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Gavin St Onge played strongly on defense Friday, but Coupeville was unable to topple South Whidbey. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

It would have been easy to pack it in.

After surrendering 34 points in an eight-and-a-half minute span Friday at South Whidbey, including three touchdowns in 90 seconds, the Coupeville High School football team had little to play for in the second half.

Facing a running clock and near-certain defeat at the hands of their Island neighbors, the Wolves knew they would be surrendering The Bucket after winning the annual rivalry game two straight years and four of the last six.

But, while Coupeville did eventually fall 48-20, sliced ‘n diced by Falcon QB Kody Newman and his support crew, the undermanned Wolves didn’t take the easy way out.

Instead, they rallied for two fourth-quarter touchdowns and a two-point conversion pass, held South Whidbey scoreless in the second half (even with Newman under center through the end of the third quarter), and exited Langley heads high.

While the loss puts Coupeville’s playoff hopes on life support, the unexpected news previously win-less Granite Falls scorched Sultan 34-6 Friday means the Wolves are still in the mix for one of the North Sound Conference postseason berths.

Four of the six teams in the league advance to the playoffs, and CHS is a game out of fourth-place with two to play.

Cedar Park Christian, which clobbered King’s 28-14 Friday, sits atop the standings at 3-0, while King’s and South Whidbey are 2-1.

Granite and Sultan are 1-2, with Coupeville at 0-3.

The Wolves, who are 3-4 overall on the season, finish with a road game at Cedar Park Oct. 19 and a home game against Granite Oct. 26.

While the first half Friday, especially the second quarter, is something Coupeville might like to forget, first-year coach Marcus Carr and his staff can point to their player’s grit down the stretch as something to build around.

When they do, they can look to the team they lost to for an example of how bad luck and worse win/loss records can be turned around.

With the Falcons flying high at 5-2 this season, after a 7-2 run last year, it might be easy to forget how badly a once-proud program had crashed.

Plagued by frequent coaching turnover and loss of players, South Whidbey suffered through three fairly terrible seasons from 2014-2016.

The Falcons were just 4-25 in that span, and in desperate need of a turnaround.

They got it when former coach Mark Hodson returned to revive the program, using Newman, a tennis prodigy turned gridiron warrior, to run his offense.

South Whidbey got permission to play an independent schedule last season, and, after losses to fellow 1A schools Coupeville and Chimacum, won seven straight against 2B and Canadian schools.

With their roster filling out nicely, and a renewed sense of pride in the program, the Falcons are once again on the upswing, and they showed it Friday night.

Playing in front of its Homecoming Crowd, South Whidbey dodged two early bullets, then made Coupeville pay for its mistakes.

A bad snap on their opening drive pinned the Falcons all the way back to their one-yard line, and, while they picked up a few yards to prevent any pesky safeties, they quickly sent out the punting unit.

Call it luck (good for the home team, bad for the visitors) or skill, but South Whidbey recovered the punt when Coupeville muffed a catch in traffic.

Given the ball right back, and hyped up on its ability to twist and turn, “Matrix“-style, avoiding the Wolves best effort to land an early KO, the Falcons promptly went to work.

Mixing runs with the occasional screen pass, then punctuating the drive with a 31-yard zig-zag scamper by its nimble-toed QB, South Whidbey marched down the field, punched the ball in to the end zone on a short run, and set the tone for the rest of the night.

A second touchdown, this one on a 57-yard dash to daylight on their very next possession, staked the Falcons to a 14-0 lead and seemed to be a crippler.

But there was still hope, at least for a bit, as Wolf junior Sean Toomey-Stout brought back the kickoff 40+ yards, before being snared by Newman, the only man between “The Torpedo” and the end zone.

While he was denied on that play, Toomey-Stout got his taste of glory soon after, hooking up with Wolf QB Dawson Houston on a gorgeous 20-yard scoring strike on fourth down early in the second quarter, out-jumping the defender, then spinning him in circles.

South Whidbey blocked the PAT, holding the score to 14-6, and memories of past Bucket games, of hard-fought battles decided by late plays, were on most fan’s minds.

And then the wheels sort of fell off.

Or, to give them credit, the Falcons knocked the wheels off.

Newman, facing third-and-two, dropped a sweet pass between defenders, then watched as Aiden Coleman turned a short gain into a game-busting 35-yard touchdown.

The PAT was snuffed, but it barely mattered, as Newman added scoring runs of seven and 10 yards, while juking the Wolves out of their shoes, before South Whidbey’s defense got nasty.

The Falcons returned a fumble for a touchdown, then picked off a pass and took it to the house, crossing the goal line with just a single second left on the clock.

The tsunami of points in the second quarter was a particular blow to Coupeville, which entered the night as the #2 scoring defense in the league.

