Shutout defense keeps The Bucket on South Whidbey

Chris Penafiel runs for a first down on a receiver reverse against Coupeville on Friday, Oct. 21. The Falcon senior receiver finished with 72 rushing yards on four carries.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Chris Penafiel runs for a first down on a receiver reverse against Coupeville on Friday, Oct. 21. The Falcon senior receiver finished with 72 rushing yards on four carries.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — For a perfect defense, the football game between Coupeville and South Whidbey was full of mistakes.

South Whidbey overcame fumbles, missed kicks and penalties to shut out Coupeville 34-0 and kept the pride of the island: The Bucket.

The game was also South Whidbey’s Senior Night, which added to the elation for the victorious Falcons.

“It feels fantastic, especially with the rivalry and how much crap they’ve been talking,” said Falcon senior Mason Shoudy.

Defensive pressure by the Falcons, coupled with the consistent rain, kept the Wolves to less than 150 yards of total offense.

The game was an example of, “Take what the defense gives you,” for Falcon co-head coach Mark Hodson.

“We took advantage of a scheme that they were doing,” he said. “We kind of ran the same play over and over and over again, and they didn’t adjust, so we didn’t change.”

Coupeville forced South Whidbey to punt on its first drive.

Shoudy, the team’s punter, kicked it to the 41-yard line. But on Coupeville’s first play on offense, Shoudy recovered a fumble on the Wolves’ 39-yard line.

The fumble recovery set a tone for the Falcons that was sustained through all four quarters.

“Especially when you get off to a good jump-start at the beginning of the game, it gives your team a whole bunch of momentum from the beginning to the end of the game,” Shoudy said.

With possession on the Wolves 39-yard line, Falcon junior running back Pat Monell ran 10 yards. Falcon sophomore quarterback Nick French then attempted a pass to senior receiver Avery Buechner that fell incomplete. Rain played a pivotal part in limiting both teams’ offense to a run-heavy game with short passes.

“It was the first rain game,” Buechner said.

The Falcons returned to the ground. Junior fullback Aaron Curfman ran through the middle of the defensive line for another 10 yards, into the Wolves’ red zone. Plays alternated between Monell and Curfman until Buechner bruised through the left side of the line for a touchdown.

It’s the final conference touchdown the senior co-captain will score in his career, and the nostalgia began to set in after the team sang its fight song.

“It meant the world,” Buechner said. “We played hard. It’s taking everything I can right now. I don’t think it’s hitting me yet. It’s such a great feeling. I’m going to miss it. I love everyone here.”

On the extra point kick, Buechner fumbled the snap, rolled it to junior kicker Cameron Coupe who picked it up and was tackled short of the end zone. It was the second fumbled extra point snap of the season, which Buechner blamed in part to the weather.

Coupe’s kickoff was bobbled and dropped out of bounds by Wolves sophomore Bryce Fleming at the 20-yard line. The Wolves attempted to pound the ground with senior running back Dalton Engle, but were forced to punt.

Engle punted to Buechner, who was waiting on the Falcons’ 39-yard line and dropped the ball, which Coupeville recovered.

“I just wasn’t ready for it,” he said. “It was bound to happen, I guess.”

The Falcon defense swarmed the line, however. Wolves sophomore quarterback Jake Tumblin was sacked. Engle was tackled for a short gain, then tackled for a loss by Falcon senior lineman Sam Denka.

The Wolves punted to the Falcon 14-yard line, where a fair catch was called. Curfman took an inside handoff and ran to the 21-yard line. Then, South Whidbey got tricky.

Hodson made a line change and substituted all 11 Falcons. Those players were the scout team the week before against Cedarcrest, and practiced a fast, run fake offense called the Wing T.

On the first play of this new offense, a reverse handoff to seldom-used senior receiver Chris Penafiel took the Falcons to the Wolves’ 31-yard line. Penafiel finished with 72 rushing yards on four carries.

“It was something totally out of the ordinary for us,” Hodson said. “I have never run a Wing T play in my 12 years here.”

“They ran that offense all last week,” he added. “We thought, ‘They did such a good job preparing us for Cedarcrest, let’s give them a chance to run the ball.’”

The play didn’t result in any points, however. On a run by Curfman, the ball was stripped from him and taken by Coupeville.

Again, the Falcons’ defense stuffed the Wolves and forced a punt from their 10-yard line. The Falcons took possession at the 45-yard line and moved downfield on runs by Monell and the second offense’s sophomore running back Kale Reichersamer.

French threw to Curfman on the right side, who was tackled two yards short of the end zone and set up a first-and-goal. French finished with 50 yards on 4-of-6 passes. Monell ran in the score through the middle of the linemen, then ran the same play for the two-point conversion and the 14-0 lead.

“Our linemen were blocking great,” Monell said. “They did their jobs well. Holes just opened up and we took the opportunities to just play and go.”

Coupeville received the kickoff in the second half. The Wolves offense stalled without Engle, who was injured in the second quarter.

The Wolves missed crucial tackles and struggled against the Falcons’ rushing offense.

Monell scored a 65-yard touchdown on the Falcons’ first offensive play of the third quarter. He ran between the left tackle and left guard, Seth Eckert and Colton Justus, slipped past two Wolves defenders toward the Falcon sideline, then angled back toward the middle of the field for the score. Coupe’s extra point kick missed, but South Whidbey led 20-0.

“A hole opened up in the middle, our linemen blocking were, I believe, Colton and Seth, and I cut through and just went all the way,” Monell said. “It was open field after that.”

Coupeville stormed down the field on its next drive. Then, the Falcons defense keyed in on the quarterback. Falcon senior Montana Johnson sacked Tumblin and almost got another sack on a third-and-long play, but Tumblin stepped into the collapsing pocket to pass to senior receiver Zach Forland.

After recovering his own fumble, Tumblin attempted a touchdown pass to Wolves senior receiver Mitch Pelroy from the 27-yard line. Falcon senior cornerback Sam Lee had Pelroy covered, and the pass fell incomplete.

“We were daring them to throw,” Buechner said. “We came ready for them to throw this week. Our DBs (defensive backs) were ready to get a pick and run it to the end zone.”

South Whidbey took possession on downs and ran the ball to expire the clock to the fourth quarter.

Coupe attempted a 40-yard field goal that hit the crossbar and bounced to the turf. The Falcons put in the second offense after that and allowed Uriah Beason to operate as the quarterback, flanked by Reichersamer and Nick Bennett. That resulted in a touchdown run by Bennett and an extra point kick by Coupe for a 27-0 lead.

Coupeville’s last drive was stunted by another fumble forced by Johnson, which Tumblin recovered. Johnson hit Pelroy in the backfield for a tackle for loss, which gave South Whidbey its final possession.

Behind Reichersamer, Bennett and Beason, the Falcons marched down the field from the 50-yard line. The Falcons put in senior lineman Casey Andrade as the tailback at the 13-yard line, who ran it to the 4-yard line, and again for a touchdown. Coupe kicked in the final point for a 34-0 victory.

Coupeville took the kickoff, then took a knee to end the game for its seventh loss of the season (0-7 in Cascade Conference, 1-7 overall). South Whidbey improved its record to 3-3 in conference and 4-4 overall.

The Falcons travel to face the league-leading Lakewood Cougars on Thursday, Oct. 27 for the final game of the regular season.

“I’ve already talked to the Lakewood coach, and he’s a little worried about the Wing T offense,” Hodson said.

For South Whidbey’s seniors, it’s an opportunity to surprise the Cougars, which beat the conference’s previously only undefeated team, Archbishop Murphy.

“I think we’re going to try to shock the world,” Buechner said.

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