You might say the Coupeville High School football team will be the Hunters and not the hunted this season.
Led by the senior duo of quarterback Hunter Downes and receiver Hunter Smith, the Wolves are primed to pick off several more conference foes this fall.
Coupeville finished 3-6 last year, including going 2-5 in the first year of the combined Nisqually and Olympic League format.
Downes, who earned second-team, all-league honors last year, completed 82 of 191 passes for 1,569 yards and 17 touchdowns. He tied a school single-game record with four TD passes against Bellevue Christian.
Smith, a first-team, all-conference receiver and defensive back, caught 49 passes for 916 yards and 11 touchdowns. The 11 scores is a school record; he also tied a school record with three touchdown receptions in one game.
Smith needs only 11 receiving yards and five TDs to set Coupeville career marks.
He also shares the season interception record with seven and has 10 in his career, two shy of the school record.
The versatile Smith ran for 117 yards on 29 carries last year, second-best on the team and the top among returning players, and added 219 return yards.
Also back is another one of Downes’ favorite targets, Cameron Toomey-Stout. The senior caught 21 passes for 441 yards and four touchdowns.
Coach Jon Atkins said senior Jake Hoagland will add depth to the receiving core.
Three lettermen will fill out the backfield. Junior Matt Hilborn and sophomore Sean Toomey-Stout will play the wings, and junior Chris Battaglia takes over a fullback.
Returning letter winners in the line are senior Julian Welling and juniors Dane Lucero and Jake Pease.
Junior letterman Teo Keilwitz is “looking good” at several defensive positions, according to Atkins.
Junior Shane Losey, returning from an injury, and sophomores Trevor Bell, Gavin Knoblich, Andy Martin and Jean Lund Olson are key newcomers, Atkins said.
The team’s strengths, according to Atkins, are its passing game and defensive backfield.
His major concern is scoring defense.
“We gave up 30 points a game last year, and for us to make our goals, we have to improve in this area,” he said.
Last year was Atkins’ first at the helm, and it took “five or six” games, he said, for the staff to get a feel for the players’ abilities and for the players to grasp the system.
“Coming into my second year, I feel that we know our identify and what positions to best put the athletes to succeed,” he said.
Atkins added that the team is making strides in improving the culture of the program.
“Culture isn’t something that you get to and let it be,” he said. “It’s an ever-changing dynamic.
“I feel that our athletes are really starting to believe, and now we need to spread that culture though the community. It has to start with our locker room, and we’re getting there each day at practice.”
Cascade Christian, one of the top 1A programs in the state, is the team to beat for the conference crown, according to Atkins. Bellevue Christian, Charles Wright and Port Townsend are other contenders.
“The league is going to look very different from last year with the graduation of a lot of seniors in other programs,” Atkins said. “I believe that we can be right in there.”
The Wolves will play rival South Whidbey (1-8) at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, in Langley, and then face La Conner (8-2) at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8, at Mickey Clark Field.