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Posts Tagged ‘SWHS Falcons’

Teo Keilwitz (left) and Clay Reilly take down a Falcon. (John Fisken photos)

Hunter Smith dives for the end zone. Spoiler: he made it.

   Ignoring the man mountain headed his way, Wolf QB Joel Walstad prepares to fire a TD pass.

You can’t get away from Jacob Martin.

Every game matters, but one matters just a bit more.

Coupeville and South Whidbey were made to be arch-rivals, reasonably close in student body size and proximity, and their turf war has been a memorable one over the years, regardless of sport.

But when the Wolves and Falcons meet on the gridiron, there’s a little something extra at stake, as that clash is the only one which has a trophy.

“The Bucket” (literally a large bucket with each school’s logo on one side) is a fairly recent invention, a way to settle a feud which blossomed at a volleyball match about a decade back.

Coupeville Athletic Director Willie Smith hatched the idea and now, each fall, the victor claims the trophy and owns it for the next year.

Coupeville will carry The Bucket with it when it heads to Langley this year, kicking off a new school sports year Friday, Sept. 1, still basking in last year’s 41-10 rout of the Falcons.

With CHS coach Jon Atkins entering his second year at the helm, he’ll try and do something which evaded his recent predecessors — Jay Silver, Tony Maggio and Brett Smedley — and guide the Wolves to back-to-back wins in the grudge match.

After busting a five-year run of South Whidbey wins with an 18-13 victory in 2012, Coupeville fell 57-33 in 2013, won 35-28 in 2014, lost 27-14 in 2015 then romped to a win last year.

Silver (0-2) and Smedley (0-1) never beat the Falcons, while Maggio’s success (2-1) included him out-coaching former college coach Chris Tormey in 2014.

This time around, South Whidbey has turned to former long-time coach Mark Hodson, who was recruited to save a program in free-fall.

The Falcons, who lost their final seven games last season en route to a 1-8 mark, are taking a break from the 1A/2A Cascade Conference (at least for a season) and will play an independent football schedule this fall.

After opening with fellow 1A schools Coupeville and Chimacum, South Whidbey will face Valley View Secondary, a Canadian team.

Then it’s on to six straight games against 2B schools — Ocosta, Friday Harbor,  La Conner, Darrington, Concrete and Liberty Bell.

Not having to face Cascade Conference foes like ATM, Cedarcrest or King’s will give Hodson and Co. a chance to rebuild a roster which was severely depleted from previous seasons.

Regardless of record (Coupeville was 3-7 last season), the season-opening match-up of Wolves and Falcons is huge.

The winner gets bragging rights to go with possession of The Bucket, an undefeated record (for at least a week), an emotional boost and memories.

As we sit here, a mere 23 days away from this year’s clash, a handful of Coupeville players looked back at their own battles and what they remember:

JR Pendergrass:

My sophomore year, we were beating South Whidbey and we had the ball, running the clock down.

The player across from me on the line kept hitting me every time we took a knee to run the clock, because we were winning, and it took all the power in my being not to plant him in the ground.

Raymond Beiriger:

Junior year, it was my first year playing. And even though I was JV, we all went to watch the varsity play, and watching them fight for something that meant everything to them.

It really inspired me to play my senior year and try harder.

Watching them win The Bucket was amazing and I was super happy.

Uriel Liquidano:

Best memory was last year when South Whidbey was talking all this smack about how they where going to beat us and take The Bucket, that was pretty funny.

Good times, gonna miss playing on a Friday night. #OurBucket.

Jacob Martin:

Breaking a 70-yard TD and scoring the first TD of the game!

Korbin Korzan:

Sophomore year, varsity OLB, we won The Bucket. One of my best high school memories of all time.

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   South Whidbey High School senior softball sensation Mackenzee Collins. (Photo courtesy Collins)

“Softball has always been my escape.”

Mackenzee Collins is a standout on the diamond, a flame-throwing hurler, a coach’s daughter driven both by those who believed in her and those who did not, a high-flying Falcon on her way to big things off-Island one day.

The South Whidbey High School senior, who also plays basketball, hails from an athletic family which includes older brother Parker and dad Tim.

Her big brother was a rampaging force of nature as a football and basketball star, a role model as she developed her own impressive skill-set, while her late father shaped her life in a million little ways, starting with being her pitching guru, and going well beyond.

“There are a few people who have made me the player and person I am today,” Collins said. “Parker, growing up, he played a lot of sports, but basketball was his passion.

“Watching how dedicated he was and still is, how selfless of a player he is, and how incredibly hard Parker works, is amazing, and he inspires me to be the best athlete I can be.”

Their father, a noted pitching coach, had a sterling reputation in the local sports community, and his unexpected passing in 2015 affected players, fans and fellow coaches at all three Whidbey Island high schools.

“He always pushed me to be the very best player and teammate I could,” Collins said. “When I was feeling tired or lazy, it was my dad who made me go pitch to him (and thankfully he did).

