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It’s official. Coupeville athletes like Chelsea Prescott and Heidi Meyers (in grey) are headed to the Northwest 2B/1B League next school year. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Times have changed and times are strange.

Here I come, but I ain’t the same.

Mama, I’m coming home.

Echoing the words of Ozzy Osbourne, Coupeville High School athletics are going back to their old stomping grounds.

Finally.

After years of being forced to play against bigger schools, CHS returns to its true classification, and its old league, starting with next school year.

When the 2020-2021 school year kicks into gear next August, the Wolves will be a member of the Northwest 2B/1B League, with the 1A North Sound Conference disintegrating in their rear-view mirror.

The change comes after the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association changed directions, and decided to no longer attempt to keep the classifications (4A, 3A, 2A, 1A, 2B, 1B) balanced.

In previous classification counts, that meant Coupeville, despite having a 2B-sized student body, was routinely shoved up to 1A, where it existed as one of the smallest schools.

Beginning with the 2020 classification count (the next one is in 2024), the state has opted to go with hard count numbers. You land between two numbers, you’re in that class.

If one division is noticeably bigger or smaller than others, the number of teams advancing to state tournaments will be adjusted accordingly.

Once it became obvious Coupeville’s current numbers would land it firmly in 2B for at least the next four years, CHS Athletic Director Willie Smith reached out to the Northwest League, where the Wolves played for many decades.

He was welcomed with open arms, then things got weird for a bit (more on that in a second), then everything went back to being full-on hunky-dory.

With some current schools in the league also dropping down a rung in the new counts, the new-look league will feature three 2B schools (Coupeville, Friday Harbor, La Conner) and four 1B schools (Orcas Island, Concrete, Darrington, Mount Vernon Christian).

The move to 2B should be hugely beneficial to Coupeville, as it levels the playing field.

Gone are posh private schools, with the Wolves returning to competing against similarly-sized (or smaller) schools, with the majority being rural public schools like CHS.

There will be some wrinkles to adjust to going forward, such as boys soccer moving from the spring to the fall, as 2B plays both girls and boys soccer in the same season.

But, it could have been a lot wilder.

With Coupeville leaving the North Sound Conference, private schools King’s and Cedar Park Christian announced their intentions to jump ship, as well.

That left South Whidbey, Granite Falls, and Sultan in limbo, and the public schools reached out to the Northwest Conference to talk about forming a 1A/2B/1B league next year.

Meanwhile, the ultra-posh Emerald City League, which is comprised mostly of Seattle-based private schools, contacted the North Sound Conference and raised the idea of forming a “super league.”

That would have brought together 12-14 schools, with some sports broken into divisions based on level of play, which nicely addresses “competitive equity.”

As talks progressed on both fronts, the classification numbers were fine-tuned.

While five of the six Northwest Conference schools are currently 2B, with just Mount Vernon Christian at 1B, that was going to change, with Concrete, Darrington, and Orcas dropping down.

La Conner and Friday Harbor, which will both remain at 2B, then proposed a third option, in which the two schools would unite with Coupeville, South Whidbey, Sultan, and Granite Falls in a 1A/2B league.

Confused yet?

Imagine the never-ending chain of conversations Willie Smith was involved in.

In the end, a compromise was found.

South Whidbey, Granite Falls, King’s, CPC, and Sultan are opting to stay together, and have begun the process to move from District 1 to District 2.

Once there, they will unite with the Emerald City League schools and form a new conference – the Emerald Sound League.

Meanwhile, Coupeville remains in District 1, and comes home to the Northwest Conference.

“We are very excited to be in this league,” Willie Smith said. “It’s a strong group of AD’s which we have maintained relationships with over the years in non-league contests.

“The level of competition will be strong, requiring us to continue to work to develop our programs, and it also allows all of our programs the opportunity to have success on a nightly basis and compete for league championships throughout.

“Obviously, there are challenges, but we always have challenges, which is what makes our programs stronger.”

