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   Coupeville has a new stadium. We should name it in honor of the ol’ ball coach, Ron Bagby.

Coupeville High School football is in a bad place.

This is not meant as a criticism of any individual currently or previously involved in the program. But it is reality.

CHS Athletic Director Willie Smith is in the process of finding a new head coach, and that hire will be the third head coach in four years, and the fifth in the last nine seasons.

For next year’s seniors, guys like Matt Hilborn and Shane Losey, they will have spent most of their prep careers just trying to get comfortable with a coach, only to have him depart midway through the process.

The Wolves haven’t posted a winning record since they went 6-5 in 2005.

That’s 11 losing seasons in 12 years, with a 5-5 mark in 2014 the only mild bright spot.

But there is hope. Real hope.

Coupeville is not a school stuck in the midst of an epic losing skid. It is not Glascock County in Georgia, which lost 82 straight games from 1990-99.

The Wolves retain ownership of The Bucket, having drilled Island arch-rival South Whidbey in back-to-back seasons, and they have some very talented players set to return next fall.

Sean Toomey-Stout, AKA “The Torpedo,” was on his way to an All-Conference season on both sides of the ball as a sophomore before an injury against Vashon derailed him.

Ty Eck, a standout as a freshman, has returned to Cow Town after playing in Oak Harbor as a sophomore and Missouri as a junior, and is primed to have a stellar senior campaign.

Toss in Hilborn, Losey, Chris Battaglia, Andrew Martin, Dawson Houston, Ryan Labrador, Dane Lucero, Jake Pease and others, and the next CHS head coach will have plenty to work with.

But the program could use a boost, a feel-good injection, and I can think of three things to provide that.

Two are already in place, or will be.

A new coach, whether they come from the current staff or from outside the district, always provides new hope, even more so if they are someone who inspires confidence.

Willie Smith has pledged his next hire will be someone committed to CHS for the long-term, someone willing to put in not just the hours, but the years, to build the program from the ground floor.

Someone like second-year volleyball coach Cory Whitmore or first-year boys basketball coach Brad Sherman, who have both lit a fuse under their programs, and seem like they’re ready to prowl the prairie for decades.

The new football coach will start their season on the road Aug. 31 at Port Townsend, with their home debut set for Sept. 7 against Vashon Island.

That game will be the first football game played with Coupeville’s new stadium in place, which provides another jolt of energy.

Having much-larger stands, with a roof to block out the Whidbey rain and a press box to keep me snug as a bug (well, it’s important to me…), with that stadium on the same side as the parking lot, is HUGE.

And this is where I think CHS, its administration and its fans, should take advantage of the new stadium and use it to provide not one, but two, big jolts of energy to the Wolf football program.

It’s simple.

The field the Wolf gridiron giants, and soccer booters, and track and field throwers, play on, is named for Mickey Clark, a longtime local historian and all-around good guy.

It’s been that way for decades, and there is absolutely, positively, no reason to change it.

But…

With a simple, but very powerful, gesture, we can do more.

When the Wolves take the field against Vashon, the man on the PA system, most likely the aforementioned Willie Smith, should welcome everyone to … “Ron Bagby Stadium at Mickey Clark Field.”

Boom.

With one simple sentence, you honor Coupeville football’s past and you kick the future off in style.

Now, if you’re not from around here, you may be asking, “Who is this man they call Bags?”

He is Coupeville football.

Before our recent string of short-term coaches, Bagby prowled the sidelines for 26 seasons, until his retirement in 2009.

After showing up from the wilds of Forks, the man who once wore the shortest short-shorts since Larry Bird, a man who still owns records as a college football player, transformed the CHS program.

He led the Wolves to their only undefeated season in 1990, hosting a state playoff game at Mickey Clark Field with a squad boasting a 9-0 record.

Bags took numerous teams to the playoffs over the years, was in charge the last time the Wolves posted a winning record, and taught three decades worth of players how to never back down and never give in, regardless of the name on the jersey worn by the other team.

Plus, he coached track and boys basketball, where he remains the last guy to take that program to state (way back in ’88), and also did time as an Athletic Director.

While he currently declines the opportunity to coach, Bagby is still haunting Coupeville’s gyms and weight room as a teacher, which makes this even better.

It is always preferable to honor someone, to pay tribute to them for what they have accomplished and the lives they have affected, while they’re still around to blush.

You name the new stadium for Bags, hang a plaque, get wife Marie and his kids to force him to show up for a pre-game ceremony, and you make that first home game far more than just a game.

