. If you do something you love, you don’t have to go to work.”

Thirty-one years and thousands of athletes later, Coffin (99-78) sits on the precipice of a milestone victory as the third-ranked Falcons open the season against Canyon Ridge at 7 p.m. Friday at home. But true to Coffin’s character, he had no clue of the approaching landmark until I called and informed him earlier this week.

“I didn’t even think about it,” Coffin said. “I’m just excited to have a game this week. We’re tired of seeing each other.”

He’s spent the past three weeks building his 14th Vallivue squad. Burnout remains common among high school coaches as more and more responsibilities are heaped upon them, from managing paperwork to recruiting their own hallways to smoothing parent relationships. But Vallivue Athletic Director Tony Brulotte said Coffin remains passionate and dedicated to reaching every player in the program.

“He’s got a soft spot for kids,” Brulotte said. “He can build those relationships through football. He uses football as a lens to help kids emotionally and physically. He holds kids accountable and has high expectations for kids, and kids respect that.”

Coffin graduated from Idaho State in 1989, 10 years after finishing at Pocatello High. Proving it’s never too late to get started, he joined the staff at Highland High that fall before departing for Marsh Valley and taking over the Eagles’ program in 1998.

Vallivue Layne Coffin
Vallivue football coach Layne Coffin enters Friday’s season opener with a career record of 99-78. Otto Kitsinger Idaho Statesman file

He made a name for himself as the first Idaho coach to run the double-wing offense at Century when it opened in the fall of 1999. He used the dominant and then-exotic rushing attack to win back-to-back state titles in 2000 and 2001, including a perfect season in 2000 he finished with a win over Vallivue in the championship.

He brought the double wing to Vallivue in 2006 and made an immediate impact as the Falcons joined the 5A Southern Idaho Conference that fall. But Coffin also remains adaptable. He switched to a spread offense four years ago to take advantage of quarterback Lan Larison, who started the opening week as a freshman and hasn’t stopped torching defenses since. Coffin and Larison led Vallivue to the state semifinals for the first time since 2000 a year ago, topping the 4A classification in scoring average (44.9) and yards per game (488).

No matter the formation or which team he brings onto the field, Bishop Kelly coach Tim Brennan said he expects a hard-fought battle from every Coffin-led team.

“You know the kids are going to be disciplined and they are going to play very hard,” Brennan said. “They are just tough kids. They are tough kids because I know Layne very well, and he’s a competitive and tough guy. They reflect their coach.”

At 58 years old, Coffin knows he could take his retirement in the next three to four years. But he said he has no plans to. Even if he stopped teaching, removing him from a football field would take a crowbar.

“I don’t know what I’ll do, but I’ll find something,” Coffin said. “I don’t think I’m a full-time retirement guy, if that makes any sense. I just can’t sit around. I’ve got to do something.”

Rocky Mountain vs. Borah, 7 p.m. Thursday at Dona Larsen Park

Borah has given Rocky Mountain more fits than nearly anyone else the past three years, scoring a 7-6 win at Dona Larsen in 2017 and pushing the Grizzlies to the brink in a six-point loss last year and five-point loss in 2016.

But the Lions are rebuilding after the graduation of Jake Standlee, Ellis Magnuson and company. Defending state champ Rocky Mountain returns loaded for another title run and will roll to its 13th straight win.

Rocky Mountain 35, Borah 14

Skyview at Meridian, 7 p.m. Friday

Meridian enters the year with the hype of the next team to crash the “Big Four” of Rocky Mountain, Mountain View, Eagle and Capital. But before it can dream of knocking off the league’s powers, it must prove it can stop anyone after giving up 39.1 points per game last year.

The Warriors can take the first step toward legitimate contender by suffocating a Skyview squad that must replace a ton of offensive firepower but has never struggled to score.

Meridian 32, Skyview 20

Boise vs. Capital, 7 p.m. Friday at Dona Larsen Park

Capital owns one of the state’s most impressive streaks with 29 straight victories over district rival Boise dating back to 1989. Make it 30.

Capital 42, Boise 7

Nampa football Donnie Estrada file
Nampa quarterback Donavon Estrada will pose a tough challenge for a Bishop Kelly defense with 10 new starters. WILLY HARRIS Special to the Idaho Statesman

Nampa at Bishop Kelly, 7 p.m. Friday

Bishop Kelly starts the year as 4A’s top-ranked team. But it’s unranked Nampa with the experience edge in the opening week’s top matchup.

A Bishop Kelly defense breaking in 10 new starters must find a way to slow Nampa quarterback Donavon Estrada. He’s a guarantee to break a few big plays, and he has the talent around him to keep the Knights from tilting their defense entirely to him.

Settle in for a shootout. But Bishop Kelly has plenty of weapons, too.

Bishop Kelly 35, Nampa 33

Middleton at Kuna, 7 p.m. Friday

Week 1 features a battle atop the projected 4A SIC standings between No. 2-ranked Middleton and Kuna.

Senior quarterback Dallas Hagler, a second-team All-Idaho pick, returns to lead the Vikings’ vaunted Air Raid attack. But coaches throughout the 4A SIC keep warning that Kuna poses a legitimate threat to win the conference title.

I’m not buying it until I see it though.

Middleton 30, Kuna 22

Canyon Ridge at Vallivue, 7 p.m. Friday

Predicting how high school athletes perform remains a fool’s errand, especially the first week of the season. But Vallivue should start planning a celebration for Coffin’s 100th win.

Vallivue 45, Canyon Ridge 7

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Michael Lycklama has covered Idaho high school sports since 2007. He’s won national awards for his work uncovering the stories of the Treasure Valley’s best athletes and investigating behind-the-scenes trends.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.
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