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Jeff and Cindy Rhubottom. (Contributed photos)

   A flashback to the days when Rhubottom terrorized Wolf rivals on the hardwood.

   The socks were extraordinary, and so was their ability to put the ball in the hoop.

“Respect yourself. Respect your school.”

Jeff Rhubottom was one of the best athletes to ever walk the hallways of Coupeville High School, and he lived by that credo.

A 6-foot-4 tower of power, the 1978 Wolf grad was a 12-time letter winner (four times each in football, basketball and track and field), a two-time All-Conference hoops player and the school record holder in the high jump for more than a decade.

While fellow football player Rich Wilson (6-4) nipped Rhubottom’s mark (6-2) in 2000 — and retains the school record 17 years later — Rhubottom’s legacy still looms large.

He torched the basketball nets for 459 points his senior season in 1977-1978, the second-best single-season mark ever put up a Wolf, boy or girl.

Over the course of four seasons, while sharing the ball with some of the biggest scorers and sweetest shooters in CHS hoops history, he finished with 1,012 points.

In 100 seasons of Wolf boys basketball, only Jeff Stone (1137), Mike Bagby (1104) and Rhubottom contemporary Randy Keefe (1088) have topped that.

While he enjoyed his other sports (he was a tight end/outside linebacker in football and a sprinter, relay runner and state meet-qualifying high jumper on the track oval), basketball was always Rhubottom’s favorite.

“Making the starting five on the varsity squad in basketball my sophomore year” was a particular highlight, which allowed him to “play with great athletes like Bill Jarrell, Randy Keefe, Marc Bisset and Foster Faris.”

That unit played for legendary CHS coach Bob Barker, a man who had a huge positive impact on Rhubottom.

“Coach Barker (was a favorite) for his professionalism,” Rhubottom said. “I remember him quoting as he was handing out our red blazers, ‘You’re representing yourself as an athlete and you’re representing Coupeville High School’.”

CHS football coach Pat Lippincott and track guru Craig Pedlar (“great teacher, great coach”) also helped shaped the young Rhubottom into the man he became.

“Coach Pedlar brought Michael Ellsworth, Jeff Fielding, and myself to the State A Finals in Yakima in 1978,” Rhubottom said. “It was great to be involved with great athletes of the school.

“It’s what you did on Friday nights.”

Whether it was standing tall at the state tourney or ripping through the line to block a punt against Concrete, before scooping up the loose ball and taking it to the house for a touchdown, Rhubottom played with passion, for himself and his teammates.

“I loved and respected the athletic program, playing with great athletes in a small town.”

The lessons he learned as a Wolf benefited Rhubottom as he went on to build his own family (he has a son, Jeff, Jr.) and a career in the painting business.

“Working hard and being responsible and trying to stay in the best physical shape as the years go by. Keeping active,” have been his guiding principals.

Rhubottom considers himself “totally blessed,” having been married to Cindy, “the most beautiful, loving wife, mother, and grandmother” until she lost her battle with cancer in September, 2016.

Being “surrounded by loving new and old family” has helped him greatly.

As he looks back at his own career, Rhubottom calls on today’s Wolves to seize the day.

“Respect yourself. Respect your school. Give 110%. Enjoy the experience,” he said. “Have fun, because it goes by quick.

“Keep active. Always love the sport,” Rhubottom added. “It was fun to take a trip down memory road of my athletic career at Coupeville High School. These are memories I will cherish forever.”

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Teo Keilwitz (left) and Clay Reilly take down a Falcon. (John Fisken photos)

Hunter Smith dives for the end zone. Spoiler: he made it.

   Ignoring the man mountain headed his way, Wolf QB Joel Walstad prepares to fire a TD pass.

You can’t get away from Jacob Martin.

Every game matters, but one matters just a bit more.

Coupeville and South Whidbey were made to be arch-rivals, reasonably close in student body size and proximity, and their turf war has been a memorable one over the years, regardless of sport.

But when the Wolves and Falcons meet on the gridiron, there’s a little something extra at stake, as that clash is the only one which has a trophy.

“The Bucket” (literally a large bucket with each school’s logo on one side) is a fairly recent invention, a way to settle a feud which blossomed at a volleyball match about a decade back.

Coupeville Athletic Director Willie Smith hatched the idea and now, each fall, the victor claims the trophy and owns it for the next year.

