Tuesday commentaries: Idaho high school football bus incident, and the legacy of Ed Pepple

Good Tuesday morning. News and discussion on this Tuesday:

Culprits found in high school football bus incident in Idaho, thanks to community efforts
We have an update this morning to our Sunday commentary regarding the incident last Friday in northern Idaho where a bus containing football players from a high school on the Coeur D’Alene Indian Reservation had two of their windows broken after an alleged projectile was shot through them. It is very good news on two fronts.

First, according to the Bonner County Daily Bee out of Sandpoint, suspects have been identified in the case and have confessed. Secondly, the projectile turns out to have been a large rock, as opposed to something worse.

The paper reported yesterday afternoon, citing a statement from the Bonner County Sheriff’s office that juveniles from Clark Fork had confessed to allegedly throwing the rock through those windows of the Lakeside High School football bus as it was leaving Clark Fork following their game last Friday night bound back to Lakeside’s campus in Plummer, two hours away in Benewah County on the Indian reservation. The department added that felony charges were expected to be filed in the case against the unidentified suspects, who will remain such as they are under 18.

This is all good news for both communities, as for a couple of days, there was concern about the bus having been potentially the target of a shooting with some having suggested a possible racial motivation. But we refer you back to what Plummer-Worley school superintendent Russ Mitchell asked the community to do following the incident last Friday. On Facebook, he cautioned community members to reserve further judgement. “Until authorities have investigated the incident, it is unknown who or what ultimately happened,” he wrote, essentially asking the community to allow the investigation to run its course and allow the authorities to bring suspects to justice. Well, that’s what has happened, and we credit the Clark Fork community as well for that. In the Bonner County statement yesterday, the sheriff’s department noted that many area residents cooperated with authorities and provided information which allowed investigators to put together leads that resulted in opportunities to meet with persons of interest in the case, which then led to arrests and the resulting confessions.

As we mentioned on Sunday, this incident had the potential to do serious damage to the image and reputation of Clark Fork High School and the larger community there in eastern Bonner County, and it seems as if the community understood that well, which we praise them for here. And while there still is a little bit of damage to the reputation of the school out of this incident, it could have been so much worse, not just for the suspects involved – as the FBI also was involved in the investigation – but for the community at large. We also want to praise Clark Fork High School leaders for getting out in front of the incident as well, sending a note to the school – which Lakeside posted on its Facebook page – expressing their sorrow and anger at the incident. “We stand with you to hold whoever did this terrible act responsible. This is not who we are as a school or a community. As we always have, our school stands with you. Our community stands with you,” Clark Fork wrote in the note.

As we noted on Sunday, that school and community did not, and does not, need to be painted with a broad brush as the result of one or two individuals which, it seems to us now, were perhaps looking for a cheap thrill as opposed to something more sinister. But even so, this is a reminder for that community, and all high school communities, about the importance of educating teens about the idea that choices have consequences, consequences which could extend well beyond themselves and their families.

Again, as we noted before, this situation could have been so much worse for all involved but people allowed the investigation to run its course, the Clark Fork community stepped up understanding the potential negative impact to their community’s reputation, and individuals suspected in this alleged incident are going to face serious consequences. It’s not known if they’ll be tried as adults or not in this case; there are two factors we think will play into that – whether this is a first offense or a repeat offense and the age of the suspects (if they’re say 16 or 17, that might make it more likely they get charged as adults). Either way, these suspects will be facing a long time behind bars as a result of this if they’re convicted, and we are grateful for that.

Pepple’s passing a sad day for Washington high school sports
Yesterday, it was reported by the Seattle Times, then later by SBLive Washington, that legendary former Mercer Island High School boys’ basketball coach Ed Pepple had passed away, at the age of 88, after battling cancer. His death leaves behind a tremendous legacy of success in high school sports in Washington that likely will never be matched, with the many state playoff appearances and titles – and many historic moments – that Pepple and his MI teams achieved during his over 40 years at the helm of MI basketball.

Mount Si as you know competed against Mercer many times as members of Kingco 3A from the 1997-98 season up until Pepple’s retirement in 2009. His teams were always tremendous foes for Mount Si coaches and players, and his players always conducted themselves with the utmost professionalism and sportsmanship, not to mention great skill on the basketball floor.

A number of those former players have moved on to have success as coaches themselves – Gavin Cree took over for Pepple as MI’s coach and remains there to this day. Quin Snyder, who played for Pepple in the 1980’s, is coaching in the NBA, with the Utah Jazz. Matt Logie is coaching down at NCAA Division II Point Loma, and has made a point to offer top Kingco guys scholarships, and Mount Si guys have benefited, with both Quin Patterson and Bennett O’Connor earning those offers from Logie’s program earlier this summer, giving those guys and their families some peace of mind during what has been a tricky college recruitment process thanks to COVID-19.

So the legacy of Pepple’s success and vision will live on long into the future, and that is good news for our local high school boys’ basketball scene, as future generations of players can continue to benefit from the legendary coach’s wisdom and overall efforts. We offer our thoughts and prayers to the Pepple family and to Mercer Island High School and the entire Mercer Island community as they grieve this terrible loss.

Rhett Workman

About Rhett Workman

Rhett Workman is the editor of the Snoqualmie Valley Sports Journal. Workman is a veteran sports journalist, having covered Snoqualmie Valley sports for nearly a decade with the Snoqualmie Valley Record newspaper before starting up the SVSJ. Workman's coverage has earned the support and respect of Valley coaches, players, parents and fans, and the SVSJ continues the standard of coverage that Workman brought to the Valley Record.
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