Posts Tagged ‘The Bucket’

   A mere six months until Friday Night Lights return to the prairie. (David Stern photo)

Is 198 days before the first game too early to talk about the Coupeville High School football schedule?

Of course not.

Sure, the Wolves don’t even have a head coach right now, as Athletic Director Willie Smith conducts a search to replace the departed Jon Atkins.

The plan is to have a new gridiron boss in place by May, one whose career track will more closely emulate former coach Ron Bagby (25+ years) than the four guys who have combined to deliver eight seasons since Bags retired.

But, while we wait for that announcement, the Wolf football schedule has popped up online, and it reflects a mix of the past with the future.

To get right to it, this is what’s planned as of today, with (*) marking league games in the new North Sound Conference.

Aug. 31 @ Port Townsend — (6:00)
Sept. 7 Vashon Island — (6:00)
Sept. 14 Friday Harbor — (TBD)
Sept. 21 @ La Conner — (7:00)
Sept. 28 King’s (*) — (7:00)
Oct. 5 Sultan (*) — (7:00)
Oct. 12 @ South Whidbey (*) — (7:00)
Oct. 19 @ Cedar Park Christian (*) — (7:00)
Oct. 26 Granite Falls (*) — (7:00)

First things first, it’s a nine-game schedule, and not 10 games as it was the past two seasons when CHS played as part of the Olympic/Nisqually League hybrid.

Week #10 will play out in one of three ways for Coupeville football.

Finish in the top two in their six-team league and they are playoff-bound.

Miss the postseason but finish third or fourth and the Wolves get a season-ending crossover game with either the #3 or #4 school from the 1A division of the Northwest Conference.

That four-team league features Meridian, Nooksack Valley, Mount Baker and Lynden Christian.

The schools which finish fifth and sixth in the North Sound Conference football standings will be given an option of playing a crossover game against another non-playoff team.

If they choose to do so, it will be up to their AD’s to find an opponent.

A major plus is the schedule has CHS playing five games at home, and six on Whidbey.

The only road trips are short hops to Port Townsend and La Conner and a little bit longer one (47.2 miles) to Bothell.

Which, I’d like to point out, is still six miles shorter than a trip to Silverdale to face Klahowya has been the past four years.

The season kicks off with rematches with the RedHawks and Pirates, though this time they will be non-conference foes.

Then comes back-to-back tilts with a pair of Northwest 2B League schools who would have been new league mates if the WIAA had approved Coupeville’s bid to drop from 1A to 2B.

After that, the heart of the season is five league games as Coupeville and its compatriots open play in their new league.

It’s not marked yet, but Homecoming likely falls either Sept. 28 or Oct. 5.

After several years of opening the season against South Whidbey, the annual battle for The Bucket, which Coupeville has won two years straight, now drops much deeper into the season.

Add the intrigue of it being a league game again, and the stakes are just that much higher.

Some may ask why Coupeville immediately returns to Langley in 2018 after playing there in 2017, but that’s because a new league, and the two-year schedule that comes with it, just happens to break down that way.

The Falcons will fly to Cow Town in 2019.

While the Wolves will be a different team this fall, having lost a number of key seniors and facing a coaching change, they match-up well with their proposed foes.

Coupeville went 3-1 against teams from this schedule in 2017, beating La Conner, Vashon and South Whidbey, while falling to Port Townsend.

Eight of the nine teams the Wolves are scheduled to play in 2018 had losing records in 2017, including, yes, King’s, which finished 3-7.

The lone school coming off of a winning season is South Whidbey, and that comes with a caveat, as the Falcons, taking a year off from the 1A/2A Cascade Conference to rebuild their program, ran the table against much-smaller teams.

After absorbing losses to fellow 1A schools Coupeville and Chimacum to open, the Falcons won their final seven while facing 2B schools and a Canadian program playing football for the first time.

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   CHS football coach Jon Atkins has resigned after a two-season run. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

New season, new league, new coach.

