Posts Tagged ‘overtime thriller’

Ben Smith rushed for 104 yards, and the winning touchdown, as Coupeville nipped La Conner Saturday in an overtime thriller. (Photo courtesy Deb Smith)

He worked for this. He fought for this. He prayed for this.

When Ben Smith played the final football game of his junior season, a road contest at Interlake back in November 2019, he had no clue the world would go topsy-turvy less than four months later.

As the pandemic overran every part of our lives, high school sports were largely put on the backburner.

For Smith, the possibility of not being allowed to play his senior season has haunted him, and driven him.

He worked out, he trained, he followed every Covid-related news story he could find. Even in the darkest moments, he believed.

Saturday night, Smith and his Coupeville High School gridiron teammates, coaches, families, and fans were rewarded for that faith.

Stepping onto the gridiron to face a rival school for the first time in 17 months, playing “fall sports” in the second week of April, the Wolves rose to the occasion.

Winning a war of attrition between two young, scrappy squads, Coupeville pulled off an electrifying 6-0 win in its Northwest 2B/1B League opener.

In a game which saw big plays on defense and offense (no matter what the score might indicate), the biggest was a one-yard bull run into the end zone by Smith to cap the first high school football overtime game seen in Cow Town in maybe forever.

It’s certainly been at least a few years, as the refs huddled to refresh themselves on OT rules, while at least one fan hollered at another, “Don’t go anywhere! This ain’t soccer!! We don’t go for ties!!!”

Or, maybe that was just playing on a loop in my own head…

Never know.

But then, after 48 minutes of two teams — longtime old-school rivals reunited with Coupeville’s move from 1A to 2B — standing in the middle of the ring and smashing each other to a pulp, the Wolves dropped the hammer.

La Conner got the ball first in overtime, awarded a first-and-10 from the Coupeville 25.

At which point the Braves held on to the ball for all of about three seconds.

The Wolf defense surged, 11 men strong, battering the ball-carrier on the first play, the pigskin popping free and hitting the turf, screaming “Freedom!” like Mel Gibson at the end of Braveheart.

CHS freshman Zane Oldenstadt pulled off a sweet two-for-one special, wrapping up La Conner’s runner, while also reaching in and punching the ball free, with senior Dakota Eck pouncing on the suddenly-free ball.

Freshman Zane Oldenstadt came up big on both sides of the ball. (Photo courtesy Michelle Glass)

The lightning-quick turn of events handed the ball back to Coupeville, and there was no stopping Smith.

Completing a 24-carry, 104-yard performance, he plunged up the middle four straight times, his linemen driving the Braves onto their heels each time.

The first carry garnered four yards, the next two 10 apiece.

Then the final dagger went in, Smith crashing from right to left, punching a hole to the promised land, before sprinting off, his teammates chasing him to celebrate.

“This was the best game I’ve ever played in!!,” he said while bouncing with joy from well-wisher to well-wisher.

For Smith’s head coach, getting a win was big, but just returning to action was even bigger.

“Just being out there, being able to compete, play against another opponent, is huge,” Marcus Carr said. “Our defense was outstanding, and our young guys really stepped up.”

While it was a long time ago, the last Wolf team to play earned the program’s first winning record since 2005, then graduated a strong batch of seniors.

One of those departed guys, Sean Toomey-Stout, is now competing for a roster spot at the University of Washington, and the CHS coaches went and watched him participate in spring practices before their game.

Then they unleashed their newest batch of Wolves, who played with their own fiery abandon.

Alternating junior Cole Hutchinson and freshman Logan Downes at quarterback, Coupeville mixed in some precise passing with a fair amount of smash-mouth running on offense.

On defense, it was big plays and big hits, as the Wolves never allowed La Conner inside its 35-yard line during regulation.

Brian Casey, back in action after an injury cost him most of his sophomore season, made a big splash, roaring in to recover an early fumble.

After scooping up the ball, Casey moved to the sideline, the removal of his helmet revealing the most luxurious mane of golden hair in all the land, bringing an audible gasp of approval from scoreboard operator Joel Norris.

“Dude is rockin’ the killer hair!!”

Wolf sophomore Dominic Coffman may have shorter hair than Casey, but he also came up big on defense, crashing through La Conner’s line for a big-time sack deep in the backfield.

CHS stuffed the Braves on a fourth-and-one — a play upheld by a measurement from Coupeville’s all-star chain gang — with a bevy of players earning roars for other stops.

Miles Davidson, Isaiah Bittner, Josh Upchurch, and Kai Wong joined Smith in smashing runners, while Sage Downes, Tim Ursu, Scott Hilborn, and Daylon Houston chased down foes from behind, denying them crucial first downs.