Coupeville will carry The Bucket with it when it heads to Langley this year, kicking off a new school sports year Friday, Sept. 1, still basking in last year’s 41-10 rout of the Falcons.

With CHS coach Jon Atkins entering his second year at the helm, he’ll try and do something which evaded his recent predecessors — Jay Silver, Tony Maggio and Brett Smedley — and guide the Wolves to back-to-back wins in the grudge match.

After busting a five-year run of South Whidbey wins with an 18-13 victory in 2012, Coupeville fell 57-33 in 2013, won 35-28 in 2014, lost 27-14 in 2015 then romped to a win last year.

Silver (0-2) and Smedley (0-1) never beat the Falcons, while Maggio’s success (2-1) included him out-coaching former college coach Chris Tormey in 2014.

This time around, South Whidbey has turned to former long-time coach Mark Hodson, who was recruited to save a program in free-fall.

The Falcons, who lost their final seven games last season en route to a 1-8 mark, are taking a break from the 1A/2A Cascade Conference (at least for a season) and will play an independent football schedule this fall.

After opening with fellow 1A schools Coupeville and Chimacum, South Whidbey will face Valley View Secondary, a Canadian team.

Then it’s on to six straight games against 2B schools — Ocosta, Friday Harbor,  La Conner, Darrington, Concrete and Liberty Bell.

Not having to face Cascade Conference foes like ATM, Cedarcrest or King’s will give Hodson and Co. a chance to rebuild a roster which was severely depleted from previous seasons.

Regardless of record (Coupeville was 3-7 last season), the season-opening match-up of Wolves and Falcons is huge.

The winner gets bragging rights to go with possession of The Bucket, an undefeated record (for at least a week), an emotional boost and memories.

As we sit here, a mere 23 days away from this year’s clash, a handful of Coupeville players looked back at their own battles and what they remember:

JR Pendergrass:

My sophomore year, we were beating South Whidbey and we had the ball, running the clock down.

The player across from me on the line kept hitting me every time we took a knee to run the clock, because we were winning, and it took all the power in my being not to plant him in the ground.

Raymond Beiriger:

Junior year, it was my first year playing. And even though I was JV, we all went to watch the varsity play, and watching them fight for something that meant everything to them.

It really inspired me to play my senior year and try harder.

Watching them win The Bucket was amazing and I was super happy.

Uriel Liquidano:

Best memory was last year when South Whidbey was talking all this smack about how they where going to beat us and take The Bucket, that was pretty funny.

Good times, gonna miss playing on a Friday night. #OurBucket.

Jacob Martin:

Breaking a 70-yard TD and scoring the first TD of the game!

Korbin Korzan:

Sophomore year, varsity OLB, we won The Bucket. One of my best high school memories of all time.

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   Cameron Toomey-Stout (11) and Co. will seek a second-straight win over South Whidbey when the season kicks off Sept. 1. (John Fisken photo)

Well, it’s a start.

Coming off a 3-7 season (in which it was two plays from being 5-5), the Coupeville High School football team is ranked ahead of 2,631 other teams nationally in a preseason poll.

Of course, before you get super excited, MaxPreps, which is behind these way-too-early-and-based-on-little-of-substance rankings, has 14,546 schools in its poll.

So, the Wolves are looking upwards at a few thousand teams.

Officially, CHS sits #38 in 1A, #234 in Washington state and #11,915 nationally in the rankings.

California juggernaut Mater Dei is #1 in the USA, while Atlanta’s Cross Keys sits dead last at #14,546.

As always, there’s more to the story than just the ranking.

According to an online story I briefly skimmed, Cross Keys is the most culturally diverse school in Georgia, with students from 65 countries who speak 75 different languages.

It’s a school of immigrants, many of whom are playing football (at least the American version) for the first time, which is why at one point the school had won just 16 games across 18 seasons.

But back to Coupeville.

Last season was the first year of a two-year test run on combining the Olympic and Nisqually Leagues for football, with the Wolves finishing 6th out of eight teams.

The MaxPreps “rankings” aren’t based on the views of coaches, writers and fans, but off of previous win-loss records, quality of wins and strength of schedule.

While the 2017 preseason standings are semi-close to being a mirror image of the 2016 results, they do project Charles Wright Academy hurdling Klahowya and Coupeville skipping past Bellevue Christian.