While the Wolf D was missing four starters — Chris Battaglia, Andrew Martin, Jake Pease and Xavier Murdy — it’s questionable whether they would have changed things with the Falcons clicking on all cylinders.

We can wonder, but we’ll never know. Either way, respect should be paid to the Falcons for running their game plan nearly perfectly.

South Whidbey, which has a 36-player roster to Coupeville’s 18 active players, gave its bench a lot of playing time in the second half, while keeping some of its big timers in to provide leadership.

And leadership is what Houston, a junior in his first season as the Wolf starting QB, brings every game.

Standing tall in the pocket, he connected with Toomey-Stout on a 69-yard catch-and-run for a TD, then fired an 11-yard laser onto the fingertips of Gavin Knoblich for another score.

That gave Houston, who also hit Matt Hilborn on a two-point conversion pass to end the game, a career-best night.

His three touchdown passes against the Falcons were just one shy of tying Coupeville’s single-game record, jointly held by Corey Cross, Brad Sherman and Hunter Downes.

Toomey-Stout’s scoring catches were his ninth and tenth touchdowns this year, while Knoblich’s TD snag was his second.

As the final seconds ticked away Friday, the two teams, representing schools separated by a relatively short drive, had much in common, regardless of the score.

One program is back on the rise, basking in the glow of rebirth, while the other is putting in the work to get where the other resides.

As he scooped up The Bucket from where it had rested all game on Coupeville’s sideline, Newman, getting ready to run from teammates ready to mob him, momentarily dropped the trophy.

It was a rare slip-up on a fairly flawless night for the Falcon gunslinger, but one he quickly dealt with, snatching the wayward memento and gunning it for the other side of the field, his teammates in giddy pursuit.

What could be a depressing moment for Wolf players, coaches and fans, watching South Whidbey celebrate as its band played on and on (and on some more), should instead be something to spur Coupeville in the coming weeks and years.

The Falcons were as low as you could go two years ago, teetering on the edge of not having a program to play for, and now here they are, revived, reborn and resilient.

You don’t have to enjoy being on the wrong side of a game like this, but you can use it as fuel.

Do that, and not too very far down the road, the Wolves can be launching their own post-game celebrations on a regular basis.

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Lucy Sandahl and her teammates made some phenomenal hustle plays Tuesday during the most epic JV volleyball match I’ve witnessed. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

No quit. Ever.

Tuesday night’s varsity volleyball match-up between Coupeville and South Whidbey was the headliner, a battle between undefeated teams vying for the league lead.

But if you missed the opening act, your soul is poorer for it.

The Wolf and Falcon JV squads threw down three sets of hyped-up, mega-intense, classic action, filled with amazing come-backs, huge mood swings and quite possibly the single most stunning play I’ve ever witnessed in a volleyball match.

That one team had to lose wasn’t fair, but, in the end, despite winning more points (75-66), Coupeville fell a centimeter short, as their hosts pulled out a 12-25, 27-25, 27-25 thriller.

The loss drops the Wolves to 1-1 in North Sound Conference action, 2-2 overall.

But, while the Falcons can justifiably celebrate a win in which they rallied from down a set, and trailing 17-7 in the second, it’s hard to think of the Wolves as losers.

To a woman, they sold out on every play, running down balls that were headed for the stands, collecting floor burns galore, and refusing to cede any point.

That was driven home midway through the first set, when South Whidbey celebrated too early on a kill, only to have Coupeville sophomore sensation Maddie Vondrak rip out their collective spine and show it to them.

To be fair, the Falcons had nailed a spike which looked 99.999999992 percent certain to be a winner, which is why, as a group, they had turned their backs on the Wolves and were converging for a group fist bump and cheer.

Vondrak was prone on the floor, with only her body between the descending ball and the floor, when, by means which scientists will debate for years to come, she threw her fist up over her head.

And … HOLY CRUD ON A STICK … not only made contact with a ball she couldn’t really see, but popped it perfectly into the air and onto the fingertips of a teammate.

Who promptly flicked it further skyward just as Zoe Trujillo, flying in from the right side, dropped her fist like the hammer of death and blasted a spike which really wasn’t coming back.

It was a play which caught everyone by surprise.

From the Falcons, who skidded to a halt, six jaws slamming onto the floor, to the refs, who both looked at each other, shaking their heads in amazement, to Vondrak, who popped up, smile reaching from one corner of the gym to the other.

Coming hot on the heels of a sizzlin’ run at the service stripe from Willow Vick, getting key assistance from twin sister Raven, who lashed one winner off a Falcon player’s chest, it captured Coupeville’s JV squad at its most-explosive.

The Wolves were in total control in the opening set, from Lucy Sandahl springing skyward at the last second, looking one way while using just her fingertips to redirect a ball the other way for a winner, to Vondrak pounding the snot out of the ball time and again.