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Noelle Daigneault teamed with Katelin McCormick Wednesday, playing strongly at #4 doubles. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The Cowboys got a bit of revenge.

A year ago, almost to the day, the Coupeville High School girls tennis team nipped Chimacum 4-3 in the regular season finale, clinching a fourth-straight 1A Olympic League title.

Jump forward to Wednesday, and this time it was the Cowboys who prevailed 4-3, albeit it in a clash with a lot smaller stakes.

With Coupeville now in the North Sound Conference, the trip to Chimacum was the one, and only, non-conference match on the schedule this season.

Now 2-5, the Wolves travel to Granite Falls Thursday, where they’ll play a match-and-a-half against the Tigers.

The two teams need to finish a match postponed by rain, before playing their season finale.

After that, both schools will join South Whidbey, Friday Harbor, and King’s at the district tourney May 7-8.

 

Complete Wednesday results:

 

Varsity:

1st Singles — Genna Wright beat Makaela Caskey 6-1, 6-2

2nd Singles — Jillian Mayne lost to Madison Hess 7-6(7-4), 6-1

3rd Singles — Elaira Nicolle lost to Denise Lopez 6-1, 6-0

1st Doubles — Tia Wurzrainer/Avalon Renninger lost to Renee Woods/Grace Yaley 6-4, 7-5

2nd Doubles — Eryn Wood/Emily Fiedler beat Mika Briggs/Olivia Mattern 7-6(8-6), 6-1

3rd Doubles — Jaimee Masters/Abby Mulholland beat Isabel Hill/Sophia Arnovitz 6-1, 6-3

4th Doubles — Katelin McCormick/Noelle Daigneault lost to Sophia Patterson/Tiffany Bell 6-4, 6-0

 

JV:

5th Doubles — Cecilia Camarena/Bruna Moratori beat Jaden Long/Caitlin Boyd 7-6(7-4)

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Matt Hilborn had Coupeville’s lone hit Monday in a loss to Chimacum. (Photo by Karen Carlson)

The bats need to wake up.

The Coupeville High School baseball team has put together solid stretches of pitching this season, played some inspired defense, and are nailing most of the intangibles.

But the Wolves just can’t score.

After a closer than it probably sounds 7-1 non-conference home loss Monday to Chimacum, Coupeville has the same number of losses as runs scored this season.

That number is six, and when you average a run per game, it’s not especially surprising to be sitting at 0-6.

“We have solid hitters, but the bats are just sleeping right now,” said CHS coach Chris Smith.

“I always say, if you can score seven runs, you’re probably going to win at least 75% of your games at the high school level,” he added. “Score one run and…”

He trailed off then, as the rain drops began to fall on the prairie, before immediately bouncing back with his customary high energy and positive attitude.

Talk of getting a chicken and reenacting a Major League-style curse breaker on his player’s bats brought a smile to Smith’s face and a chuckle from his assistant coaches.

And it’s true.

While Coupeville is still adapting to having lost eight seniors to graduation after a 15-6 season, this year’s roster does have players with pop in their bats, such as Matt Hilborn, Jake Pease, and Dane Lucero.

And there were multiple times Monday when it seemed the Wolves were about to break through, about to crack things open against their former league rivals.

But, it wasn’t to be, as a few few timely hits from Chimacum’s bottom of the order hitters fractured a pitcher’s duel.

“That’s the kind of timeliness of hitting we’re looking for over here,” Smith said. “We did a nice job with our bunt game today; our “small ball” game is really working, but we just haven’t been getting the kind of big hits we need.”

After both teams pushed across a run in their half of the first inning, the teams carried that 1-1 tie all the way until the top of the fifth.

Chimacum got on the board first, thanks to a two-out error on a high, arcing ball which banged off a retreating infielder’s glove as it plunged down into no man’s land between second base and center field.

Given new life, the Cowboys plated their runner with a steal followed by a sharp RBI single back up the middle.

