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Maddie Vondrak and fellow Wolf athletes are off to a new league next year. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Changes, changes.

What we know for sure – Coupeville High School athletic teams drop from 1A to 2B next year, and the Wolves will take up residence in the Northwest 2B/1B League.

That reignites old-school rivalries, while also meaning next year’s seniors will be in their third league in four years.

As freshmen, they witnessed Coupeville’s final go-round in the 1A Olympic League.

Now, after two years in the 1A North Sound Conference, Class of 2021 athletes lead their fellow Wolves into the new frontier.

But, as we head back, who awaits our arrival?

Orcas Island, for one, where Oprah Winfrey reportedly dropped 8.3 million on a 43-acre secluded compound.

And there’s Darrington, birthplace of longtime Price is Right host (and Happy Gilmore co-star) Bob Barker.

Toss in four other schools, and you have a party.

 

Concrete:

Classification in 2020-2021 — 1B (drops from 2B)

Mascot: Lions

Team state titles: football (1984, 1985); softball (2007)

 

Darrington:

Classification: 1B (drops from 2B)

Mascot: Loggers

Team state titles: boys basketball (1955, 1957, 2003); baseball (1981)

 

Friday Harbor:

Classification: 2B

Mascot: Wolverines

Team state titles: volleyball (1986) 

 

La Conner:

Classification: 2B

Mascot: Braves

Team state titles: volleyball (2002, 2006, 2007, 2018)

 

Mount Vernon Christian:

Classification: 1B

Mascot: Hurricanes

Team state titles: None

 

Orcas Island:

Classification: 1B (drops from 2B)

Mascot: Vikings

Team state titles: girls soccer (2009)

 

With the move from 1A to 2B, boys soccer bounces from the spring to the fall, as 2B plays both girls and boys soccer in the same season.

That shifts Coupeville from having five sports in the fall, two in the winter, and five in the spring to a set-up of six-two-four.

The Wolves don’t currently wrestle or play golf like many of their new league mates do, while some of those schools opt of sports in which CHS fields teams.

The outlook, at least at the moment:

 

FALL:

 

Volleyball:

All six teams play, but not everyone plays like La Conner.

The Braves are the defending 2B state champs, and open the 2019 big dance Thursday against Willapa Valley.

La Conner is 16-0 this season, 20-0 last year, and has won 37 straight matches dating back to the final consolation match of the 2017 state tourney.

In Northwest League play, they have at least nine straight undefeated campaigns.

I say “at least” because the league’s website only goes back as far as 2011, with La Conner rolling to 10-0, 10-0, 10-0, 12-0, 7-0, 6-0, 7-0, 7-0, and 10-0 marks in that time.

Mount Vernon Christian couldn’t beat the Braves this year, but they are also at state, and open the 1B tourney Thursday against Klickitat-Glenwood

 

Football:

Friday Harbor, Concrete, and La Conner play, while Orcas and MVC don’t. Darrington has been playing eight-man football in a separate 1B league.

La Conner won the league title in 2016, the last year Orcas fielded a team, then has been stuck in rebuilding mode.

Concrete won in 2017, the last year Darrington played 11-man ball, then shared the title in 2018 with Friday Harbor.

That ’17 Lions title team was coached by Marcus Carr, who left Concrete after that season to take over the Coupeville football program.

Friday Harbor rolled to the title in convincing fashion this fall, and opens the state tourney Nov. 16 at Lake Roosevelt.

 

Cross Country:

Only MVC and Orcas field teams, with the Hurricane boys finishing 16th in the team standings at the 1B state meet this fall.

 

Boys Tennis:

Only Friday Harbor fields a team.

There were several years where Coupeville and Friday formed a two-team mini-league, though the Wolves have spent the past two seasons joining South Whidbey and playing in the private school-dominated 1A Emerald City League.

 

Girls Soccer:

MVC, La Conner, Orcas, and Friday Harbor play, while Concrete and Darrington don’t.

The Hurricanes (15-1-1) and Wolverines (8-7) both play Saturday in the quarterfinals of the state tourney, which combines 1B and 2B teams.

The league has been a competitive one in recent years, with La Conner winning conference titles in 2016 and 2017, before Friday Harbor came out on top in 2018, and MVC this fall.

 

Boys Soccer:

Orcas, MVC, Friday Harbor, and La Conner play, while Darrington and Concrete don’t.

The four NWL teams are joined by Providence Christian, Grace Academy, and Lopez for this sport.

League champ Orcas (14-1) and runner-up Friday Harbor (14-4) both play Saturday in the quarterfinals of the 1B/2B state tourney.

The Vikings have won back-to-back league crowns, after Providence Christian (2017) and MVC (2016) claimed the previous two regular-season titles.

 

WINTER:

 

Girls Basketball:

Everyone plays, and almost everyone chases La Conner.

The Braves have won five straight league titles, sharing the crown with Friday Harbor in 2015-2016 and claiming the other four crowns outright.

Darrington was the last team to hold off La Conner, ruling the league in 2013-2014.

 

Boys Basketball:

Everyone plays, with Friday Harbor winning the last two, and three of the last five titles.

In between, Orcas claimed the crown in 2016-2017, and La Conner was king in 2015-2016.

 

SPRING:

 

Softball:

Everyone except MVC plays.

Friday Harbor has been the big baddie, but it would be a shame if someone came along to blow up the league.

While the Wolverines have won five straight titles dating back to 2014-2015, they have gone 1-4 in non-conference games against Coupeville in that time.

After losing 7-6 in 2015, CHS has won 11-1, 9-4, 13-4, and 18-17 the past four seasons.

The two teams, who both advanced to state and won games there last season, meet Mar. 17 on Friday Harbor in a final non-conference tilt.

