Coupeville High School is leaving the North Sound Conference this football season to play an independent schedule.
With a team small in numbers, size and experience, Coupeville felt it needed to schedule teams similar in stature to be competitive and keep its athletes safe.
The Wolves started 2018 by winning three of four games. Then the injuries began to mount and the talent stiffed as Coupeville entered league playing, dropping all five contests and finishing the year with a 3-6 record.
The three teams the Wolves defeated last fall — Port Townsend, Vashon Island and La Conner — are on this year’s schedule. The slate also includes 2B schools Friday Harbor and Kittitas; Northwest Christian (Lacey), which is playing football for the first time this fall; 2A Anacortes, which will field only a junior varsity club; and 3A Interlake, which has low turnout numbers.
The lone North Sound Conference team on the schedule is rival South Whidbey.
South Whidbey faced a similar situation as Coupeville several years ago. After going 4-25 from 2014-16, it played an independent schedule in 2017 and went 7-2, revitalizing their program. Last year South Whidbey was one game from qualifying for the state playoffs.
Of the 25 players on this year’s Coupeville club, 12 are freshmen.
The Wolves, however, do return several key players, including senior Sean Toomey-Stout, one of the area’s top talents.
Toomey-Stout was first-team, all-conference as a running back, defensive back and return specialist in 2017.
Senior tight end Gavin Knoblich was a second-team, all-league choice last fall.
Other lettermen also returning are starting quarterback senior Dawson Houston; seniors Andrew Martin, Gavin St. Onge and Gavin Straub; junior Ben Smith; and sophomore Isaiah Bittner.
“I think playing an independent schedule will be good for us,” coach Marcus Carr said. “It allows us to play against teams who are rebuilding or have small rosters like us, and it will let us play good competitive games.”
The key this year is player development, according to Carr.
“With the large amount of freshmen we have, just teaching the correct fundamentals and techniques (is important),” he said.
The goal, he added, is “having a winning record.”
“We have the pieces to have a successful season,” he said. “We just have to put everything together and get better every week.”
The season starts with a home game against Port Townsend (4-6 in 2018) at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6. Coupeville topped the Redhawks 28-18 last year.