MONROE — The Monroe football team entered the de facto Wesco 4A championship game with aspirations of avenging last year’s running-clock loss to Lake Stevens and ending the Vikings’ reign of conference supremacy.
Lake Stevens had other plans.
The Vikings raced to an early lead and never looked back, claiming their fifth consecutive Wesco 4A title with a 38-12 win over fourth-ranked Monroe in front of a standing room-only crowd Friday night at Monroe High School.
With the victory, Lake Stevens (8-1 overall, 7-0 Wesco 4A) extended its conference win streak to 31 games. The Vikings haven’t lost a conference game since October 2013.
“There’s a huge legacy behind Lake Stevens football,” two-way senior standout Anthony Hutchinson said. “Every day, we just worked harder and harder. We did not want to be the senior group to lose. We’re just happy we got it done.”
It was the second straight year that Lake Stevens and Monroe have squared off in the regular-season finale with unblemished conference records and a Wesco 4A title at stake.
The Vikings rolled to a 42-3 win in last year’s showdown and built a 38-6 lead in Friday night’s rematch, continuing their mastery of Monroe with another dominant performance. Lake Stevens has won 11 of the teams’ last 12 meetings.
“I’m just super proud of the way our guys went out and executed all night long,” Vikings coach Tom Tri said.
Previously unbeaten Monroe (8-1, 6-1) entered the highly anticipated showdown having won all eight games by 29 points or more, while outscoring opponents by 40.1 points per contest.
But the Vikings controlled Friday night’s winner-take-all clash on both sides of the ball.
Lake Stevens shut down Monroe’s high-powered offense, limiting the Bearcats to just 263 total yards and holding them nearly 40 points below their season average.
“Our defense just played lights-out,” Tri said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the way our defense played. It started up front with the D-line, but our secondary played well (and) our linebackers tackled well in space. That’s why we (won) the game.”
Senior quarterback Conor Bardue led a balanced Lake Stevens offensive attack, completing 17 of 31 passes for 259 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
His favorite target was Hutchinson, who hauled in seven catches for a team-high 115 yards and a score. Hutchinson also intercepted a pass on defense.
Lake Stevens senior running back Kayshawn Mounarath rushed for 105 yards and a score, and also hauled in a touchdown pass.
Senior receiver Austin Murren added two touchdown catches as the Vikings totaled 415 yards against a Monroe defense that was allowing just 9.8 points per game.
“We challenged our guys to play physical, because Monroe is big and fast and physical,” Tri said. “And to their credit, they came out and matched (Monroe’s) physicality and executed really well.”
On the game’s opening possession, Lake Stevens needed just five plays to mount a 62-yard touchdown drive. Bardue connected with Murren for a 34-yard catch-and-run pass that gave the Vikings a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.
Monroe sophomore Efton Chism III returned the ensuing kickoff to the Lake Stevens 22-yard line, but the Vikings forced a stop and took over on downs.
Lake Stevens’ ensuing 13-play drive ended with an interception at the Monroe 5-yard line. But after the Vikings forced a quick three-and-out that led to good field position, Lake Stevens’ offense was knocking on the door once again.
Mounarath rattled off back-to-back 13-yard gains to set up 1st-and-goal, and then scored three plays later. The speedy transfer from Utah took a toss around the left side for a 5-yard touchdown run, extending the Vikings’ lead to 14-0 just eight seconds into the second quarter.
Later in the half, Lake Stevens took advantage of another short field with a three-play, 36-yard scoring drive. Bardue rolled right and tossed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Murren, who dove for the pylon to make it 21-0 with less than three minutes left in the half.
“For us to have the ability to … get some momentum on their field on senior night, that was our formula for success,” Tri said.
“It kind of allowed us to relax a little bit and just play our game — not be tight, not be tense and just play the way we’re capable of. And that’s exactly what we did tonight.”
Monroe got on the board shortly before halftime with a 72-yard scoring drive, capped by a 7-yard touchdown run by senior running back Isaiah Lewis that cut the margin to 21-6 heading into the break.
On the Bearcats’ opening drive of the second half, Hutchinson came up with a diving interception off a pass that tipped off a Monroe receiver’s hands.
Six plays later, Bardue bought time in the pocket and heaved a deep pass to the back of the end zone. Hutchinson came down with the ball for a 23-yard touchdown catch that stretched the lead to 28-6.
Monroe drove to the Lake Stevens 16-yard line on its ensuing possession, but Vikings sophomore Kasen Kinchen made a leaping interception in the end zone to quell the threat.
Hutchinson hauled in a 39-yard reception on the next Lake Stevens drive, which Mounarath capped with a 6-yard touchdown catch to make it 35-6 late in the third quarter.
Both teams host winner-to-state district crossover games next week.
“We’re excited, because I feel like each week we’ve continued to get better,” Tri said. “And that’s really where you want to be as you get into Week 10.”