When the South Whidbey football team went to an independent schedule last fall, it found what it was looking for — competitive games.
The Falcons struggled in recent years, winning only four of 29 games from 2014-16.
As the losses mounted, the roster and community support dwindled. To revive the program, South Whidbey dropped its Cascade Conference schedule last year and became an independent; it also enticed former coach Mark Hodson, someone with strong community ties, and several of his assistants to return to the sidelines. Hodson previously coached the Falcons from 2001-2013.
Going independent enabled the school to schedule teams of similar size and talent.
The Falcons lost their first two games, then finished strong, winning the final seven.
“The players got a taste for winning last year and understand that the effort in practice will pay off come Friday night,” Hodson said.
The success also helped boost the roster, which is around 40 players for 2018, and build some momentum going into the inaugural year of the North Sound Conference.
The new league includes Coupeville and four other leftovers from the Cascade Conference, King’s, Cedar Park Christian-Bothell, Sultan and Granite Falls.
Gone are state power Archbishop Murphy, a private school, and Cedarcrest, a school with twice the enrollment as South Whidbey.
“(We are) very excited to be in a conference again and that we are able to field a team that will be competitive,” Hodson said.
The goal, Hodson said, is to “continue to rebuild the strong tradition of South Whidbey football and provide a fun, safe and competitive program for our community.”
This year’s club will be built around four two-way lettermen: quarterback/defensive back Cody Newman, running back/defensive back Caden Spear, running back/linebacker Clay O’Brien and lineman Carter Snell.
Key newcomers, according to Hodson, are running back/linebacker CH Chapman and wide receiver/defensive back Alex Black.
Hodson indicated the team’s strength will be its defense, which was stout last fall.
“We are improving offensively at the skill positions everyday,” he added.
The Falcons gave up an average of 14 points per game in 2017 while scoring at a 27-points-per-game clip.
South Whidbey begins the season with four non-league games, starting with a home contest at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31, against Friday Harbor. The Wolverines posted a 4-5 record last year, including a 20-19 loss to South Whidbey.