Coupeville High School leaves behind the Olympic League this fall, and it will do so with a new coach at the helm of the Wolf football program.

Jon Atkins officially tendered his resignation Monday, bringing an end to his two-year run as head coach.

He compiled a 6-14 record during his two years, and is the only CHS football coach to win back-to-back times against South Whidbey since the two schools started competing for The Bucket.

Atkins is the fourth-straight Wolf gridiron coach to leave after a relatively short stint. He follows in the footsteps of Brett Smedley (one year), Tony Maggio (three) and Jay Silver (two).

Prior to that, Ron Bagby led the program for 26 seasons.

Under Atkins guidance, the Wolves went 3-7 in back-to-back seasons. He started 3-2 this year, before a crippling wave of injuries claimed most of his play-makers.

During his two years, receiver Hunter Smith and quarterback Hunter Downes both set game, season and career records.

Atkins remains a teacher and head girls basketball coach at Oak Harbor, but the grind of balancing two schools and a home life has made life difficult for the coach.

“I have loved the last two years working with the student athletes, parents, and administration,” Atkins said. “However, it has become increasingly difficult teaching at a different school  and coaching at another.

“I have found myself with less time to accomplish the things needed to get done to be a successful head coach.”

Atkins and wife Danielle have young children, and, as they grow, their athletic endeavors are beginning to take more of his time as well.

“I have also chosen to spend more time with my children,” he said. “Both of my children play soccer in the fall and basketball or baseball in the spring and I needed more time to be there from them and watch their games.

“For me, being a father is the most important job I have and both of them would like me to attend more of their functions.”

While he won’t be on the sideline next fall, Atkins will watch from afar, and root for the Wolves.

“I truly wish the CHS program all the luck and success in the years to come.”

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   Cameron Toomey-Stout picked off two passes Friday as Coupeville blanked South Whidbey 18-0. (John Fisken photo)

   Wolf fans came out in force, making the trek to Langley to cheer on their team. (Kim Bepler photos)

   Sean Toomey-Stout’s fan club responds to his game-busting fourth quarter 57-yard touchdown catch and run.

   Wolf QB Hunter Downes holds The Bucket after Coupeville beat South Whidbey for the third time in four years.

The Bucket stays in Cow Town.

Coupeville’s gridiron seniors will depart having beaten arch nemesis South Whidbey three times in four seasons after upending the Falcons 18-0 Friday night in Langley.

The season-opening non-conference win, arriving on the night SWHS renamed its football field in honor of former longtime coach Jim Leierer, gives the Wolves back-to-back victories in the clash of Island rivals.

Coming on the heels of a 41-10 win in Coupeville last year, CHS head coach Jon Atkins improved to a flawless 2-0 against the Falcons.

Overall, the Wolves have won four of the last six meetings, also winning in 2012 and 2014 under Tony Maggio.

This time around it was a tale of two defenses slugging it out, as the game went 38+ minutes without a score.

Coupeville, having held South Whidbey out of the end zone on nine consecutive possessions, finally broke the game open early in the fourth quarter.

The Wolves, with the ball in their own hands for the ninth time, struck when QB Hunter Downes dropped a gorgeous throw on a dime into the waiting hands of Hunter Smith in the left corner of the end zone.

The scoring throw, coming at the 9:54 mark of the fourth quarter, instantly changed the flow of the game.

Three plays later Jake Pease jumped on a fumble recovery for CHS, and then Downes and his receiving corps went back to work in the blink of an eye.

On the first play after the fumble, Downes threaded a short pass into the arms of Sean Toomey-Stout, who promptly blew up the tiring Falcon defense.

Shedding would-be tacklers with every fleet-footed step, the speedy sophomore ducked, bobbed, weaved, then hit an extra gear and was off to the races, leaving everyone in his wake as he roared 57 yards to the waiting end zone.

While Coupeville’s ensuing two-point conversion failed (the Wolves were 0-2 on conversions and had an extra point attempt blocked after touchdown #3), a 12-0 lead was more than enough for the riled-up CHS defense.

