Sports

King’s conquers South Whidbey, remains 1A favorite

Falcon junior Cooper Nichols, pictured here at the Sept. 14 game against Granite Falls, sprints past Tiger senior linebacker Connor Robinson. Nichols scored a touchdown in the loss Friday against King’s.  - Ben Watanabe / Record file
Falcon junior Cooper Nichols, pictured here at the Sept. 14 game against Granite Falls, sprints past Tiger senior linebacker Connor Robinson. Nichols scored a touchdown in the loss Friday against King’s.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / Record file

King’s kept its crown Friday night.

The South Whidbey football team had visions of usurping the Cascade Conference crown. The King’s Knights defended their top 1A ranking in a 49-13 thumping of the Falcons (1-1 Cascade Conference; 2-2 overall).

“There’s nothing wrong with getting beat by a better team,” said Falcon co-head coach Mark Hodson. “And man, they were good.”

The Knights charged ahead to a quick 21-0 lead in the first quarter. And that would have been enough to beat South Whidbey, which recorded its fewest points this season.

By halftime, King’s (2-0 Cascade Conference; 4-0 overall) had surpassed its season point average. South Whidbey scored one touchdown and missed its two-point conversion attempt. The Falcons went into the locker room trailing 42-6.

“They’re really good right now,” Hodson said of the Knights. “Their record is just evidence they’re a really good team.”

The Falcons scored in the second quarter after recovering a fumbled punt return. That play set up a quick-strike, three-yard touchdown throw from quarterback Nick French to receiver Cameron Coupe, who finished with two catches for 11 yards.

On his home turf, Knight senior quarterback Billy Green took to the sky, lofting 256 yards and five touchdowns, including four in the first half. Knight senior receiver Caleb Taylor caught two touchdowns in the first half, and another in the third quarter; his touchdown receptions alone totaled 97 yards.

“Their quarterback is already committed to BYU, they have a Division I lineman,” Hodson said of Green and senior offensive lineman Mason Friedline, a Yale University recruit.

“It’s hard to prepare for a team like that. It’s hard to replicate speed like that.”

With the score lopsided so quickly, the Falcons stayed to their game plan and actually reduced junior quarterback Nick French’s pass attempts. In each of the past three games, French has thrown more than 20 passes. Against King’s, French only attempted 17 and completed 10 for 98 yards. Hodson said that even though the air-it-out offense has worked, the Falcons are likely to stay a bit more grounded as the season continues. South Whidbey lost junior receiver Kale Reichersamer during the second game of the season when he broke his left collar bone. That left the Falcons with two receivers with varsity experience, senior Cameron Coupe and junior Nick Bennett, who had scored in every game until Friday.

“That’s a straight reflection of our spring experience and camp football,” Hodson said of the production between Bennett and French.

King’s must have known about the Nick-and-Nick connection, because Bennett finished with a season-low three receptions for 36 yards.

In the second half, King’s cranked down and maintained possession while seconds and minutes ticked away. South Whidbey’s first-string players remained in the game until the final whistle blew. Part of the reason was that South Whidbey has a small program of about 50 players between varsity and junior varsity.

“We don’t have a lot of non-starters,” Hodson said. “Bad game, great practice. It was a great opportunity to practice at game speed.”

The Falcons’ rushing offense was stymied against the stout Kings defense, which allowed an average of 20 points to opposing teams. Falcon senior tailback Patrick Monell was again limited because of hand and shoulder injuries and carried the ball only four times. Monell, who also starts as a defensive lineman, was tasked with pass rushing and run stopping against King’s.

“With the small number of kids available, we have to be smart about where our kids rest,” Hodson said. “With Patrick, he can’t take plays off on defense.”

The talk of the game, however, was the first reception of first-year senior receiver Andrew Holt. French tossed a deep ball to Holt, who stands 6 feet, 4 inches tall and was not listed on last week’s roster, in his first-ever high school football game for a 30-yard gain.

Late in the game, Falcon junior running back Cooper Nichols scored a 12-yard touchdown run. Nichols has emerged as the third back in a trio of Falcon runners, including French and senior fullback Aaron Curfman; Nichols ran nine times for 45 yards, including a 17-yard burst.

On Monday, the Falcons’ coaches were looking to the next game against Lakewood. The conference’s current top 2A team wrecked the league’s previous powerhouse, Archbishop Murphy, 49-0. Lakewood threw touchdowns, ran in two scores and returned two interceptions. King’s offense was similar to what Hodson expected from Lakewood (1-0 Cascade Conference; 4-0 overall), which he hoped would provide South Whidbey’s defense with the looks it needed to be ready for Friday night.

“It prepared us for Lakewood quite a bit,” Hodson said.

“We’re going to approach this like we did with the King’s game, just with a focus on what we did not do as well.”

The Cougars were last year’s Cascade Conference champions.

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