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Former Wolf QB Hunter Downes owns the Coupeville High School record for most touchdown passes in a career. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

His bones sometimes betrayed him, but his heart never did.

Over the course of a four-year run at Coupeville High School, Hunter Downes fought through too many injuries, many of which might have derailed someone with less drive and grit.

But, each time he snapped or bent something new, the 2018 CHS grad bounced back, his body healing (at least for a moment).

The gleam in his eye? That never vanished.

Downes always seemed to me like one of those rare athletes who really, truly lived for every moment they got on the field, the court, or the pitch.

Even wracked by more injuries than the average Wolf, he suited up for a sport in all 12 seasons he was granted.

Football and basketball were his mainstays for all four years, while a brief foray into track and field soon gave way to life on the soccer pitch.

Through it all, he was always front and center, though he brought different skill sets to each sport, and filled often vastly-different roles for his teams.

As a soccer player Downes was a rough-and-ready enforcer who also had a nimble touch around the net when needed.

Celebrating a goal on the soccer pitch.

Playing with many of the highest-powered scorers in program history, he didn’t have to carry the offensive load.

That didn’t mean he couldn’t sting an opposing goalie when the moment was right, though.

On the basketball court, Downes filled a similar complementary role.

His four seasons of high school hoops were shared with Hunter Smith, who finished as one of the most-prolific scorers in school history.

While Downes often played a set-up role, it was one he seized with wild abandon.

A smooth passer who could make the nets sing when he shot, he largely made his name as a force in the paint.

Often giving up height and weight advantages to the rival burly brawlers he faced off with, Downes lived to snatch as many rebounds as humanly possible.

Using guile, positioning, and a nice stubborn streak which kept his butt anchored down low even while being roughed up, he never backed down.

Ever.

Rumbling in the paint.

His knack for cleaning the glass, on both ends of the court, was huge.

Whether taking the ball back up strongly, or dealing it to waiting shooters, Downes was a master at giving the Wolves second (and third, and fourth) chances.

But, of all his sports, football is the one where he may have shone most brightly.

A gun-slinging quarterback who enjoyed juking would-be tacklers out of their shoes before firing balls into triple coverage, Downes rarely played it safely on the gridiron.

Named the starter as a sophomore, he saw his first season in charge of the varsity offense end prematurely, derailed by an early-season injury.

Fighting his way back, Downes popped back behind center the next season and stayed there, through bruising sacks and awkward collisions, always flinging the ball skyward on a wing and a prayer.

More often than not, it worked out, as he hooked up with Smith, Cameron Toomey-Stout and Co., ripping off big chunks of yardage and crowd-pleasing touchdowns.

When he finally limped off the field at the end of his run, Downes, even having lost out on most of his sophomore campaign, landed among the most productive QB’s in CHS history.

His 35 career touchdown passes are the most in school history, while he also shares the single-game mark of four scoring bombs with Wolf legends Corey Cross and Brad Sherman.

Downes came dangerously close to catching Sherman for the school’s career mark in passing yards, and saved one of his best moments for the very end.

Tied with Sherman at 33 career passing TD’s, Downes had watched most of his key receivers KO’d by season-ending injuries.

He had very few reliable targets left as his senior season rolled to an end, and he was getting hit at a steady rate himself, as the starters on his line also suffered through a considerable wave of injuries.

But, weaving and bobbing, Downes connected on the record-setting heave, dropping the ball onto the hands of his close childhood friend, Jake Hoagland.

In a season of pain and misery for the Wolves, the fling and catch produced not just a record, but a thin sliver of pure joy.

For a moment, all the action around them came to a screeching halt and two friends etched their names into the record books while recreating some of the magic from their backyard days.

Downes was limping as the post-touchdown celebration played out, having been blasted once again.

But he was also grinning.

Like I said, Downes, more than many, really seemed to enjoy his time as a high school athlete.

He might not have gotten all the opportunities he deserved, but he took advantage of every single one he was given.

Today we honor Hunter for his stats, but also for the way he played — attacking every day, every game, always trying to get the most out of every play.

As the newest member of the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, he joins former teammates and the old-school giants whose records he chased.

After this, you’ll find him camped out under the Legends tab at the top of the blog.

It’s a fitting home for a guy who never let an injury slow his roll, a guy who lived to be a ballplayer, and a dude who made sure to play every game like it was the most important contest of his life.

Bring it on. (David Stern photo)

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Reese Cernick will be the first Coupeville Middle School boys soccer coach. (Autumn Cernick photo)

Reese Cernick will be a trailblazer.

Coupeville Middle School is launching its first-ever boys soccer team this fall, replacing a football program which was shuttered due to a lack of players.

Cernick, who has worked extensively with youth soccer programs in Central Whidbey, as both a coach and administrator, has been tabbed to lead the newest Wolf team.

His hiring as head coach will be official once approved by the school board at its Aug. 26 meeting.