Coupeville promptly answered, with Hilborn walking, taking second on an impeccable sacrifice bunt from Hawthorne Wolfe, then coming around to score after the Cowboy catcher airmailed a throw into center on a botched pick-off.

Lucero was humming on the mound, whiffing six through the first four innings, while getting a bit of help from his defense.

Mason Grove, making his first start of the season at catcher in place of Gavin Knoblich, who was out of state at his grandparent’s 45th wedding anniversary celebration, came up big in the third.

Popping up from behind the plate, Grove whipped a strike down the line to Pease at third base to nail a Cowboy who mistakenly thought he might steal the bag.

Mason going in to play at what is a big, big position, I thought he handled himself well,” Smith said. “I’m proud of how he played out there.”

Grove’s sniper act was immediately followed by Daniel Olson making a superb stab on a ball hit deep into the hole at second, then spinning and flicking the ball to Wolf first-baseman Ulrik Wells for the wham-bam out.

But, while Lucero and Co. were stifling the Chimacum bats, the same thing was happening on the other side of things.

Coupeville’s one, and only hit of the day, came when Hilborn beat out an infield single in the bottom of the fifth.

It could have been his second base-knock, but one at-bat before he had been brutally denied by the same ump.

Missing his seeing-eye dog, the man in blue was the only person in the stadium to believe the Chimacum first-baseman tagged Hilborn as he shot by trying to beat out another infield chopper.

Unable to generate much offense, Coupeville hung tough until the fifth, when one well-placed hit, and some luck, let the Cowboys crack the game open.

Two of the three Chimacum hitters to reach base in the inning did so thanks to judgement calls in which the ump felt the Cowboy hitter beat the throw to first by a (very small) hair.

The third hit was legitimate, though, a rocket to right which capped a game-busting three-run rally.

Lucero closed strongly, coming back to notch strikeouts #7 and #8, with the first one coming after the Wolf hurler dug himself into a 3-0 hole on the count.

Chimacum added another three-spot on the scoreboard in the sixth to ice things, but Lucero and freshman reliever Cody Roberts, who tossed 1.2 innings of scoreless ball, made the Cowboys work for everything.

Olson gave a big helping hand to Roberts, pulling off a double play to end the sixth.

The sophomore second-bagger slid to his left to spear a liner, then doubled a straying Chimacum runner off of first to slam the door shut.

While Coupeville only had the one hit, it did put runners on base almost every inning, thanks to six walks.

Shane Losey scampered to first base twice after winning a battle of wills with Cowboy hurlers, while Hilborn, Pease, Lucero, and Bryce Payne each walked once.

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Harris Sinclair teamed with Thane Peterson to shred their foes Tuesday, as Coupeville tennis bounced Friday Harbor 5-0. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Koby Schreiber rolled to a straight-sets win at #1 singles.

Call it a palate cleanser.

Taking a break from their slog through the Emerald City League, AKA “The Toughest Boys Tennis Conference in the State,” the Coupeville High School netters had a much-easier mission Tuesday afternoon.

And sure enough, even juggling the lineup and not using four regular varsity players, the Wolves still shredded visiting Friday Harbor 5-0.

After playing ritzy private schools much of the season, the chance to duel an old-school rival which was, admittedly, not up to its former glory, was a bit refreshing.

“Friday Harbor just resurrected their program this year,” said CHS coach Ken Stange. “They were green and it was their first match.”

Still, a win is a win, and this one lifts Coupeville to 6-4 on the season, kicking off a week in which it is scheduled to play three matches in as many days.

The Wolves travel to Bear Creek Wednesday, then host Bush Thursday, as they scramble to get all their matches in before the rain and the fast-approaching district tourney conspire to bring an end to the regular season.