I have no doubt former players and coaches would pack the joint for that ceremony, which means we can create something similar to what happened when we did the 101-year anniversary event for boys basketball this winter.

The electricity, the joy, that flowed through our gym that night is like nothing I have ever experienced during my time covering sports here in Cow Town.

It was the past, the present and the future united, and it lit a spark under the Wolf boys basketball team like nobody’s business.

With the stands jammed, with the legends of the past transformed from names in old newsprint into living, breathing men reunited, the current Wolves fed off the energy and savaged Chimacum.

Beyond that one game, the experience continues to have an impact, and there is little doubt a similar night to honor CHS girls basketball will be on the docket for next season.

But, before we get there, we have this golden moment set for Sept. 7 — the start of a new home football season, the introduction of a new coach and a new team, and a shiny new stadium ready for the spotlight.

Bring back the greats of the past, from Ian Barron to Noah Roehl, from Casey Larson to Chad Gale and beyond, honor Bags, a man who made the Wolf football program feared and respected, and inspire the players of today.

It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s right.

“Ladies and gentlemen, and Wolf fans of all ages, welcome … to Ron Bagby Stadium at Mickey Clark Field.”

Just do it.

 

Want to let CHS administrators know how you feel? Sign our petition at:

https://www.change.org/p/david-svien-name-coupeville-s-new-stadium-for-ron-bagby

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   A mere six months until Friday Night Lights return to the prairie. (David Stern photo)

Is 198 days before the first game too early to talk about the Coupeville High School football schedule?

Of course not.

Sure, the Wolves don’t even have a head coach right now, as Athletic Director Willie Smith conducts a search to replace the departed Jon Atkins.

The plan is to have a new gridiron boss in place by May, one whose career track will more closely emulate former coach Ron Bagby (25+ years) than the four guys who have combined to deliver eight seasons since Bags retired.

But, while we wait for that announcement, the Wolf football schedule has popped up online, and it reflects a mix of the past with the future.

To get right to it, this is what’s planned as of today, with (*) marking league games in the new North Sound Conference.

Aug. 31 @ Port Townsend — (6:00)
Sept. 7 Vashon Island — (6:00)
Sept. 14 Friday Harbor — (TBD)
Sept. 21 @ La Conner — (7:00)
Sept. 28 King’s (*) — (7:00)
Oct. 5 Sultan (*) — (7:00)
Oct. 12 @ South Whidbey (*) — (7:00)
Oct. 19 @ Cedar Park Christian (*) — (7:00)
Oct. 26 Granite Falls (*) — (7:00)

First things first, it’s a nine-game schedule, and not 10 games as it was the past two seasons when CHS played as part of the Olympic/Nisqually League hybrid.

Week #10 will play out in one of three ways for Coupeville football.

Finish in the top two in their six-team league and they are playoff-bound.

Miss the postseason but finish third or fourth and the Wolves get a season-ending crossover game with either the #3 or #4 school from the 1A division of the Northwest Conference.

That four-team league features Meridian, Nooksack Valley, Mount Baker and Lynden Christian.

The schools which finish fifth and sixth in the North Sound Conference football standings will be given an option of playing a crossover game against another non-playoff team.

If they choose to do so, it will be up to their AD’s to find an opponent.

A major plus is the schedule has CHS playing five games at home, and six on Whidbey.

The only road trips are short hops to Port Townsend and La Conner and a little bit longer one (47.2 miles) to Bothell.

Which, I’d like to point out, is still six miles shorter than a trip to Silverdale to face Klahowya has been the past four years.

The season kicks off with rematches with the RedHawks and Pirates, though this time they will be non-conference foes.

Then comes back-to-back tilts with a pair of Northwest 2B League schools who would have been new league mates if the WIAA had approved Coupeville’s bid to drop from 1A to 2B.

After that, the heart of the season is five league games as Coupeville and its compatriots open play in their new league.

It’s not marked yet, but Homecoming likely falls either Sept. 28 or Oct. 5.

After several years of opening the season against South Whidbey, the annual battle for The Bucket, which Coupeville has won two years straight, now drops much deeper into the season.

Add the intrigue of it being a league game again, and the stakes are just that much higher.

Some may ask why Coupeville immediately returns to Langley in 2018 after playing there in 2017, but that’s because a new league, and the two-year schedule that comes with it, just happens to break down that way.

The Falcons will fly to Cow Town in 2019.

