The stage is set for another winner-take-all showdown between the Monroe and Lake Stevens football teams.
With both powerhouses sporting unblemished conference records and coming off a string of blowout victories, the fourth-ranked Bearcats host the Vikings in the de facto Wesco 4A title game Friday night at Monroe High School.
The highly anticipated regular-season finale is a rematch of last year’s top-10 showdown of unbeatens, when Lake Stevens trounced Monroe 42-3 to claim its fourth consecutive Wesco 4A crown.
Bearcats coach Michael Bumpus said his senior-laden squad is more prepared for the spotlight this time around.
“We felt like our guys were kind of tight when they hit the field,” Bumpus said of last year’s running-clock loss. “And Lake Stevens, they were just prepared for that moment. It was nothing new to them. For us, it was different. So I just tell the guys to learn from your mistakes.”
Lake Stevens is riding a 30-game conference win streak and seeking its fifth consecutive Wesco 4A title. The Vikings haven’t lost a conference game in more than four years.
“If you want to win anything in this area, you’ve got to go through them,” Bumpus said.
Both teams are outscoring conference opponents by more than 40 points per game this season behind dynamic offenses and stifling defenses.
“It would be a fun game to be in attendance,” Jackson coach Joel Vincent said. “I might download the film on Hudl just so I can watch it.”
Monroe (8-0 overall, 6-0 Wesco 4A) has won every game this season by 29 points or more.
Lake Stevens’ lone loss was a 54-28 non-league defeat to Arlington in Week 2 that snapped the Vikings’ 26-game regular-season win streak.
Since then, the Vikings (7-1, 6-0) have won six straight. Five of those victories have come by 42 points or more.
“That loss hurt us pretty good,” Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri said earlier this season. “The locker room was silent. We had a few seniors step up and give some speeches after that game. And quite honestly, our practices have been quite a bit better (since then).
“We’re just young,” he added, “and it took us a few weeks to get going and get everyone firing on all cylinders.”
Monroe’s high-scoring attack averages 51.4 points per game behind a massive, all-senior offensive line of Nathan Mead, Josh Jerome, Carter Habich, Peyton McMahon and Elijah Tofilau that totals nearly 1,500 pounds.
“They’ve got maybe the biggest offensive line in the state,” Cascade coach Shane Keck said.
“I think every quality football team begins and ends up front,” Vincent added. “And when you’ve got guys of their size that move pretty well and are very, very experienced, I think that is key to any football team’s success.”
Monroe’s dominant line paves the way for star running back Isaiah Lewis, who has rushed for 1,351 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. Lewis is averaging 10.2 yards per carry during a breakout senior campaign.
Senior quarterback Jaedyn Prewitt has completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 1,887 yards, 24 touchdowns and four interceptions in his first season starting under center.
Efton Chism III, a sophomore, is Monroe’s leading receiver with 718 yards and 11 touchdowns. Standout senior Isaiah Cole returned from an ACL injury to further boost the Bearcats’ attack, posting 382 yards receiving and four touchdowns in the four games since his return.
“Their skill guys are explosive,” Keck said. “You get these big-bodied, athletic linemen and then you put some really, really talented skill guys behind them — they don’t really have a weakness when you look at their overall offense.”
Lake Stevens’ balanced offense averages 46.9 points per game, led by senior quarterback Conor Bardue. The second-year starter has completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 1,845 yards, 24 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Austin Murren, a senior, leads the receiving corps with 534 yards and 11 touchdowns. Standout senior Anthony Hutchinson recently returned from injury and has posted 474 yards receiving and two touchdowns over the past three games.
“Lake Stevens’ pass game is the best in the conference (and) probably one of the best in the state,” Vincent said.
The Vikings’ offense will face a suffocating Monroe defense that’s limiting conference opponents to just 8.3 points and 173 total yards per game.
Led by Jerome and senior linebacker Ricky Baker, the Bearcats’ ferocious pass rush has recorded 27 sacks this season.
“They’re good at disguising their blitzes, so you’re not really sure which guys are coming,” Glacier Peak coach Nick Bender said. “That can create some confusion for an offensive line.”
Lake Stevens’ defense has been just as dominant in conference play, holding league opponents to just 8.7 points and 183 total yards per game. Senior defensive lineman Matt Sevao has recorded a team-high 15 of the Vikings’ 38 sacks.
Vincent said the matchup between Lake Stevens’ defensive front and Monroe’s high-powered rushing attack figures to be key.
“I think it’s going to be the Lake Stevens front seven against that Monroe offensive line and Lewis — (whether) they keep him bottled up and contained and don’t allow him to have explosive, big-chunk runs,” he said.
Bender also said line play could be a pivotal factor.
“Both (teams) have a good amount of speed and size on their offensive and defensive lines,” he said. “So it should be a pretty intriguing matchup.”