“Even when it was 24 degrees out one winter years ago, I still remember going under the covered area at the elementary school and pitching with him,” she added. “He was, and always will be, my biggest fan and my biggest inspiration. I play for him.”

As positive as her time with her father was, on the field and off, there’s another coach, one with a different outlook, who drives Collins through the toughest practice, who helps her reach back and find one more laser pitch to escape a bases-loaded jam.

“As crazy as this may be, I will never forget one other person who had a huge impact on me as a player,” she said. “The coach of my first select softball team when I was only nine years old.

“I pitched one inning the entire season, simply because he didn’t believe in me, and didn’t hide it,” Collins added. “I may have only been nine years old at the time, but somewhere on that team it lit a fire in me to prove him wrong, a fire that’s still there today.”

Away from the field, she’s a member of the National Honor Society, someone who “loves reading and writing, so naturally my favorite class is English,” a strong student who wants to follow both of her parents into the teaching profession.

“Other than sports, I love to spend time with my friends, out in the sun on the beach, reading a good book, or blasting my country music,” Collins said.

But the softball diamond is where she makes her name, where she wants to carve a path which will lead to “playing collegiate softball at a competitive school.”

“It’s always been my dream,” Collins said. “And I am working very hard to make it happen, so I’m looking forward to what the future holds.”

While she enjoys basketball, spring is her time.

“Softball is easily my favorite,” Collins said. “I grew up around a lot of sports, but ever since I started playing softball when I was eight I just fell in love with the game. It’s fast paced at a high level, and I love the competition.”

She has a ferocious bat and a slick glove, but it’s her propensity for eye-popping strikeouts which catch most people’s eye.

The Cascade Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Collins, with her killer mind-set and big-game work in the pitcher’s circle, carried the Falcons to the state tourney as a junior.

“One of my strengths as a pitcher is the movement I put on my pitches,” she said. “Over the past two years, I’ve worked a lot on my screwball, curve-ball, and rise-ball in order to really make them jump.

“Of course, movement and location is something a pitcher can absolutely always improve upon, so that is my focus this coming off-season,” Collins added. “Another strength of mine is my composure on the mound.

“My motto has always been that whether my team is winning by 10 or losing by 10, I stay the same.”

While the spotlight often rests on her, thanks to playing a key position and putting up impressive stats, Collins is quick to spread the love to her teammates.

“I enjoy sports in general because they give young people a chance to be a part of a team, represent their community, compete, and have fun, all of which is incredibly valuable,” she said. “Softball, in particular, has always been my escape. I knew it was something that I could do that could take my mind off of anything.

“As I mentioned, it’s very competitive, and I love the pressure put on me as a pitcher,” Collins added. “I love knowing that my teammates are counting on me, and I work very hard to not let them down.”

While Coupeville fans might logically daydream what it would be like to have her wearing a Wolf uniform, forming a potent pitching combo with fellow CHS ace Katrina McGranahan, Collins is content with life on the South end.

“In many ways, Coupeville and South Whidbey are very similar,” she said. “I love how close-knit our school is. As much as I want to branch out and meet new people, I love walking down the hallways and being able to recognize pretty much everyone.

“Our community is filled with kind, helpful, and incredibly caring people, and all of South Whidbey is beautiful. In fact, our whole Island is; we’re pretty lucky!,” Collins added. “South Whidbey is home, and it always will be.”

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   Mary Zisette (in SWHS tennis shirt), is a fast-rising Falcon star.

“To me, the people in this town are the best.”

Mary Zisette enjoys her time on the tennis court at South Whidbey High School, but it’s more than that.

“Everyone is incredibly kind and it’s fun to know all the people you see walking through town,” she said. “I think the sense of community is the most special.

“For our school it’s very similar,” Zisette added. “All the teachers are great and super helpful and you pretty much know every single person in the school.”

A strong presence on the court for the Falcons, whether playing singles or doubles, she’s headed into her junior year at SWHS.

With two postseason runs already to her credit, Zisette continues to work on her court skills, with an eye on always improving.

“I think I’m very coachable and can work new suggestions into my game,” she said. “I need to work on my mental tenacity in stressful matches.

“My goals are to just keep improving and keep working hard,” Zisette added. “Also, making it to state would be really nice, we’ve been close the past two years.”

Ever since she first picked up a racket, the love of the game has been there for her. A lot of that comes from the camaraderie she experiences on the court.

“Tennis is my favorite sport because of the atmosphere of the team and how supportive and encouraging the coaches and other team members are,” Zisette said. “I enjoy being a part of a team and getting to know new people each year.”

A member of the National Honor Society, she’s “interested in writing and loves art,” while finding time to balance a summer job with friends and family.

Those close to her have had a big impact on Zisette as she grows as an athlete and a young woman.

“My dad, who taught me to play tennis when I was little and has encouraged me along the way (is a big influence),” she said. “Also, the rest of my family, who are always supportive and teach me ways to be a better, more kind, person.”