While the Wolves will be a different team this fall, having lost a number of key seniors and facing a coaching change, they match-up well with their proposed foes.

Coupeville went 3-1 against teams from this schedule in 2017, beating La Conner, Vashon and South Whidbey, while falling to Port Townsend.

Eight of the nine teams the Wolves are scheduled to play in 2018 had losing records in 2017, including, yes, King’s, which finished 3-7.

The lone school coming off of a winning season is South Whidbey, and that comes with a caveat, as the Falcons, taking a year off from the 1A/2A Cascade Conference to rebuild their program, ran the table against much-smaller teams.

After absorbing losses to fellow 1A schools Coupeville and Chimacum to open, the Falcons won their final seven while facing 2B schools and a Canadian program playing football for the first time.

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   Bob Martin stepped down from his positions as Coupeville Middle School head football and boys basketball coach. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Want to coach in Coupeville? There’s plenty of jobs to go around.

Both the high school and middle school have two slots available, as Athletic Director Willie Smith is seeking new head coaches for CHS football, CMS football and CMS boys basketball.

The school system is also looking for an assistant coach for CHS boys soccer.

The four jobs have come open for different reasons, as two coaches resigned and one unexpectedly passed away.

Jon Atkins stepped down as CHS football coach after two seasons, while the community lost a well-respected man when CHS soccer assistant coach and “goalkeeper whisperer” Gary Manker passed Jan. 25.

The two new openings, both coming at the middle school level, are due to Bob Martin recently stepping down.

For more info on the job openings, or to apply, pop over to:

https://www.applitrack.com/coupeville/onlineapp/default.aspx?Category=Athletics%2fActivities

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   Three generations of star Wolf quarterbacks, finally caught together on film. From left to right, Brad Sherman, Hunter Downes and Corey Cross. (Lisa Jenne photo)

Three men, of different eras, all linked by the uniform they wore and the touchdowns they threw.

If you look at the Coupeville High School record board, Corey Cross, Brad Sherman and Hunter Downes share a line, tied for the most touchdown passes in a single game by a Wolf quarterback.

The magic number is four, and was first accomplished by Cross in 1971.

Three decades later, Sherman matched the mark, doing it twice during the 2001 season.

Jump forward 15 more seasons, and this time, it was Downes dropping a quartet of scoring bombs during a road game in 2016.

Sherman was on the sideline, calling the plays for Downes as the CHS Offensive Coordinator, and with his help, the young gun claimed a second mark, this one for career TD passes, during his senior season in 2017.

The holder of that career mark? Sherman … who had originally taken it away from Cross.

Three legends, forever linked.

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   CHS football coach Jon Atkins has resigned after a two-season run. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

New season, new league, new coach.

Coupeville High School leaves behind the Olympic League this fall, and it will do so with a new coach at the helm of the Wolf football program.

Jon Atkins officially tendered his resignation Monday, bringing an end to his two-year run as head coach.

He compiled a 6-14 record during his two years, and is the only CHS football coach to win back-to-back times against South Whidbey since the two schools started competing for The Bucket.

Atkins is the fourth-straight Wolf gridiron coach to leave after a relatively short stint. He follows in the footsteps of Brett Smedley (one year), Tony Maggio (three) and Jay Silver (two).

Prior to that, Ron Bagby led the program for 26 seasons.

Under Atkins guidance, the Wolves went 3-7 in back-to-back seasons. He started 3-2 this year, before a crippling wave of injuries claimed most of his play-makers.

During his two years, receiver Hunter Smith and quarterback Hunter Downes both set game, season and career records.

Atkins remains a teacher and head girls basketball coach at Oak Harbor, but the grind of balancing two schools and a home life has made life difficult for the coach.

“I have loved the last two years working with the student athletes, parents, and administration,” Atkins said. “However, it has become increasingly difficult teaching at a different school  and coaching at another.

“I have found myself with less time to accomplish the things needed to get done to be a successful head coach.”

Atkins and wife Danielle have young children, and, as they grow, their athletic endeavors are beginning to take more of his time as well.

“I have also chosen to spend more time with my children,” he said. “Both of my children play soccer in the fall and basketball or baseball in the spring and I needed more time to be there from them and watch their games.

“For me, being a father is the most important job I have and both of them would like me to attend more of their functions.”

While he won’t be on the sideline next fall, Atkins will watch from afar, and root for the Wolves.

“I truly wish the CHS program all the luck and success in the years to come.”

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