After forcing another turnover on downs — Smith read a fourth down pass perfectly and knocked it away from the receiver at the last millisecond — Coupeville capped the scoring with a KO punch.

Sitting at its own 11-yard line with the clock running under three minutes, the Wolves went semi-conservative, with Downes slapping a hand-off into Smith’s never-gonna-fumble hands.

While CHS would have settled for a couple of yards, a cloud of dust and a chunk of change run off the clock, Smith had other ideas.

Spinning to the right, he hung motionless for just a second, perhaps giving older brother CJ time to cock an eyebrow in appreciation up in the stands, then bolted to daylight.

Running like the state meet-bound track sprinter he can never be (he loves baseball too much), the silky senior ripped off 89 yards in a few effortless strides, only slowing at the end as he flipped the ball to the ref a moment before he was mobbed by his teammates.

Smith, who broke Chad Gale’s school career receiving yardage record on his opening catch of the game, a 12-yard snag early in the first quarter, also busted out a 52-yard reception right before halftime.

It was a game of big plays for Coupeville, even when it was struggling to break into the scoring column.

Matt Hilborn pulled off a replay-worthy catch, hauling in a 21-yard bomb from Downes while simultaneously splitting two defenders and executing a picture-perfect slide.

Meanwhile, Sean Toomey-Stout tore off 32 yards on a reversal early in the third quarter, while big brother Cameron was lights out in the defensive backfield.

The elder Toomey-Stout made off with two third-quarter interceptions (the second eventually set up the Wolves first touchdown), while also chasing down wayward Falcons on both sides of the field.

While the picks were huge, his explosive tackle on a fourth quarter kick-off, in which he went airborne and just about ripped the cleats off the guy unlucky enough to touch the ball first, drew much hootin’ and hollerin’ from a collection of former Wolf coaches in the crowd.

And he wasn’t the only Coupeville defender to earn oohs and ahs.

Jake Hoagland shut down a Falcon drive, jumping on a fumble, while Dane Lucero ended another South Whidbey possession by chasing down the rival QB in the backfield on fourth down.

Falcon signal caller Greyson Clements was an elusive target all night, prone to scrambling away for a few yards here, a few more there.

But, when they could get their hands on him, Lucero and fellow linemen Julian Welling and Trevor Bell rode him down into the grass with a cold fury.

As his players soaked in the win, Atkins pointed to the play of his defense as key.

“Getting a shutout in the first game is big time; our defense played huge for us,” he said. “That was great to see.

“It took us a little while to get going (on offense), but once we started executing and staying with our blocks, things got better,” Atkins added. “We just need to go forward, fix the little things, and keep working.”

Coupeville returns home next Friday, Sept. 8, when it hosts La Conner, which is ranked #6 in the state among 2B schools. That game will be the season-opener for the Braves.

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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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Making his first varsity start Saturday, James Vidoni delivered two huge sacks for a fired-up Wolf defense. (John Fisken photos)

   Making his first varsity start Saturday, James Vidoni delivered two huge sacks for a fired-up Wolf defense. (John Fisken photos)

Senior captains

   Senior captains Uriel Liquidano (63), Jacob Martin (32) and Clay Reilly (2) celebrate bringing The Bucket back to Coupeville.

The even-year magic continues.

Kicking off Jon Atkins first season as head coach in style, the Coupeville High School football team crushed visiting South Whidbey 41-10 Saturday night, claiming The Bucket for the third time in five years.

The opening night non-conference win means the Wolves have already matched last season’s victory total and gives them Island bragging rights for a year.

After winning the showdown with their closest rivals in 2012 and 2014, 2016 offered Coupeville another taste of gridiron magic.

Only this time, it was a total rout.

Using a big-play offense and a bruising defense, the Wolves put the game away early, then emphatically stepped on the Falcons late in the game.

Up 20-0 after one quarter, Coupeville stretched the lead to 34-0 late in the third quarter, and they did it by controlling both sides of the line.

With a vengeance.