 

Complete Tuesday results:

 

Varsity:

1st Singles — Koby Schreiber beat Ryker Mattox 6-2, 6-4

2nd Singles — Andrew Aparicio beat Max Mattox 7-5, 7-5

1st Doubles — Mason Grove/James Wood beat Frankie Black/Ricky Hughes 6-2, 6-2

2nd Doubles — Jaschon Baumann/Tiger Johnson beat Tyler Fleming/Hank Erickson 6-1, 6-1

3rd Doubles — Thane Peterson/Harris Sinclair beat Levi Wolf/Erik Ryan 6-1, 6-1

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Playing tight end for the first time this season Friday night, Dane Lucero had huge catches in a 33-12 Coupeville win at La Conner. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Freshman Xavier Murdy nailed three PATs and came within inches of scoring his first touchdown as a runner.

Matt Hilborn was a force to reckon with on both sides of the ball.

It begins with a rumble, rapidly spreading from the bottom of his shoes to the top of his electric-shocked hair.

The rumble becomes a guttural howl, and then his body begins to shimmy and shake, his head flies backwards, his arms pumping, his fists shaking as they slam into his chest.

Emerging from the haze of a rain storm, Alex Turner is dancing and behind him, sprawled on the sodden turf, another vanquished foe lies in a heap.

Often the Coupeville High School senior is celebrating one of his own back-breaking tackles, but Friday night in La Conner, he also did the full-on freak-out when teammates like Andrew Martin and Matt Hilborn were dropping hay-makers.

Every time Turner’s hips went in over-drive, the mass of Wolf fans who traveled down the highway to watch Coupeville administer a 33-12 whuppin’ on their old-school rivals, went bonkers.

Ignoring the frequent bursts of rain, the gusts of wind, and the fragrant aroma of manure wafting in off of nearby fields, Turner’s classmates, his fellow Wolf athletes, parents, alumni and random passerby grooved along with him.

“Dude’s crazy … craaaaaaaazzzzzyyyy … and I like it man,” said one former CHS coach.

And then he softly laughed and shook his head, smile spreading from cheek to cheek.

With Turner bellowing at the heavens, with QB Dawson Houston flinging the ball like a true gunslinger, dropping darts into the waiting hands of Dane Lucero and Gavin Knoblich, and with the CHS running game tearing up yardage, especially in crunch time, Coupeville headed back to the bus bearing a 3-1 record.

For a program which has won just three games in each of the last two seasons, which hasn’t posted a winning record since 2005, this is huge.

Only three Coupeville gridiron squads have started 3-1 in the last two decades.

The most recent was 2014, when the Wolves finished 5-5 behind record-busters Josh Bayne and Joel Walstad, the only non-losing record since before this year’s seniors were in kindergarten.

Now, a win next Friday at home against King’s in the North Sound Conference opener would stake the 2018 Wolves to arguably the program’s best start since the 1990 team rolled to 9-0 before losing in the state playoffs.

And while the Knights might have a gaudy history, they will come into that game a bit battered at 0-4, having been outscored 164-30 in their non-conference schedule.

But that match-up is still six days away, and as they exited La Conner Friday, the gathered forces of Wolf Nation were content to marinate in the moment.

Coupeville’s rumble in the rain, kicked off by a tremulous, ultimately soaring live vocal rendition of the national anthem, marked about the 2,000th time the former (and possibly future) league mates have clashed under Friday Night Lights.

And, to be honest, other than a win here, a win there, it’s a series the Braves have mostly dominated over the decades.

But you know what? The 2018 Wolves don’t know, and probably don’t care, what went down in say, 1977 or 1942.

In the moment, the new generation was in town merely to inflict damage.

Which was very doable, as, other than a random play here or there, like when two defenders ran into each other while trying to tackle the same La Conner receiver, letting him run wild, Coupeville was clearly the dominate team.

Even if the scoreboard took a moment or two to show it.

Despite putting together a 70-yard drive in the first quarter, with Hilborn busting off a 16-yard reception and 10-yard run wrapped around Sean Toomey-Stout zigging and zagging for his own 30-yard run to daylight, the Wolves couldn’t get the ball in the end zone.

