Falcon winter sports open with greater numbers, expectations

Falcon senior forward Zach Comfort looks for a high-low post pass during a recent practice as assistant coach Ed Baran watches.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Falcon senior forward Zach Comfort looks for a high-low post pass during a recent practice as assistant coach Ed Baran watches.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — There are a lot of students playing winter sports for South Whidbey this season.

The boys basketball program has 36 players, the girls basketball team has 21 and wrestling has 26.

The Falcon boys basketball players are divided between varsity, junior varsity and a C-team. Head coach Henry Pope, in his second season at the helm, was pleased to have so many guys turn out for the teams, despite having only three seniors.

“The problem, and it’s a good problem to have, is we’ll have 15, 16 guys on the C-squad,” Pope said.

His varsity assistant, Ed Baran was ready for this season, but noted the large class of juniors and freshmen. On the Falcon varsity team there are three seniors, six juniors, one sophomore and one freshman.

Last year, Pope did not have a single freshman on the team, and was led by six seniors.

Inexperience made its mark during the first few days of practices and tryouts.

For Andy Davis, the girls basketball head coach, he had an uptick in senior leadership this season.

Davis became the head coach last season after Pope took the boys team’s top position. The program struggled in previous years and lost some players along the way. This season, he returns five seniors on varsity.

Having a more veteran squad allowed him to skip early evaluations and begin working on offensive and defensive plays on the first day.

Last season, the girls team finished last in the Cascade Conference with only one win. This season, with a full year of learning Davis’s plays, figures to improve that mark.

Wrestling, with its unusually large team, also has hopes to compete in the conference. This is the only the second time in head coach Jim Thompson’s career that he’s had a team that had both a heavyweight and a lightweight.

On the first day of practices, he finished the day by keeping the grapplers loose with a game of dodgeball tag, class versus class, in the mat room.

A few days later and the practices were more focused, opting for a king of the ring-style game. Whoever pinned won, and stayed in until they were defeated. His group is comprised of a handful of seniors, which he’ll need to return to the state wrestling tournament.

Pope and the basketball coaches were busy running drills and plays Thursday. He set the tone of discipline and attentiveness early to all 36 players.

“Unfold your arms,” Pope told one player as he listened to instructions. “To me, a folded arm tells me you’re not interested. You may not mean it, but that’s how I see it.”

Later, during a three-on-two drill, Pope was coaching rotation, running the lanes and defensive positioning. The hectic pace flustered a few of the Falcons, which Pope quickly addressed.

“Errors are expected,” he said.

“What’s not expected is saying, ‘Oh crap,’” Pope said as he imitated a player throwing his arms to his side in frustration after an errant pass.

Between drills, the coaches’ excitement to be on the verge of starting the seasons was evident. They spoke about their players, the future of the program in both long- and short-term. Winter may be here, but so are winter sports for the Falcons.


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