Letting their pads do the talking, CHS ripped open huge holes, then unleashed their weapons in all directions.

Setting the tone early was senior running back Jacob Martin, the team’s soft-spoken, rock-solid leader.

For three years he has sacrificed, blocking for others, doing the dirty work.

Saturday night it was his turn, and he answered the bell, big-time.

Taking a hand-off from quarterback Hunter Downes early in the first quarter, Martin exploded through an opening, shook off a would-be tackler and rumbled 39 yards for the first score of the season.

Leaving a trail of Falcons in his dust, the only thing which could have possibly caught up with him was the shouts of one of his former coaches, Charles Clark.

“I see you #32! I see you!!,” the well-liked gridiron guru exclaimed as he pumped both fists in the air from the top row of the bleachers.

Martin wasn’t done, either, later romping to the end zone on a 66-yard second quarter touchdown run in which he ping-ponged his way through the Falcons, then hit another gear and was gone, baby, gone.

In between his scoring strikes, Martin’s QB had his way with the Falcons, as well.

Returning to the field after missing much of his sophomore year with an injury, Downes scored on a one-yard keeper, following right behind Julian Welling’s crushing block, then spun an 18-yard TD pass to birthday boy Hunter Smith.

Up 27-0 coming out of the half, Coupeville offensive coordinator Brad Sherman, returning to coach at the school where he owns the passing records, set up Downes for the kind of play he once pulled off.

Double-pumping a Falcon rusher into the parking lot, Downes fired a BB that dropped right on to the fingertips of a sprinting Smith. 54 yards later the junior receiver was dropping the ball into the referee’s hands after scoring yet another touchdown.

South Whidbey, which hurt itself with a number of penalties, finally got on the board late in the third, but only when Coupeville committed a rare miscue.

A snap on a punt went a good ten feet over Clay Reilly’s head and sailed through the end zone for a safety, netting the Falcons two points and one of their few happy moments of the night.

South Whidbey notched its only touchdown early in the fourth, on a four-yard scramble by young QB Wesly Crain, then tacked on a two-point conversion.

The solace was brief, however, as on the ensuing kick-off, Coupeville opened up a final can of whup-ass.

Smith, who also picked off two passes on his cake day, punctuated things with his third touchdown of the night.

Taking the kick, he drifted slowly for a moment, waited for his blocks to develop, then hit warp speed and pierced a hole on the left side.

One moment he was perfectly still, the next he was but a blur, covering 70+ yards as the Falcons could do little but half-heartedly wave at him as he flew by.

While the frequent scoring was a genuine highlight, Coupeville was just as imposing on defense, with a number of players stepping up to have huge games for defensive coordinator Ryan King.

Senior Uriel Liquidano was a beast unleashed, spending most of his night gently cradling frightened Falcons as he slammed them to the turf after shedding would-be blockers.

Welling spiked a pass into the bleachers to force a turnover, Martin roared up the gut to destroy the suddenly-exposed QB for a sack that netted a loss of ten yards, and James Vidoni left some dents in some Falcon face masks.

The junior defensive end, making his first varsity start, unloaded on South Whidbey, delivering two crushing sacks that brought the Wolf faithful to their feet.

CHS frosh Sean Toomey-Stout, who at 5-foot-7 and 140 pounds gives up five inches and 90 pounds to Vidoni, was a revelation on special teams, blowing up return men like he had been shot out of a cannon.

All in all it was a game Coupeville’s new head coach will treasure.

“Our line played really, really well tonight,” Atkins said. “They sustained their blocks and made big holes for our guys.

“We wanted this to be the start of something big, something that will last a long time. When they look back 10 years from now, we want them to remember a night like tonight.

“Now we just need to keep moving forward.”

As the clock ticked down, Martin sought out his fellow senior captains, Reilly and Liquidano, and the four-year veterans embraced as a trio off to the side.

For a moment, it was just the three of them, and then they pulled Downes and Smith and others into their circle and the celebration really took off.

It may not stop for a very long time.

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