CHS had first and goal from the eight-yard line, only to run four plays and come up virtually empty, leaving the game scoreless at the first break, while offering a stark reminder the Wolves hadn’t led at halftime in any of their previous games.

Coupeville shrugged off its scattershot opening, however, slamming home a pair of touchdown runs in the second quarter to take control of the game.

The first came on a short dash around the right side by Toomey-Stout, the second on a bolt up the middle by Hilborn.

The Wolves set up the run game by giving Houston a chance to air his arm out, and the eternally-positive signal caller sliced ‘n diced the La Conner defense.

One pass zipped over the middle, then dropped neatly onto Lucero’s fingertips, while another was a lob into the left corner which Toomey-Stout out-jumped the Braves to snag.

Mix things up with Martin dropping his shoulder and slamming into the heart of the defense for a short, but tooth-rattling and psyche-destroying run, and then Houston was back at it.

Leading Lucero down the left side, the Wolf QB spun a pretty, pretty ball through the rain drops, letting it tail off and drop like manna from heaven at the last moment.

The game was turning into a rout, until, for a time, it wasn’t.

La Conner got seriously lucky, when a short pass play blew up into a 64-yard TD, thanks to the aforementioned Wolf defenders colliding at high speed, leaving the Brave receiver to romp free.

And, while the Braves missed the PAT, they benefited from a weird call on a punt (not the first odd ref moment, and not the last) and tacked on another score late in the third quarter.

Back to within 14-12, La Conner went for the two-point conversion, and, essentially, the game ended on that very play.

The Brave ball-carrier was met head-on by almost all 11 Wolves on the field, who drove him halfway back to Whidbey, denying the tie.

Then they got really nasty.

The fourth quarter was not just a case of putting the hammer down, but instead of emptying an entire case of hammers, and then beatin’ the snot out of La Conner with a trillion blows.

Bing, bam, boom, the Wolves pounded home back-to-back-to-back TD runs, with some razzle-dazzle to open things, and some smash-mouth to close them.

The game-busting TD was a thing of precise beauty, with Houston zipping a short pass to Lucero, who spun, took a step or two, then lobbed the ball on a dime to Toomey-Stout, who was coming from behind under a full head of steam.

With “The Torpedo” lit and fired, the chase was on — though there was no chance La Conner would catch him — and Toomey-Stout (or just Stout, if you listened to the clueless PA announcer muddle through the evening) covered 60+ yards in .02 of a second.

Give or take a tenth of a second.

Big runs from Hilborn and freshman Xavier Murdy, a little more defense-softening from Martin to get a crucial first down, and strong work by unsung warriors Ben Smith and Gavin Straub, put the Braves on their heels.

“That was G-3! THAT … WAS … G-3!!!,” screamed injured Wolf Jake Pease with a huge grin as he hopped up on a bench and hollered at former teammates Hunter Downes and Kyle Rockwell in the aftermath of Straub making a kamikaze run.

Those heroics set up short scoring jaunts for Toomey-Stout and Houston, while a Hilborn pick thwarted La Conner’s last hopes.

The Wolf senior, who carries himself in a very business-like manner when on the field (even when a rival player tries, and fails, to start a fight), emerged from a pack of players and headed to the sideline, ball wedged firmly against his chest.

But if Hilborn wasn’t wailing, Turner was happy to oblige, doing the full-body shimmy and bellowing at the skies above.

Behind him, the CHS cheerleaders, soaked by the rain, but still as full of fire and joy at the end as they were at the start of a two-and-a-half hour game, danced on behind captains Melia Welling, Ashleigh Battaglia, Mica Shipley and Moira Reed.

Down the track, softball star Sarah Wright, part of a loyal, and vocal, group of Wolf athletes who followed their team to the mainland, was doing her own get-down-with-your-bad-self boogie.

And when you’re dancing like the Wolves and their fans are, every falling rain drop starts to taste like champagne.

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