While Coupeville’s defense was rock-solid, its offense was often inspired, yet came up just short of busting things wide open.

Unlike La Conner, the Wolves made it down inside the 20-yard line twice in regulation, only to have their momentum blunted by an equally-scrappy Braves defense.

The first time, Logan Downes zipped silky-smooth passes into the hands of Eck (20 yards) and older brother Sage Downes (16 yards), setting up a first-and-10 at the La Conner 18.

CHS stalled out there, though, then got unlucky on a big drive midway through the third quarter.

After softening the defense with a steady diet of Smith playing battering ram, the Wolves (almost) pulled off a stunning play.

Hutchinson found Sage Downes on the move down the left side of the field, and then things got weird.

Downes pulled in the pass, took a step or two, got hit, the ball popped free, the La Conner defender stopped his pursuit to try and convince the ref it was an incomplete pass…

Pause for a deep breath.

So then Downes picked up the ball and spun away, looking like he was on his way to a possible touchdown, only to be hit by a different Brave, with the ball getting away once again, only this time it was La Conner who recovered it.

And scene.

While the game remained scoreless throughout regulation, the action was never boring, and both teams played surprisingly smoothly considering the long layoff.

There were few penalties, and even though neither team could crack the end zone until overtime, Coupeville got folks excited right at the end of regulation.

With the ball in his hands and 17 ticks on the clock, Logan Downes scrambled out of the hands of a would-be sacker, picking up five yards on a play seemingly destined to lose 10 just moments before.

The Wolf 9th grader then put up a potentially game-winning bomb from the 38-yard line on the final play before overtime.

It disappeared into a mass of hands, as multiple La Conner defenders harassed a Wolf receiver, falling just short of providing a miracle ending.

Not that it mattered in the end, as Coupeville’s overtime domination was just a heartbeat away, sending the Wolf football faithful back to their cars with an extra skip in their steps.

The pandemic is still with us. Life is not yet back to normal.

But, for three hours Saturday night, Ben Smith and his classmates, those on the field and those in the stands, got to focus on something positive.

Take your wins, in a game or in real life, and hold on to them.

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Makana Stone is just the fifth Whitman College female hoops star to top 1,300 career points. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

They like to live dangerously.

Drawing a rare Tuesday night game on the schedule, the Whitman College women’s basketball team had to go to an extra period, but kept alive its winning streak.

Holding off visiting Whitworth University 77-74 in overtime, thanks to big plays in crunch time by several players, including Coupeville’s Makana Stone, the Blues captured their 10th straight W.

Now 14-1 in North Sound Conference play, 22-2 overall, Whitman wraps its regular season Friday with a trip to McMinnville, Oregon to face Linfield College.

After that comes the NWC post-season tourney February 27-29, then a likely trip to the NCAA D-III national championship tournament in March.

Tuesday’s game pitted two teams in very different situations.

Whitman has already clinched the league title and the #1 seed to the four-team postseason tourney, while Whitworth is involved in a four-team battle for the #4 seed.

The first time the Pirates faced the Blues, they hung tough in an 84-79 loss. Tuesday, they took that a step further.

Trailing 64-60 late in the fourth, Whitworth went on a 7-0 run to claim the lead and push the Blues to the edge of defeat.

Playing in front of its home fans, Whitman answered, however, getting two free throws from Mady Burdett and another freebie from Kaelan Shamseldin to knot the game at 67-67.

With both teams unable to score over the final two-minutes-plus of regulation, that gave the fans free basketball, and overtime was a tense five-minute affair.

Whitworth clung to a 71-70 lead when Stone, playing with four fouls (after some questionable calls by refs missing their seeing-eye dogs), showed why she is a favorite to be named league MVP.

First, Coupeville’s ace rolled hard to the hoop, slipping her defender and slapping home a layup to give Whitman a lead it would not relinquish.

Then, standing strong on the other end of the floor as well, Stone rejected a Pirate shot, collecting her third block of the game and keeping Whitworth at bay.

A Lily Gustafson layup, off a superb entry pass from Burdett, staked Whitman to a 73-70 lead and the two squads traded free throws the rest of the way.

The biggest came from Blues guard Taylor Chambers, who calmly knocked down both of her charity shots with just four seconds to play, pushing the lead out to the final margin of 77-74.

Whitworth would have needed a miracle after that, and didn’t get it, as Whitman pulled off a note-perfect final defensive stand.

The wild win capped a back-and-forth game in which neither team could break free.

Whitman used a 7-2 surge to close the first quarter with a 14-11 lead, only to see Whitworth close the gap to 36-34 at the half.

