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Gavin Knoblich and his fellow CHS seniors closed their prep careers Friday with a hard-fought loss to 3A Interlake. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Wolf senior captain Sean Toomey-Stout (right) hugs junior Ben Smith after the game. (Deb Smith photo)

There’s the finale you deserve, and the finale you get, and the two are often not the same.

This year’s Coupeville High School football team accomplished something the Wolves haven’t done since 2005, finishing with a winning record at 5-4.

For a program which has been mired in the mud for so long — 12 losing seasons and one .500 record in 2014 — it’s a giant step forward.

It’s a testament to the seniors on the squad, who led by voice and by example.

It’s also a promise of what could be to come, as numerous young stars rose under the tutelage of CHS head coach Marcus Carr and his staff.

And it all culminated perfectly a week ago, when Coupeville, a 2B-sized school forced by the state to pretend to be 1A for years, smacked 2A Anacortes.

Winning on their home field, on Senior Night, the Wolves brought all the emotion, all the accomplishment, together, and topped it with a giant bow.

It was a fitting finale.

Except, there was still a game left on the schedule.

In a year in which Coupeville football abandoned the North Sound Conference and went independent, CHS Athletic Director Willie Smith did his best to pull together a schedule from scratch.

He wanted teams in a similar place as Coupeville, a mix of young teams, rebuilding teams, programs also mired in the mud, and he pretty much pulled it off.

But week #9 was always going to be a bit problematic.

Going on the road to Bellevue to face Interlake, a 3A school with 900+ more students than Coupeville, was a tall order.

While the Saints have been getting reamed for the past three seasons, they play in KingCo, a powerhouse league headed up by 11-time state champ Bellevue.

Coming in to play Friday night, Interlake was 1-7, but it was a battle-hardened 1-7, and the Saints, at least according to their roster, had a 20-man advantage on the Wolves.

They also had a group of seniors who have been roughed up, rolled over, and crunched week after week.

A group of veterans who, on their own Senior Night, were looking for some redemption in front of their fairly-sparse crowd.

Now, this blog isn’t called “Interlake Sports,” so the finale we were looking for would have been more of a “small town team shocks the big city boys.”

But, sometimes reality intrudes, and that was the case Friday night, as the Saint seniors pulled off enough big plays to deny the Wolves, rolling to a 36-7 win.

The game wasn’t as lopsided as the score might suggest, as Coupeville stayed within two scores until midway through the third quarter.

Only at the end, when the Wolves, already missing starters Gavin St Onge and Ben Smith, watched big-timers Andrew Martin, Sean Toomey-Stout, and Gabe Shaw sent to the sidelines with injuries, did the margin get out of reach.

Martin, the team’s leading rusher, suffered a second-half concussion when “their big, fat kid sat on my head,” though he regained his sense of humor after a visit to Mod Pizza on the way home.

Shaw, a standout sophomore likely playing in his final game as a Wolf due to an impending family move, ripped his way through the Interlake line all night, pulling down runners and flinging bodies left and right before his own momentarily gave out with a foot injury.

And then there is Toomey-Stout, one of the most dynamic players to ever wear a Wolf uniform, but, more than that, the owner of one of the largest hearts we have ever witnessed in a Coupeville athlete.

For four years “The Torpedo” has endured, triumphed, led, and inspired.

First while playing alongside big brother Cameron, the two of them pointing at each other, then pointing downfield at the poor sap about to field a kickoff or punt, igniting a brother vs. brother race to annihilate the ball carrier.

After “Camtastic” left for college, Sean moved into a solo spotlight (unless he’s standing near twin sister Maya, his match in every way as an electrifying, passionate star), and word of his exploits has spread near and far.

Friday night, on a hunk of artificial turf far from Whidbey Island, on the final play of his prep football career, “The Torpedo” made the biggest statement of his time as a Wolf.

He had been on the sideline with a badly pinched nerve in his arm, but then, very late in the game, as Coupeville’s defense took the field to play out the final moments of a lost cause, the Wolf coaches suddenly called timeout.

It wasn’t to set up a play, or change a defense, or swap players out, but to retrieve Toomey-Stout, who, unable to feel much of his arm, had still charged back onto the field with his team trailing by four touchdowns.

Why? Because it’s his defense, he’s the leader, and as long as his team was on the field, that’s where he wanted to be as well.

Regardless of the score. Regardless of his own pain.

Because Sean Toomey-Stout doesn’t quit.