CMS soccer joins cross country and volleyball, with all three fall programs kicking off practices Sept. 9.

The Wolf booters have a 10-game schedule for their inaugural season, one in which they will see the same opponents on a regular basis.

Coupeville faces Northshore Christian four times, while squaring off three times apiece with Lakewood and Granite Falls.

The first game in program history goes down Monday, Sept. 23 at home, when the Wolves welcome NSC to town.

Cernick owns and operates Whidbey Pest Control, but spends a fair amount of time around the soccer pitch.

He and wife Michelle, who will be assisting him with the CMS team, have coached U-15 coed squads for 10 seasons over a five-year period.

Before that they guided girls U-12 and U-13 programs, while also being instrumental in keeping the Central Whidbey Soccer Club operating in recent years.

Reese Cernick is the current president of CWSC, and he and his wife have three children who attend Coupeville High School – Chris, Autumn, and Aurora.

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Sarah Wright, softball terminator. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Get you someone who looks at you the way Wright looks at confetti.

The Wright Express comes in hot.

“You’re running … ON ME???? Oh, you foolish child!”

A prairie legend forever.

Sarah Wright is a tornado of fun.

She blows through, rips up the joint, throws the furniture up on the roof, but leaves everyone smiling afterwards.

As I have covered her exploits through the years, from youth sports, to middle school, and then on through four fast n’ furious years of high school, she was as entertaining an athlete as any I’ve ever seen.

Talented? Without a doubt.

But with Sarah, it was always about how much fun she was having out there, whether it be a pressure-packed game at the state tournament, or a random practice on a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of the season.

She worked her tail off, fought for success, screamed her lungs out, and got every last scrap of enjoyment she could from her sports.

Volleyball to soccer, basketball to her truest love of them all, softball, Wright never lost the joy little league athletes have, even when she was finally old enough to work as their hitting coach.

Whether she was threatening to eat worms while watching her JV teammates play, laughing until she could barely stand, or feeding seagulls in the parking lot in between state playoff games, running and giggling as the birds pecked at her sandwich, Sarah was, and is, pure giddy joy.

Not that she couldn’t be deadly serious, mind you.

Wright sacrificed her body, time and again, and when it was time to compete, she wanted to win as badly as she wanted to enjoy life in her down time.

As a softball catcher, she bore the brunt of long hours hunched down in the dirt.

Her hands stinging from knocking down wayward balls, her body sore from standing tall and taking the brunt of the explosion when rival players were dumb enough to try and knock her down during plays at the plate.

During her travel ball tournaments, or during Coupeville’s playoff runs, you would see Sarah walk away, looking like a (sometimes very tired) warrior.

Eye black on, smeared by sweat and dirt, her uniform streaked in dust, her mitt in one hand, her mask in the other, she resembled a gladiator coming back from the pits and you knew she left a trail of bodies behind her.

And then, two steps later, she’d suddenly start laughing, and by the time she reached the dugout she was singing in a voice which carried across the field.

I watched Sarah win big games during her career, and take some tough losses, but, in the end, whether her heart was soaring or breaking, she was happy to be in that uniform, to have that mitt and mask, to just play.

She was a solid volleyball player, a take-charge soccer goalie, a pounder in the paint on the basketball court, but she was at home on the softball diamond.

She loved it, and it loved her back.

Knowing Sarah gets to play college softball, even if it will be far away from Coupeville, makes me happy.

It means she gets to keep cracking tape-measure home runs.

Or bashing doubles that she turns into triples, legs pounding as she comes crashing into third-base in a giant cloud of dust, followed by her looking up at CHS coach Kevin McGranahan with a huge grin and saying “I told you I’d make it … Keeeeevvvvviiiiinnn.”

She’ll be zinging throws from behind the plate, sprawled out, firing off the wrong leg and, somehow, still nailing straying runners.

“Another notch on the ol’ gun belt there, Kevin, my boy!”

Sarah stepped onto the CHS softball field and was a starter at the hardest position from day one of her freshman season.

The only thing which kept her waiting that long was the silly Washington state high school rule book, which prevented her from playing varsity high school ball during her middle school days.

Swap rule books with a state like Kentucky and she would have been making rival high school coaches rip out their hair back when she was 12.

Through it all, as Wright came within a play or two of making it to state as a sophomore and junior, then got over the hump as a senior, she was a bonafide leader.

Vocal, the very definition of loud ‘n proud, whether in the dugout, face first in the prairie dust, or running through the parking lot as the Seagull Queen, she will never truly be replaced.

Yes, someone else will be behind the plate next season, and in the years to come.

Hopefully they will have strong careers, and, hopefully, they will enjoy their days on the diamond as much as Sarah did hers.

But you don’t truly replace the legends.

Whether it’s Hailey Hammer, or Breeanna Messner, or Wright, after they’re gone, you can close your eyes the next time you’re in the stands at the CHS diamond, and you will see them still out there playing.

For now, she leaves her field, her town, but she’s not truly going anywhere, because our memories of her will last.