Take it with a grain of salt, but here’s how the Wolves stack up with the 10 schools they’re scheduled to play this season.

PS — Nooksack, La Conner and South Whidbey are non-conference foes, and La Conner is a 2B and not a 1A school. The Braves are ranked #8 in their classification.

School 1A State Nation
Cascade Christian #5 #67 #4,628
Nooksack Valley #12 #104 #6,338
La Conner #141 #8,137
Port Townsend #24 #190 #10,188
Charles Wright #31 #210 #10,890
Klahowya #36 #229 #11,676
COUPEVILLE #38 #234 #11,915
Bellevue Christian #45 #257 #12,729
Vashon Island #49 #286 #13,930
South Whidbey #50 #290 #14,086
Chimacum #51 #292 #14,105

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   Former Wolf coach Ryan King (right) has been working with Jacob Martin as he prepares to chase his college football dream. (Photo courtesy Martin)

You can take the coach out of the school, but you can’t take the coach out of the game.

For the first time in several years, Ryan King isn’t planning on being on the sidelines this coming school year.

The Coupeville High School grad, a captain on the last Wolf football team to post a winning season in 2005, has worked in recent years as a football and basketball coach for both CHS and CMS.

After finishing the middle school girls hoops season this past winter, King decided to take a break from both that sport and high school football, where he had been an assistant under Tony Maggio, Brett Smedley and Jon Atkins.

But while he’s no longer sporting official Wolf coaching gear, the lure of working with athletes is a hard one to resist, and King is reemerging as a personal coach.

This summer he’s been working with football players such as recent CHS grad Jacob Martin, who will be playing for Feather River College, and incoming Wolf senior Jake Hoagland.

The chance to impact players, and help them succeed, has driven King since he first moved from playing into coaching.

This summer’s one-on-one work has re-lit that fire.

“It’s been great; it’s really brought my love for coaching back to full-force,” he said. “There’s something there that reminds me why I’m doing this.”

King tailors his lessons to each player, based on their playing level and goals, with an emphasis on helping each of them improve their speed, skill set and attitude.

“My goal is to help them become better athletes in every way,” he said. “All athletes need one-on-one work, which they might not be able to get during a team practice, and this gives them that chance. It’s a tremendous opportunity.”

With a player like Martin, who is moving from linebacker to strong safety as he jumps up to the next level, King focuses on drills which will help the player in areas such as deep coverage and run pursuit.

“We want to work on his speed and agility, which he’ll need in college,” King said. “Jacob is a hard worker, and you can see tremendous improvement as we work.”

While football and basketball are his calling cards, King is open to working with athletes in any sport.

“Except tennis, cause I don’t know the game,” he said with a laugh. “I’d just tell them go hit the ball. I know that part!”

And while his clients so far are current or former Wolves, he would welcome working with athletes from Oak Harbor or South Whidbey.

King, who is attending school at Skagit Valley College and working at Sherwin-Williams, plans to be in the coaching biz for many years.

Whether that’s as a personal coach or coming back around to work at the school level, what drives him will remain the same.

“I love to give back to all the athletes, at whatever level and in whatever sport,” King said. “That’s why I do this.”

 

Cost is $10 an hour for middle school athletes and $20 an hour for high school athletes. To contact Ryan King, email him at king2233@msn.com.

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   Local coaching gigs, such as being a CMS football assistant, are available. (John Fisken photo)

Want to coach? Now’s your time.

There are seven openings currently listed for Coupeville High School or Middle School, four in sports and three in activities.

While there are no varsity high school head coaching positions currently open, there are still a wide range of opportunities if you’re looking to come down from the stands and make an impact on the current generation of Wolves.

Now, there’s a school board meeting set for next Wednesday, July 26, and once the agenda gets released in the next couple of days, it’s possible we’ll find out some of the jobs are about to be filled.

But, as of 1 PM Friday, CHS is still advertising for applicants for an assistant volleyball coach and CMS is looking for an assistant football coach and head coaches for girls basketball and volleyball.

The middle school volleyball position is the newest one to hit, as it was posted today.

The school district is also looking to hire advisors for Science Olympiad and Drama.

Peg Tennant held the drama advisor position for both CHS and CMS for many years, but, following her recent retirement, the jobs are being advertised as separate positions.

To get more info on the job opportunities, pop over to:

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

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