That hot streak continued for most of the second set, with Sandahl throwing down a long, successful run at the service stripe and Trujillo smashing a winner off the back line which then took a nasty bounce and bit a chunk out of the back wall.

Up 17-7, things looked rosy … and then they didn’t.

South Whidbey rediscovered some lost magic, and a little luck, coming all the way back to take the lead, and have a set point at 24-23.

Coupeville fought off that point, however, thanks to another miracle save, and rode a superb serve from Willow Vick to actually put itself on match point at 25-24.

It wasn’t to be, though, as the Falcons ran off the final three points, overcoming Vondrak sprinting off the court for yet another miracle save, to knot things up at a set apiece.

At that point, it was like watching two heavyweight boxers late in a championship fight, standing in the middle of the ring and just punching like mad.

South Whidbey landed the first hay-maker, running out to its own 17-7 lead in the third set.

The Wolves could have crumbled. Should have crumbled. But, wait for it.

Yep, Coupeville then stormed back, behind precise, powerful serving from both Vick sisters and Trujillo, turning a 10-point deficit into four late ties.

The first came at 21-21, the most heart-pounding at 24-24, after CHS fought off two match points, thanks to a high-flying tip from Sandahl and a cannon shot of a spike by Trujillo.

Or maybe the most heart-pounding came at 25-25, after the Wolves fought off a third match point.

That came on a play where, once again, the ball was all but dead, until Vondrak, using every inch of her long right arm, spun the ball back into play while sprinting straight at her screaming bench.

But even miracles sometimes run out.

Trying to fight off a fourth match point, Coupeville kept what turned out to be the game’s final rally going for an eternity.

The Wolves saved the ball one, two, three times … only to watch a final shot, headed out of bounds, somehow, improbably, fatally, catch the last flake of paint in the deepest corner on the court.

It was, in the end, the only way this match could end – with a perfect, nearly impossible to duplicate shot.

Two teams exited afterwards, and the score-book will tell you one team won, and the other lost.

Not entirely true.

The Falcon JV deserves to celebrate their triumph. They wouldn’t give in or give up.

But neither did the Wolves.

Regardless of the score, the way Trujillo, Sandahl, Vondrak, the Vicks, Anya LeavellAbby Mulholland and Jaimee Masters played, the way they fought, point after point after endless point, bodes well for their future.

Sometimes the scoreboard doesn’t tell the entire story.

Sometimes both teams win.

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Freshman Kiara Contreras, who played strongly Tuesday, is part of a young Wolf soccer squad. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The net has been unforgiving.

As a young Coupeville High School girls soccer squad finds its way in a new league and a new season, putting the ball in the back of the net has been a work in progress.

Despite a stellar defensive effort on the road Tuesday, the Wolves were unable to generate matching offense, and fell 2-0 to arch-rival South Whidbey.

Both Falcon goals came in the first half, as the hosts jumped out to an early lead and never relented.

It was the fifth time in eight games Coupeville has been shut out this season.

The loss, which came in the team’s fourth-straight game away from home, drops the Wolves to 1-3 in North Sound Conference play, 1-6-1 overall.

CHS sits in fifth place in the six-team league, but is just a game-and-a-half out of second, where South Whidbey and Granite Falls are knotted up at 2-1.

The Wolves get a chance to play at home for the first time in two weeks Thursday.

The opponent will be Granite Falls, giving Coupeville an immediate chance to make up some ground in the standings.

If nothing else, CHS coach Kyle Nelson wants his team to keep chipping away and earning the chance to fire on opposing goalies.

“We’re still a developing team, but we’re improving,” he said. “Now I’d like to see us get a few more shots on goal.”

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Andrew Aparicio was one of many winners Monday, as Coupeville tennis ruled the day against arch-rival South Whidbey. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Nathan Ginnings teamed with Jacob Burke for a major come-from-behind win at #1 doubles, as the Wolf varsity swept the season series from the Falcons.

Every match, every set, every point counted.

There were big chunks of time Monday afternoon when it seemed either Coupeville or South Whidbey could easily pull away for the win in their boys tennis clash, but in the end only one squad went home truly happy.

Powered by a pair of doubles wins, both of which involved CHS netters rallying from a set down, the Wolves slipped past the visiting Falcons 3-2 to sweep the season series from their Island rivals.

The win lifts Coupeville to 3-3 in Emerald City League play.

It also gives them local bragging rights.

After failing to net a win against their neighbors during Ken Stange’s first 13 years at the helm of the Coupeville boys program, the Wolves polished off South Whidbey both at home and away this season.

Monday’s match was locked at 1-1 for quite some time, with the singles bouts being quickly split.

Coupeville’s Drake Borden, facing a different Falcon rival this time around, matched his performance in the season opener, rolling to a win at #2 singles, while South Whidbey’s Levi Buck turned the tables on Jakobi Baumann in the first slot.

Then a war of attrition set in.

