LAKE STEVENS — There wasn’t anything pretty about how they did it, but to the Monroe Bearcats, nothing was more beautiful than how the scoreboard read after Friday night’s Wesco 4A North football opener with Lake Stevens.
The Bearcats erased years of frustration against the Vikings with a 9-7 victory.
“It’s a great win for us because it’s like the season was kind of in limbo,” Monroe head coach Dick Abrams said. “You get those nonconference games over with and suddenly it’s league time. So are your guys going to get up for it? And our guys did. That was great to see because they really came out and played hard. We’ve taken some abuse from people about Monroe coming here and stuff like that and they had a great string of 10 wins or something like that going against us, so this was a great win for our program.”
In a game that featured two mostly absent offenses and two outstanding defenses, it seemed likely that the team that scored first would win. But it looked unlikely that score would come in the first half. Then a Vikings miscue cost them dearly.
On a fourth-and-four play from his own 41-yard line with just 14.7 seconds left in the half, Tevin Gray dropped back to punt, but the ball was snapped over his head. Gray retreated and picked up the ball, but couldn’t get the punt off and was tackled for a 29-yard loss. The Bearcats started with a first-and-10 from the Vikings’ 12-yard line and after taking a sack on first down elected to have Tanner Ohlsen kick a 37-yard field goal. Ohlsen’s boot split the uprights and gave Monroe a 3-0 lead heading into the locker room.
“That was huge,” Abrams said of getting points before halftime, “because we haven’t so far been able to get up on people early, so at least we got up going into the half. That was a good thing for us to pick our kids up.”
The momentum seemed to carry over into the third quarter as the Bearcats displayed the game’s first real offense. Monroe went 62 yards in seven plays, a drive that was capped by a 29-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell Price to Jake Dimaggio. The opportunity was set up by running back Gabe Moore, who shouldered most of the load on the drive, rushing for 33 yards on five carries. After a missed extra point, the Bearcats led 9-0.
“We made some adjustments blocking wise,” Abrams said. “And we did some things that we thought would work against them. They are so big and physical inside. They really did a nice job. It took some of the things away later, but it really got us going a little bit with that drive.”
With points at a premium, Lake Stevens needed to put a drive together and did just that on its next possession. The Vikings went 66 yards on 16 plays, culminating in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Gavin O’Neil to Conner Coleman. After Ignacio Ponce’s extra point, the Monroe lead was cut to 9-7.
While the Vikings eventually got the touchdown, two penalties threatened to kill the drive. Penalties, turnovers and missed opportunities plagued the Vikings throughout the game.
“We had way too many mental breakdowns on offense,” Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri said. “Starting with our offensive line not pulling when they were supposed to pull, bad snaps, late hits on the offensive line when we are scoring touchdowns, receivers not running the right routes and dropping balls, turnovers, fumbles. Where do you want me to start? I mean literally that is about as bad as we have played in quite a few years. But again, I don’t want to take anything away from Monroe, they had a great game plan and they earned the victory tonight.”
Even as poorly as the Vikings played, they still had an opportunity to win when they drove the ball down to the Monroe 11-yard line in the game’s final five minutes. But on a second-and-16 play from the 17-yard line, O’Neil’s pass was intercepted by Price.
“Mitchell is one of the best defensive backs I have ever been around coaching wise,” Abrams said. “He stepped in there and they have great receivers. It was a huge play for him to be able to break on that ball and make the pick, but he’s the kind of kid that was waiting for it to happen.”
As it turned out, the game still wasn’t over. The Vikings forced the Bearcats to punt with 26.2 seconds remaining in the game and took over with a first-and-10 from their own 20-yard line with 20.5 seconds to play. The Vikings made it interesting with two big plays. O’Neil connected with Gray for a 31-yard gain and after spiking the ball to stop the clock with 2.7 seconds left, the Vikings had one final chance.
O’Neil lofted a pass to his favorite target, Conner Coleman, who hauled it in for a 43-yard reception. The only problem was the Vikings needed 49 and the game ended with Lake Stevens 6 yards short of victory. Hunter Bingham brought down Coleman to secure the victory for the Bearcats.
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Lake Stevens H.S.
Mon—Tanner Ohlsen 37 FG
Mon—Jake Dimaggio 29 pass from Mitchell Price (kick failed)
LS—Conner Coleman 14 pass from Gavin O’Neil (Ignacio Ponce kick)
Records—Monroe 1-0 league, 2-2 overall, Lake Stevens 0-1, 2-2