Falcons will remain in the Cascade Conference

Although South Whidbey High School has experienced declining enrollment in recent years, the school will remain in the Cascade Conference at its current 2A rating.

For the time being.

In December, the state’s high school sports governing body, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, announced placements based on school population.

“We’re locked in for two years, but then we will be dropped into 1A status,” said John Patton, athletic director at South Whidbey High School. “Currently we’re the eighth-smallest of the 65 high schools in the state in the 2A category.”

Schools rated 2A typically have enrollments from 513 to 1,085. South Whidbey is rated by the WIAA to have a student population numbering 531, based on an average count over the past 12 months.

The school’s 2A league competitors are Cedarcrest (703), Granite Falls (584), Sultan (539) and Archbishop Murphy (426). The other two teams in the league are rated 1A — King’s with 336 and Coupeville at 272.

Under enrollment guidelines, Murphy should be 1A, but has chosen to stay in a bracket higher.

“Schools have the option to go up one classification, and that is what Murphy is doing, so we’ll be playing them for a while,” Patton noted.

Some have argued it’s time for the WIAA to establish a separate league and state tournament for private schools, but Falcon football coach Mark Hodson doesn’t think that will happen.

“The thing is, it makes sense for Murphy to stay at 2A, letting them offer a lot more sports programs to their kids,” he said. “Besides, if it was a public school it would be rated 3A because South Everett is such a densely-populated area.”

Murphy’s athletic director, Rick Stubrud, said Murphy’s decision was made to stay at the 2A level because the program and competition fits his athletes better.

“We decided to maintain the status quo,” he said.

“I know the public versus private thing bothers people, but whether kids go to a public or private institution is up to the parents,” he added. “We have a strong level of parental support in all our programs, and most of our athletes have been involved on developmental sports teams in their early years, much as they do on Whidbey.”

Murphy has enjoyed a solid reputation in sports since its program was founded in 2000. Since moving into the 2A ranks, from 2003 to 2006, Murphy never lost a football game in the Cascade League and in 2009 represented the league once again in 2A state finals, but fell to Lynden 28-14.

And that loss highlights Stubrud’s argument that private schools don’t have an edge.

“Lynden Christian is just down the street from Lynden High School, yet the Lions have consistently fielded great teams in all their sports programs,” Stubrud said.

Stubrud has seen both sides of the coin in a 36-year career as coach and athletic director; he coached football at John F. Kennedy High School for a good part of that career.

He noted that, with fewer than 340 students, King’s is classified a 1A school, and the Knights consistently field teams that often make state finals.

“They can do that because they have great kids and a terrific coaching staff,” Stubrud said.

He said that over time, schools build up their sports programs to such a point that their reputation guarantees the right students come knocking. For example, King’s basketball coach Eric Rasmussen has been at the helm for 18 years, so new players can expect entering a program with stability and continuity.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or

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