Never has. Never will.

He came back off the field because his coaches, being responsible adults, made the decision for him, but in the moments afterward, as he paced the sidelines, you knew it took every last bit of self control for him not to sneak back out there on the very next play.

When we look back at his career, we will remember Sean’s dramatic touchdowns, especially the one that went viral on the internet when a deer dashed on the field last year to become his lead blocker.

We’ll remember the scorching runs. The death-defying catches. The spine-crushing tackles, of which he laid down another 2,000 against Interlake.

But, most of all, we will remember this small slice of time, a moment when #1 refused to leave his teammates behind.

Because it’s what Sean did, every moment of every game of his whole career.

That will resonate far longer than any of the plays, even the 31-yard touchdown run by Sage Downes late in the fourth quarter, which kept Coupeville from being shut out in any games this season.

Toomey-Stout’s leadership and refusal to quit, traits mirrored by fellow seniors Martin, Dawson Houston, Gavin Knoblich, St Onge, Jonathan Partida, and Gavin Straub, have set up the program for future success.

As the team mingled with coaches and families after the game, a mix of tears, exhaustion, and a sense of completion all in the mix, Knoblich turned and motioned to Straub.

“Come here, G3!!” he softly said, and the duo, who have grown up together from tentative underclassmen to seasoned upperclassmen, hugged under the glow of their last Friday Night Lights.

The game they had just played had stayed scoreless through much of the first quarter, with Coupeville looking like the better team.

Wolf freshman Scott Hilborn picked off a pass, his second interception of the season, to snuff out Interlake’s opening drive.

After that, CHS used a couple of Martin rumbles on the ground and a Houston-to-Partida pass play to come tantalizingly close to scoring.

Facing fourth-and-12 from the Interlake 34, the Wolves used a little razzle-dazzle to get the ball into Knoblich’s hands, and the Wolf receiver pegged a pass towards the end zone.

Interlake had Toomey-Stout double-teamed, however, and the ball was batted up, then down, as the Wolves just missed out on landing a hay-maker.

The Saints broke through on a two-yard run up the middle by senior QB Charlie Galanti with 2:37 to play in the opening quarter.

A safety early in the second quarter, thanks to Interlake blowing up an intended pitch right outside the end zone, stretched the lead to 9-0, before Galanti found Luke Hirsch on a 33-yard scoring strike to make it 16-0 at the half.

In between, Coupeville’s defense came up big after giving up a ginormous 53-yard pass play.

Interlake had the ball at the Wolf 13, got it to the eight, then went down with a whimper when Toomey-Stout burst up the middle, before body-slamming the runner to the turf on fourth down.

After some early success moving the ball, Coupeville’s offense sputtered through the end of the first half, then found its groove on the opening drive of the second half.

With Martin slamming through the line on three successive plays, the Wolves had the Saints on their heels, and looked like a team about to cut a two-score margin to one.

It wasn’t to be, however, as Houston’s pass to the end zone was plucked out of the air by a guy in the wrong uniform, ending the drive, and the Wolves last great shot.

Galanti and Hirsch struck one more time, hooking up on a 70-yard TD pass five plays later, and most of the air went out of Coupeville.

The Wolves didn’t quit, with freshman Joven Light picking off a pass right in front of the end zone, but Interlake eventually wore the Wolves down, especially after they started losing key players.

A pair of two-yard scoring runs, from seniors Grady Fleming and Tyler Turman, made the local fans happy and sent the Interlake band (which was pretty dang good) into endless renditions of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Toss in a robot which was programmed to shoot t-shirts into the crowd, created by Interlake’s robotics department, and the locals got to enjoy one of their few happy Fridays this season.

For Coupeville, in the waning moments, it was a time for the coaches to look at the players of the future.

Dakota Eck ran strongly, to the joy of mom Cheridan, lil’ sis Aubrey, and family, while sophomore QB Cole Hutchinson hooked up with freshman receiver Kevin Partida on a fourth-down pass that netted a first down and could be a sign of good things to come.

Every season ends, and there are only a few who get to walk away 100% happy.

For Coupeville’s 2019 team, the final game, the final moments, weren’t what they hoped for. That doesn’t change everything which came before.

Charles Clark, who has spent a lifetime around football, as a player, coach, and fan, gazed out across the field as the Wolves embraced on a cool, clear evening with the stars sparkling in the sky above.

“They played a game they love, a game not everyone can play, and they played it well,” he said. “They should look back and be proud.”

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