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Posts Tagged ‘Class of 1961’

Noel Criscuola, frozen in time, forever a Wolf hoops legend. (Photo courtesy Sharon Franzen)

The past, present, and future, all linked together.

Our ongoing efforts to track individual scoring totals for Coupeville High School basketball players pulls together multiple generations of Wolf hoops stars.

Once you’re in the fraternity, whether you played back in the program’s first season in 1917, or are suiting up for CHS this year, you’re part of something larger than yourself.

So, a day before the 2022-2023 season tips off, we pause to remember one of the greats.

Noel Criscuola, CHS Class of 1961, passed away at age 79 on Thanksgiving Day.

The younger brother of “Big” Mike Criscuola, the program’s first true superstar, Noel made his own strong impact for the Wolves.

He played, and scored, for the varsity team all four years of his high school run, compiling 298 career points in a Wolf uniform.

More than 60 years after his graduation, Noel still sits among the top 100 scorers all-time, currently residing at #97 among the 406 Wolf boys who I have been able to document rippling the nets at the varsity level.

After tossing in 20 points as a freshman, Noel added 46 as a sophomore, 70 as a junior, and 162 as a senior.

It’s very likely he would have scored more, except for playing alongside some of the program’s best bucket-makers.

Noel played three seasons with his brother Mike, #4 all-time in CHS boys history with 1,031 points, while also teaming with luminaries such as Denny Clark, Utz Conard, Gary Hammons, Denny Zylstra, and Sandy Roberts.

When he graduated in 1961, Noel was part of a 32-student group, the largest class to come through Coupeville High School in its first six decades.

In death, he will return to the prairie, and will be buried next to his father at Sunnyside Cemetary in a private ceremony.

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Jim Yake, a three-sport standout at Coupeville High School from 1957-1961. (Photos courtesy Sharon Franzen)

Looking back
On the memory of
The dance we shared
‘Neath the stars above
For a moment
All the world was right
How could I have known
That you’d ever say goodbye…

Garth Brooks was born a year after the Coupeville High School Class of 1961 graduated, and his song The Dance didn’t hit the radio until ’89.

But, as the Wolves of yesteryear plan for their 60th reunion at the end of July, the words carry a certain poignancy.

The Class of ’61 went 32 students deep (26 boys and six girls) — the largest class to graduate on the prairie at that point since CHS officially became CHS in 1900.

While several class members have passed in the years since, current plans call for at least half the class showing up for the reunion.

Like too much of the athletic history of Coupeville, the achievements of the young men and women who walked the hallways at CHS in those days is hard to come by.

The Whidbey News-Times, which always favored Oak Harbor in the early days (he grumbled to himself…), has long since buried their archives, packaged up and shipped off-Island by the paper’s Canadian overlords.

What we do have is the school’s yearbooks, which, depending on the year, are either incredibly rich in detail, or not so much.

The 1961 edition of the Leloo Cly sort of falls in the middle, with photos and names, but not much info on win/loss records or stats.

Of the four boys sports (Title IX was still a decade away), baseball, coached by the legendary Bob Barker, is the only one to report its results in the yearbook.

Coupeville’s diamond men, led by seniors like Vin Sherman and Jim Yake, as well as stars of the future such as Dale Sherman and Denny Clark, finished second in a six-team league in the spring of ’61.

Granite Falls topped the conference at 7-1, followed by the Wolves (5-4), La Conner (5-5), Sultan (5-5), Darrington (4-4), and Tolt (1-8).

While earlier annuals listed baseball stats — ’61 grad John Larson smacked a team-high 20 hits the season before — this time around yearbook editors went the mysterious route.

So, seniors like Ed MacDonald and Bob Dennis pop up in a team photo, but their stats? Possibly lost to time, and fading memories.

The same goes for the tennis and football squads.

From other sources, I do have complete scoring stats for the basketball team, which featured five seniors on an 11-man unit.

Yake led the Wolves in scoring, pumping in 247 points, while fellow seniors Vance Huffman (203), Noel Criscuola (162), Pat Millenbach (126), and Roy Mattox (83) all chipped in to the effort.

Setting the net on fire.

The 60-61 basketball team, led by coach Bob Boushey, might not have known it at the time, but a skinny freshman with a big grin would actually prove to be the most-accomplished player of the era.

Denny Clark rippled the nets for five points as a (presumably) wide-eyed frosh while sharing floor time with Utz Conard, Steve Smith, and Co.

Then he promptly added 864 more over the next three seasons, which is why Clark currently sits as the #9 scorer all-time across 104 seasons of CHS boys basketball.

On the tennis court, senior Ray Edwards was among the players hefting wooden rackets, while eight Class of ’61 grads led the football team.

Vin Sherman, Yake, Larson, Mattox, and Millenbach were joined by John Wofford, Frank Tinius, and Jim Engle.

And what about the girls, you ask?

Back in ’61, in the absence of female sports teams, CHS had what was known as the GAA — the Girls Athletic Association.

Bob Barker, who capped his coaching career by working with Wolf girls basketball teams in the late ’80s, remembers it being a sort of hodge-podge.

“Now, if my memory is correct, (and there is some possibility that it isn’t 100%), the interested girls would get together after school once or twice a week and indulge in some type of sport activity under the direction of a supervisor, which was usually their physical education instructor,” he said.

“I vaguely remember field hockey, and volleyball as a couple of those sports.”

Five of the six female students to graduate in ’61 participated in the GAA at some point in their high school career, with Junelle Bohnsack the lone senior in the program photo that year.

Junelle Bohnsack

She was ever-busy, a member of the school’s drill team and Girls Club, part of the newspaper and yearbook staff, and a scorekeeper for both football and basketball.

Bohnsack’s senior bio also includes a notation for playing tennis her final three years, though there’s nary a girls netter photo to be found in the ’61 Leloo Cly.

Another mystery for another time.

Piece by piece, the tapestry of Coupeville athletics comes into focus, and this time out we offer up a big thank you to Sharon Franzen, Homecoming Queen, Honor Roll stalwart, and also the owner of the yearbook from which this info spilled.

Raise a glass for the Class of ’61 — still setting the world afire six decades after they earned their diplomas.

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