There was never really a doubt Sarah would one day be walking (actually, sprinting while giggling and throwing sandwich bits in the air) into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

I knew it when I watched her play in middle school and little league, and nothing changed my mind as she traveled her journey.

So, after this, you’ll find her at the top of the blog, up under the Legends tab.

And, you’ll find her in the memories of Wolf fans.

Long after her last high school award, her final banquet, the last time she took off a Wolf uniform she wore with genuine pride and joy, Sarah¬†will still be out there, gunnin’ and grinnin’ as the sun sets across the prairie.

Covered in dirt from head to toe, tackling her teammates in joy, standing on the dugout bench, batting helmet jammed backwards on her head, screaming “GET OFF HER, BALL!!!,” having the time of her life.

There is only one Sarah Wright, and we were very lucky to have her.

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Teo Keilwitz clears the ball Tuesday night. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Uriah Kastner was one of three Wolves honored on Senior Night.

These are the flowers you seek.

Senior goaltender Dewitt Cole shares his moment with his family.

Derek Leyva may not be a senior yet, but he can still be festive.

Keilwitz and the parental units.

Wolves (back, l to r) Drake Borden, Catherine Lhamon, and Megan Behan enjoy themselves despite the cold, windy, late-April weather.

Coupeville’s seniors catch a photo op with coach Kyle Nelson.

It’s the beginning of the end.

The Coupeville High School boys soccer team capped its regular season Tuesday with an Island rivalry rumble with South Whidbey, but first took time to honor its three seniors.

Dewitt Cole, Uriah Kastner, and Teo Keilwitz all have at least one more game to play, though, with a home playoff match Apr. 29 against Cedar Park Christian.

Win that one, and they earn at least two more district playoff games.

So, while the final exit can be seen, the road has a few more twists and turns in it before anyone gets there.

For now, we have Senior Night photos, courtesy John Fisken.

To see everything he shot, on and off field, pop over to:

https://www.johnsphotos.net/Sports/Coupeville-Soccer-2018-2019/BS-2019-04-23-vs-South-Whidbey/

A percentage of all purchases goes to help fund scholarships for CHS student/athletes, so there’s that, as well.

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After a tough 4-3 loss Tuesday at Sultan, Alex Jimenez and his CHS soccer teammates will have to fight to earn a home playoff game. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Kyle Nelson is not especially fond of making road trips to Sultan.

The Coupeville High School soccer coach has made the trek twice this school year, and both times things ended badly.

During the fall, Nelson’s girls’ squad fell 1-0 in a game which proved to be fatal to the Wolves bid for a playoff spot.

Tuesday night, it was time for the Wolf boys to head to Sultan, and, despite a late rally, they fell short on the same artificial turf field, dropping a 4-3 heartbreaker.

While this defeat won’t keep the Coupeville boys from playing in the postseason — they’ve already clinched a playoff berth — it still stings.

The biggest reason is a win would have solidified the Wolves hold on the #3 seed from the North Sound Conference.

Instead, at 2-4 in league play, 4-7 overall, CHS slips a half-game back of Sultan (2-3, 3-8).

South Whidbey (5-0, 9-1) and King’s (5-1, 6-2-1) are battling for the conference crown, while Cedar Park Christian (0-6, 0-8) sits mired in the cellar of what became a five-team league after Granite Falls was unable to field a squad this season.

The #3 NSC team gets a home district playoff opener against the #5 NSC team, while the #4 squad has to travel to play the #3 Northwest Conference squad.

Both games are loser-out affairs, but, if you win your first game, you advance to the double-elimination portion of the bracket.

Coupeville, which played five straight on the road, culminating in Tuesday’s loss, closes the regular season at home with games Apr. 19 against CPC and Apr. 23 vs. South Whidbey.

Sultan faces South Whidbey (Apr. 19), King’s (Apr. 23), and CPC (Apr. 25) for its stretch run.

While the Wolves have lost four straight, the Turks are coming on strongly, winning three straight after losing their first eight. One of those defeats, a 2-0 loss, came at Coupeville earlier in the season.

Tuesday night Sultan jumped all over the Wolves in the early going, building a 3-0 lead before the halftime break.

Aram Leyva got one goal back for Coupeville, mashing “a well-taken penalty kick” for his 10th goal of the season.

The Turks responded with the equalizer early in the second half, stretching the lead back out to 4-1, before Derek Leyva stormed the net, rattling home a pair of scores to make things tight.

The back-to-back goals gives¬†Derek Leyva 11 on the season, and 35 for his CHS career, pulling him closer to cousin Abraham Leyva’s school career record of 45 goals.

With the clock ticking down, the Wolves pushed the attack, desperate to knot things back up and force overtime, but it wasn’t to be.

“Unfortunately there seems to be a Sultan curse on me,” Nelson said. “We had a few other great attempts at goals in the closing minutes to make for an exciting game, but ultimately we paid for our slow start.”

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