The following spring, the true battle begins.

 

Baseball:

Everyone plays, with Friday Harbor, which got knocked out in the state quarterfinals last spring, having won four straight titles.

The last three have been outright, while the Wolverines shared the 2015-2016 crown with La Conner, who won outright the season before.

 

Girls Tennis:

Only Friday Harbor fields a team, and the Coupeville female netters, unlike their male counterparts, played inside the North Sound Conference.

A two team mini-league with a lot of non-conference matches? Some kind of hook-up with another league for just one sport? Your guess is as good as mine at this point.

 

Track and Field:

La Conner, MVC, Concrete, and Friday Harbor field teams, while Darrington and Orcas don’t.

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   Hannah Davidson and other CHS sophomores will spend the next two years in the 1A North Sound Conference. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

No and, once again, no.

That was the response from the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, as it denied Coupeville High School’s request to reclassify from 1A down to 2B.

After denying the original request Sunday afternoon, the WIAA also shot down an appeal Monday morning.

Despite CHS having lost 10% of its student body in the two years since the last official count in 2016 placed it as one of the smallest 1A schools in the state, the Wolves will be required to maintain the status quo until at least 2020.

That’s when the WIAA conducts its next round of state-wide student body counts and reclassification.

In the past, those counts happened every two years, but that changed when the state switched to a four-year plan in 2016.

Coupeville had 227 students in grades 9-11 then, and 1A was set at 214.5-461.24.

The parameters for 2B in 2016 were 83-214.49, and CHS, with 208 students currently in grades 9-11, falls within those guidelines.

The WIAA did not see it that way, however.

“The first decision was based on two areas: a leveling out of enrollment drop and that we would become the largest 2B school,” CHS Athletic Director Willie Smith said.

“My appeal was based on the language of the WIAA, that it was a significant drop and their placement of schools in classifications are strictly determined by enrollment numbers,” he added.

“Our numbers are below the current 2B numbers, but they didn’t feel it was significant enough of a drop and because our projected numbers showed a steady enrollment of 208 (six below the current cutoff of 214) it wasn’t enough to make the change.”

While Coupeville has been competitive in many sports in the last couple of years, it is in no shape or form a powerhouse, something Smith asked the WIAA to consider.

“In regards to being the largest 2B I argued that if we were perennial state tournament attendees or had racked up league title after league title then I would agree it wouldn’t make sense,” he said. “However, we are not that.”

If Coupeville had won approval to drop to 2B, it would have rejoined the Northwest 2B/1B League, which it played in through most of the ’70s and ’80s and part of the ’90s, competing with schools like Concrete, La Conner and Darrington.

“Traditionally, we have been in a league with the members of the NW 2B League and have never dominated,” Smith said. “In fact, they voted us in as soon as they heard we were appealing, which would strongly indicate their desire to have us back.”

While Coupeville could very likely be reclassified as a 2B school in the next state-wide counts in 2020, the WIAA decision ensures it will play at least two full school years as one of the smallest, if not the smallest, 1A school in the state.

The Wolves are leaving the 1A Olympic League at the end of the 2017-2018 school year, ending a four-year run in which they have won multiple titles in girls basketball, volleyball, baseball and girls and boys tennis.

Despite having a much-smaller student body count than Klahowya, which at 445 students in grades 9-11 was the second-biggest 1A school in the 2016 count, Coupeville has played the Eagles virtually even in varsity wins across the 11 sports in which CHS fields teams.

Both schools have been substantially ahead of league mates Port Townsend and Chimacum in titles and varsity wins.

Coupeville’s decision to leave was based on several factors, such as the unpredictability of the Port Townsend ferry, staggering travel costs and Klahowya’s desire to shave games off the league schedule starting next year.

Since they are staying in 1A for at least two years, the Wolves will join a new league, the 1A North Sound Conference, which launches this fall.

Formed out of the steaming carcass of the 1A/2A Cascade Conference, it will feature King’s, South Whidbey, Cedar Park Christian (Bothell), Sultan and Granite Falls, with Coupeville making it a six-pack.

The move reunites Coupeville with teams it played from 2006-2007 to 2013-2014.

CPC-Bothell is the only new foe for the Wolves, as the private school joined the Cascade Conference as Coupeville’s replacement when it departed in 2014.

A large selling point of the North Sound Conference is the chance for next-door neighbors Coupeville and South Whidbey to once again be aligned in the same league.

That will increase the number of times the Wolves and Falcons play in every sport, and, with the close proximity of the schools and the increased significance of the games, likely drive box office receipts upward.

With 208 students in grades 9-11, CHS will obviously be the smallest school in the league, with CPC-Bothell (249.38 in 2016) the only other school which came in under 347 students in the 2016 count.

While it might not be as ideal as returning to 2B, the new league will at least be a 1A-only league, with former 2A Cascade Conference rivals Cedarcrest, Archbishop Thomas Murphy and Lakewood not involved.

Smith, an extremely positive man who is the epitome of “whistle while you work,” sees the next two years as a chance for Coupeville to build, fight and not back down.

“It simply means that we just have to work harder, play smarter, and be more committed at every level: administrative, coaches, athletes, and community,” he said. “I’m ready for this, our coaches are ready for this and we will see if the other two can step it up.”

The decision to leave the Olympic League came before the decision to apply to drop to 2B, and it was one everyone involved in Wolf athletics openly embraced.

“Our coaches voted to move to the new league prior to finding out we could be 2B without hesitation,” Smith said. “They believe that they can take our programs to the next level and I truly believe that as well.

“No sour grapes, no feeling sorry for ourselves, just strapping up our boots and getting to work because no matter what classification we were going to end up that’s the only option we have to get better.”

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