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   Like his siblings before him, Kody Newman made a big splash at the state tennis tourney.

You know their name, cause athletic success is their game.

Few, if any, Whidbey Island families have had the kind of sustained excellence that Mike and Pam Newman’s children have brought to South Whidbey High School.

Jenny, Caitie, Riley, Lindsey, Hayley, Carlie and Kody have combined to win four state tennis titles, pour thousands of points through the basketball hoop, tear up the soccer pitch and generally be the gold standard for Falcon Nation.

While his older siblings left big shoes to fill, Kody, who will be a junior at SWHS this fall, has stepped right up.

Right out of the gate he made a splash at the state tennis tourney, finishing fourth in 1A as a freshman, winning three of four matches at the big dance.

As a sophomore hoops star, he torched Coupeville for a game-high 21, burying five treys.

For his next act, though, he’s going to mix things up a bit.

Newman, who’s played tennis, basketball and soccer since hitting high school, is headed to the baseball diamond next spring.

And, in a move sure to send shock waves through the net community his family has ruled, he may also switch up fall sports.

“I haven’t decided if I’m doing tennis again,” Newman said. “Or trying something new and play football.”

A talented natural athlete who lives for competition (“my life is sports,” he said with a laugh), Kody draws big rewards from his efforts.

“With sports I can always forget about my problems,” Newman said. “It’s just me and the ball, everything else is gone.

“I’m not thinking about my grades or drama around school, I’m thinking about why that jump shot didn’t go in, or how I can improve on bunting in baseball,” he added. “It’s very relaxing and can always make me happy!”

While he enjoys all his activities, if he had to choose one, the siren call of the hardwood is hard to ignore.

“My favorite sport is basketball,” Newman said. “I grew up playing with my siblings and it was a way we could all connect.

“I would rebound for my brother and sisters and they’d do the same so we could all improve.”

Having that chance to work on his skill-set, to take what genetics have given him and fine-tune his strengths while shoring up any (minor) weaknesses, drives Newman.

“I think that my desire to always get better and being open to constructive criticism is my best attribute,” he said. “I love getting feedback from people to always improve.

“I’d love to work on getting my vertical higher, because, with being shorter, it’s hard to get rebounds or block shots.”

As he’s progressed in all of his sports, Newman has had a string of coaches who have made an impact on him, both as an athlete and person.

He reels off an impressive list — “Mike Washington, Travis Tornga, Henry Pope, Ernie Merino, Tom and Karyle Kramer, Cj Baker and Josh Coleman” — then adds praise for others, as well.

“All the other coaches I’ve had, including Little League and Parks and Rec, and, of course, all my teammates,” Newman said. “Especially Lewis Pope for always teaching me moves and always being supportive!”

And don’t forget about his biggest fans, who have given him legends to aim for, and plenty of support as he finds his own path to success.

“Most importantly, my siblings and family for coming to all my sporting events and pushing me to do better.”

Newman has his eyes set on playing college ball, but his immediate future revolves around helping the Falcons fly high while competing against King’s and Archbishop Thomas Murphy in the always-tough 1A/2A Cascade Conference.

“I hope to make the playoffs again for basketball and hopefully help the baseball team go back to state,” he said.

In the few moments when he’s not living the athletic life, Newman, who wants to be a fire fighter, enjoys his science classes and spending time with family.

“I like spending time at the beach wake boarding with my brother, or playing beach volleyball with my sister or going to the pool with my girl friend,” he said.

While sports and life may take him away from his home in the future, the southern part of the Island, where he has grown up and grown into a star, will always be special.

“I love South Whidbey because everyone is kind to each other and it’s just an all round great community to be in.”

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Jake Pease fires in a pitch. (John Fisken photo)

We’re gonna keep this short and sweet.

Sort of the opposite of the game itself.

Unable to muster a hit against a more experienced South Whidbey squad, the Coupeville High School JV baseball team fell hard Monday afternoon.

The 13-0 loss, which drops the Wolves to 2-6 on the season, went on for quite awhile without much good happening for the guys in red and black.

“One of those games where it’s about learning … cause you hope they learn,” said CHS coach Mike Etzell.

With the Wolf varsity off-Island playing a league game, Coupeville had a straight-up JV squad on the field, while the Falcons, whose varsity was idle, were able to use some swing players.

It showed at times as South Whidbey wielded heavy bats and, other than a few walks here and there, thoroughly dominated.

Coupeville did get seven runners on, mustering six walks and a fly ball from Shane Losey which was dropped for an error.

Jacob Zettle and Kyle Rockwell led the way, with two walks apiece, while Ulrik Wells and James Vidoni also eked out free passes.

Coupeville used three pitchers, with Elliott Johnson, Jake Pease and Gavin Knoblich all seeing mound time.

If nothing else, it was live game action, always preferable to practice, and the sun was out the entire afternoon.

And that’s about all I have to say about that.

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