The teams combined to shoot a red-hot 18-23 from the floor in the second frame, with Stone scoring Whitman’s final six points of the half on a variety of silky-smooth jumpers and quicksilver layups.

From there, the Blues regained a slim advantage at 49-46 exiting the third quarter, before Whitworth rallied in the fourth.

Kaylie McCracken came off the bench to lead Whitman with a game-high 20 points, while Stone snagged a game-high 12 rebounds to go with 14 points, three blocks, and an assist.

Burdett banked in 13 and Gustafson netted 11 as the Blues came with a well-balanced attack.

On the season, Stone sits with 380 points, 210 rebounds, 34 assists, 25 steals, and 23 blocks, while shooting 156-293 (53.2%) from the field and 65-83 (78.3%) at the free throw line.

The CHS grad, who has 1,307 career points and counting, became just the fifth Whitman women to top the 1,300-point barrier.

She reached the magic mark on her final bucket of the second quarter.

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Hawthorne Wolfe singed the nets for a career-best 34 points Wednesday in a wild overtime game. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

What a difference a year makes.

In last season’s opener, Coupeville, a 2B-sized school playing out the string in 1A, faced off with their next-door neighbor, 3A Oak Harbor, in a boy’s basketball game, and came within a bucket of losing by 50 points.

Wednesday night, on the second night of a back-to-back road-trip, the Wolves came within a bucket of flat-out beating their big-school rivals.

Oak Harbor escaped, scoring the final five points in overtime to eke out a 73-69 win in their opener, but Coupeville delivered a big statement.

The Wolves, who sit at 0-2 headed towards their own home opener Saturday against Orcas Island, won’t back down.

And they won’t have to, if they get play like they did Wednesday, when sophomore guard Hawthorne Wolfe burnt the whole gym down, and CHS big men Ulrik Wells, Jacobi Pilgrim, and Koa Davison came up huge in crunch time.

Wolfe will get the big headlines, and he deserves them, after tossing in a career-best 34 points.

Along the way, Coupeville’s modern-day “Pistol Pete” connected on seven three-balls and went on a 12-0 run by himself at one point.

It was the kind of blow-your-socks-off performance which carries you, in one night, past 21 former CHS players on the program’s career scoring chart.

Wolfe exited the Oak Harbor gym, just two games into his sophomore campaign, sitting in a tie with current Island County Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock.

The duo each have 198 points in a Coupeville uniform, putting them in a (probably momentary) deadlock at #132 on the chart, which covers 103 seasons.

A quick three-ball from Wolfe tied the game at 3-3, then, with his team trailing 8-3, the CHS gunner went off on the kind of hot streak from long-range his coach, Brad Sherman, used to be known for back in the day.

Three straight trips down the floor, and three straight daggers, as Wolfe knifed the Wildcats from the top of the arc with pull-up jumpers which caressed the net as they slid through.

Not content to stop there, he capped his run by spearing a wayward pass and crashing hard to the hoop for a fourth-straight three-point play, but this one the hard way.

Slapping a layup high off the glass, Wolfe absorbed the hit, then calmly went to the line and plunked the ensuing free-throw to set the ‘Cats back on their heels.

Sean Toomey-Stout added a layup of his own, ripping the ball free and careening the length of the court on a breakaway, and suddenly a 14-0 run had Coupeville in front 17-8.

It would be the biggest lead of the night for the Wolves, but Oak Harbor had plenty of fight of its own.

Closing the first quarter on an 8-2 run, the Wildcats got back within 19-16 at the break, then netted one of their 12 three-balls on the opening play of the second quarter to knot the game back up.

If Oak Harbor thought their rivals would blink, Gavin Knoblich had an immediate answer, and that answer was “SIR, NO, SIR!,” as the Wolf senior netted his own trey from the top of the arc a split second later.

Eight more points from Wolfe, with a pair of long-range bombs and a sweet pull-up jumper off a delightful dish from running mate Mason Grove, and Coupeville refused to give the lead back.

Wolfe wasn’t the only one hitting, as Davison banked home a runner, and Grove hit pay dirt of his own from three-point land, sending CHS to the halftime break up 35-31.

That was just the setup for a wild ‘n woolly second half.

The third quarter was a roller-coaster ride, with Oak Harbor claiming a one-point lead, Coupeville responding with an 11-2 run sparked by Wolfe, Grove, and Jered Brown, then the Wildcats storming back once again.

Four ‘Cat three-balls to end the quarter, packaged around one trey from Wolfe, staked the hosts to a 50-49 lead headed into the final (we thought) quarter, sending Oak Harbor fans into a tizzy.