With all three varsity doubles matches on the courts at the same time, and all three stretching out to epic lengths, Stange (and both team’s fans) were left to bounce back and forth.

All three of the matches featured serious ebb and flow, with first one duo putting together a sweet run, only to have their foes come storming right back.

The match of the day came at #1 doubles, where Jacob Burke and Nathan Ginnings, a first-year pairing, rallied to knock off a Falcon team they couldn’t topple the first time around.

Down a set, the Wolves scorched the court in the middle frame, mixing in booming overheads with the occasional soft drop shot, forcing a winner-take-all final set.

It took a while, though, as Burke and Ginnings fell behind in the third set, but never gave in.

Instead of slumped shoulders, they slapped rackets, encouraged each other, and muscled their way back into the match, knotting things up at 6-6, before dropping the hammer in a deciding tiebreaker.

Though they had no clue their team had just gone up 2-1, Wolves James Wood and Mason Grove were off on a different court, putting together their own story of pulling a rabbit from a hat.

Bouncing around, joking and needling each other, they didn’t look like a duo which was down a set, maybe because they knew they were about to flip a switch.

The second and third set were all Coupeville, all the time, with Grove lashing approach shot winners and Wood smashing put-aways at the net.

The hardest-hit shot came during a break in play when Grove half turned as he went to slap an extra ball back to South Whidbey’s server and promptly drilled his partner, who took the gut shot with first a surprised look, and then a loud laugh.

Heck, when you’re winning, you can pick up an inadvertent bruise or two (and even bust your racket strings in a post-match hit-around like Wood later did), and it’s all good.

 

Complete Monday results:

 

Varsity:

1st Singles — Jakobi Baumann lost to Levi Buck 6-3, 6-2

2nd Singles — Drake Borden beat Ian Maddux 6-1, 6-1

1st Doubles — Zach Ginnings/Jacob Burke beat Brent de Wolf/Joey Lane 5-7, 6-1, 7-6(7-4)

2nd Doubles — Mason Grove/James Wood beat Ranger Buck/Brent Batchelor 3-6, 6-2, 6-2

3rd Doubles — Tiger Johnson/Jaschon Baumann lost to Cormac Workman/Soren Bratrude 7-6(8-6), 5-7, 10-7

 

JV:

3rd Singles — Koby Schreiber lost 7-6(7-4)

4th Doubles — Andrew Aparicio/Schreiber won 6-3

5th Doubles — Harris Sinclair/Thane Peterson lost 6-1

6th Doubles — Aparicio/Peterson lost 7-5

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Drake Borden roared to a straight-sets win at #2 singles Wednesday, helping the Coupeville netters topple arch-rival South Whidbey. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

This one has been a long time coming.

Ken Stange kicked off his 14th season as Coupeville High School boys tennis coach Wednesday, and then his players stormed the courts in Langley and accomplished something none of his previous teams had.

They beat South Whidbey.

For 14 seasons, whether they were league foes or non-conference rivals, the Falcon boy netters have owned the Wolves.

The CHS girls have beaten South Whidbey under Stange, but their male counterparts couldn’t say the same.

There have been close matches and blowouts, but never once had Coupeville come out on top. Until the magic happened on a sunny early September afternoon.

Sparked by a gutsy comeback win by senior Jakobi Baumann, the Wolves jumped back on the bus with a 3-2 win in a match that doubled as the season and league opener.

Out of six schools in the new North Sound Conference, only Coupeville and South Whidbey play boys tennis, so they’re competing in the ultra-elite Emerald City League this year.

While both might have issues dealing with the private school powerhouses awaiting them, like two-time defending state champ University Prep, for the moment, the Wolves sit atop the league standings.

To get there, CHS got big-time performances from singles aces Baumann and Drake Borden, and first-time doubles duo James Wood and Mason Grove.

Jakobi was amazing today,” Stange said. “After losing a 5-2 lead in the first set, he persevered, outlasting Levi (Buck) in the second, and playing some of the most consistent tennis in the third.

Mason and James winning in James’ first match was special and Drake drubbed his opponent.”

 

Complete Wednesday results:

Varsity:

1st Singles — Jakobi Baumann beat Levi Buck 5-7, 6-4, 10-8

2nd Singles — Drake Borden beat Soren Bratrude 6-1, 6-1

1st Doubles — Zach Ginnings/Jacob Burke lost to Brent de Wolf/Joey Lane 6-3, 6-4

2nd Doubles — Mason Grove/James Wood beat Ian Maddux/Brent Batchelor 6-2, 3-6, 6-4

3rd Doubles — Tiger Johnson/Jaschon Baumann lost to Ranger Buck/Max Rodriguez 7-6(7-3), 7-5

JV:

4th Doubles — Andrew Aparicio/Koby Schreiber beat Jordan/Caldwell 6-4, 2-6, 6-2

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