But the Wolves had their own fanatics in attendance, ready to rock their share of the gold ‘n purple encrusted gym I hadn’t visited since back in my Whidbey News-Times Sports Editor days.

How long ago was that?

Well, none of the players on the floor Wednesday were alive in the mid-’90s, so it’s been a moment or two.

If Coupeville’s weapon of choice through the first three quarters had been the long-range bomb, in the fourth the Wolves let the tall dudes go to work down low.

Wells, holding his own in the paint against Oak Harbor star (and could-have-been Coupeville teammate) Matt Kelley, sank a pair of short jumpers to tie the game at 53-53.

Then things got frantic.

Exchanging shots to the ribs, the teams traded the lead seven times down the stretch.

Davison (a put-back), Wells (a bank shot off the glass), and Toomey-Stout (two pressure-packed free throws in front of a hysterical crowd) gave CHS momentary one-point leads.

Back down 61-59 with a little over a minute to play, the Wolves got the tying bucket from Pilgrim, off a dish from Brown, then the go-ahead score on a Davison hook shot.

A pretty, pretty shot, it was set up by a HUGE offensive rebound from Pilgrim, who went between two Wildcats to rip the ball free.

An Oak Harbor miss away from one of the biggest wins in recent memory, Coupeville kept the ‘Cats from lofting another three-ball, but a running jumper from the side with 33 ticks to play was enough to force yet another tie.

CHS had the final shot in regulation, thanks to Wolfe popping his biceps and out-wrestling a rival who tried to force a jump ball, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Kelley, who played for Coupeville through eighth grade, opened overtime with a layup, but Toomey-Stout answered with a ferocious offensive rebound and put-back bucket.

With both fan sections losing their collective minds, the teams swapped leads after that.

Slashing to the hoop off of an in-bounds play, Wolfe garnered the final points of his breakout performance with a layup, before another Davison hook, thrown up in the middle of a mob, gave CHS a 69-68 edge.

Oak Harbor rose to the moment one final time, however, drilling their final three-ball of the night, then hitting two free throws as the final seconds ticked away on Coupeville.

Eight of the nine Wolf players to see the floor scored, and the one who didn’t, Tucker Hall, delivered one of the night’s best hustle plays.

Holding on for dear life against a ‘Cat player who had 30 pounds on him, at least, the lanky Wolf senior went up and over his rival, riding the bucking bronco while refusing to let go of the rock, earning a key jump ball.

Wolfe’s 34 topped all scorers, while Davison banked home eight, and Toomey-Stout, Grove, and Wells all popped for six.

Pilgrim (4), Knoblich (3), and Brown (2) rounded out the attack.

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Wolf hoop stars (l to r) Madison McMillan, Katie Marti, and Jada Heaton are ready to rumble. (Jennifer Marzocca photo)

Savina Wells (5) calls for the ball during a recent game, while Brionna Blouin backs her up. (Corinn Parker photos)

Lyla Stuurmans doesn’t crack under pressure.

Call it the big bounce-back.

Two weeks after falling to the Mount Bakery Mariners by 17 points, the Coupeville 7th grade SWISH girls basketball team got some thrilling revenge.

Storming from behind to force overtime Saturday, the Wolves won 22-20 on a pressure-packed bucket in extra time from Savina Wells.

The win lifts Coupeville to 1-4 on the season headed into their bye week.

The Wolves have three league games remaining on the schedule — a single clash Nov. 30, followed by a doubleheader Dec. 7.

Coupeville, which is playing in the silver division in a league run by Skagit County Parks and Recreation, competes Dec. 14 in the seven-team postseason tourney.

Saturday’s thriller was a back-and-forth affair, with the Wolves taking an 11-7 lead to the halftime break, before the Mariners rallied.

Mt. Bakery pulled ahead 14-11 thanks to a hot streak, but Coupeville battled back, with every girl on the floor bringing their best.

“It was fun to watch,” said Wolf coach Fred Farris. “Everyone contributed and brought energy on every possession.

“These ladies are growing so much everyday.”

Wanting to keep Lauren Marrs free to shoot, while giving Savina Wells a chance to dominate in the post, Fred Farris handed the ball to Lyla Stuurmans, and let the scrappy guard dictate play.

Lyla is a born leader!,” Fred Farris said. “She was so strong handling the ball for us against their full-court pressure.”

She wasn’t the only Wolf to step up, either.

Savina played amazing, making some great passes to teammates after breaking down the defense,” Fred Farris said. “Madison (McMillan) was a force on the boards, and Mia (Farris) was a spark plug off the bench on defense.

Chloe (Marzocca) made a very big bucket near the end of the first half,” he added. “It was great to have Lauren back; we needed every one of her points.”

Wells paced the Wolves with a team-high 10 points, including her winner in overtime, while also putting together “another 2,000-rebound game.”

Marrs chipped in with seven points, while McMillan (3), and Marzocca (2) tickled the twine.

Coupeville’s hard-charging roster also includes Taylor Brotemarkle, Katie Marti, Jada Heaton, Brionna Blouin, Reese Wilkinson, and Skylar Parker.

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Jake Mitten, seen here in an earlier game, scored four touchdowns Wednesday in an overtime thriller. (John Fisken photo)

   Jake Mitten, seen here in an earlier game, scored four touchdowns Wednesday in an overtime thriller. (John Fisken photo)

It was a thriller that kept you guessing until the final play.

A rainy day turned halfway nice, if predictably windy, Wednesday afternoon, allowing Coupeville and Chimacum ample opportunity to wage a knock-down, drag-out middle school battle on the gridiron.

By the time it was done, with the visiting Cowboys pulling out a 35-34 thriller in overtime, there had been something for everyone.

Big pass plays, last second escapes, even a Wolf coach wiping out on the muddy sideline and crashing into the team bench.

The game ended when Chimacum’s line shoved Coupeville’s defense back into the end zone on an extra point conversion run, giving the Cowboys the slimmest of margins.

With the game knotted at 28-28, after Chimacum had pulled off a fourth-down miracle with under a minute to play in the fourth quarter to force the extra period, the two squads took turns trying to punch the ball in from the 10-yard line.

The Wolves had the ball first in OT and hammered the ball in on fourth and goal, with Jake Mitten plunging around the right side for his fourth score of the afternoon.

But, on the ensuing extra point attempt, the Wolves couldn’t get the snap down for kicker Sage Downes and Chimacum players swarmed through the line to smush holder Dakota Eck.

With the ball in their own hands, the Cowboys took one play to score a touchdown — on a run up the middle — and one play to end things, ramming home the game’s final point behind a cloud of dust.

The frantic overtime action capped a game with five lead changes, and a miracle at the end of regulation.

Coupeville had gone ahead 28-20 with three-and-a-half minutes to play thanks to a three-yard scoring run from Mitten and a successful PAT kick from Downes.

Middle school football rewards teams with two for a kick and one for a run or pass on extra point plays — the opposite of high school action — and with Chimacum down by eight and going into the wind, things looked good for the Wolves.

The Cowboys had two miracles (a big one and a very important small one) still in their pocket, however.

First, they slipped a tiny, but quick receiver behind the defense on fourth-and-everything from the 30-yard line, and his TD reception with 47 seconds to play pulled Chimacum to 28-26.

Then, despite kicking into the wind, a burly Cowboy drove the ball through the uprights — by the slimmest of margins — to knot things up.

Somehow, despite there being less than a minute to play in regulation, both teams got the ball back before the buzzer sounded.

Coupeville went four and out and gave Chimacum the ball with 15 seconds to play, then dodged a bullet when Cade Golden tipped away a potential game-winning pass.

With regulation run down, and a ferry awaiting the Cowboys, there was serious discussion at midfield on whether to call the game a tie.

To the delight of players on both sides, and the surprise of onlookers who have grown accustomed to middle school games not being allowed overtime action, the refs shut off the clock and let the teams decide the game on the field.

While Coupeville would have liked to have held on for the win, the Wolf coaches were thrilled to see two similarly-sized schools get a chance to go at it, with neither side backing down.

“They played with their hearts and for each other; loving it!!!,” said CMS head coach Bob Martin. “It was a good day!”

The Wolves stung Chimacum several times, starting with their opening drive.

After watching the Cowboys eat up nearly seven minutes of clock while marching to a touchdown after taking the kick-off, Coupeville responded with its own score in less than 75 seconds.

Eck broke free for a 31-yard sprint to daylight, then Golden hooked up with Mitten on a 25-yard pass play to put CMS on the doorstep.

From there, it was all Ben Smith, as he took a hand-off and scampered around the left side for a two-yard touchdown run.

Mitten dropped a perfect conversion pass into Golden’s waiting arms for the extra point and the Wolves were up 7-6 and off to the races.

Coupeville’s next two touchdowns came through the air, with Golden flinging the ball into the overcast sky and Mitten hauling it in, then churning away for extra yardage.

The first went 32 yards, the second 75 yards.

In between Golden picked off a Cowboy pass — the only turnover in a very cleanly played game.

Thanks to weather issues that erased a game from earlier in the season, the two teams will reunite in a week, this time at Chimacum.

The Nov. 2 clash will bring the middle school football campaign to an end.

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