Monroe quarterback Blake Springer helped lead the Bearcats to a wild 42-40 overtime win over Snohomish on Friday night. Monroe clinched a share of the Wesco 3A South title with the victory. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Monroe quarterback Blake Springer helped lead the Bearcats to a wild 42-40 overtime win over Snohomish on Friday night. Monroe clinched a share of the Wesco 3A South title with the victory. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Monroe tops Snohomish in OT for share of Wesco 3A South title

The Bearcats stop a 2-point attempt in OT and earn a share of the league crown with a wild 42-40 win.

MONROE — At the end of every practice, the Monroe football team’s offense and defense square off against each other in a simulated overtime situation.

All those overtime drills paid off in the biggest of moments Friday night.

The Bearcats stuffed Snohomish on a 2-point conversion attempt and captured a share of the Wesco 3A South title with a 42-40 overtime win over the two-time defending league champion Panthers in a wild back-and-forth regular-season finale at Monroe High School.

“We got in that situation and we were like, ‘Hey, since the fourth day of practice we’ve been doing this,’” Bearcats coach Scott Darrow said. “The kids were just so confident and so ready for it. There was no doubt when we got into overtime (that) we were gonna win this game.”

With 33 seconds to play in regulation, Monroe sophomore quarterback Blake Springer tossed a game-tying 7-yard touchdown pass to Wahi Emmsley to force overtime. It was part of a big comeback for the Bearcats, who rallied from a 19-0 first-half deficit.

Monroe got the ball first in the extra period and quickly scored again, with Springer finding senior Cole Pruett for a 22-yard TD pass. Then, with both their holder and long snapper injured, the Bearcats elected to go for a 2-point conversion. Springer and Pruett connected once more, giving Monroe a 42-34 lead.

Snohomish answered with a 2-yard TD run by junior Kaden Alexander, which cut the deficit to 42-40 and set up a must-have 2-point conversion attempt.

The Panthers, who had success on the ground all night, ran up the middle.

But the Bearcats were ready.

Monroe’s defense swarmed to Snohomish’s running back and brought him down short of the goal line, sealing the victory and setting off a frenzied celebration.

“All of a sudden I’m in the middle of the field (with) a crowd of students and players,” Darrow said. “Just a fun night, man. Just a fun night.”

The Bearcats’ victory created a three-way shared Wesco 3A South title between Monroe, Snohomish and Edmonds-Woodway. The three teams will be considered league co-champions, according to Snohomish athletic director and Northwest District executive board member Mark Perry.

Monroe (5-3, 4-1 Wesco 3A South) and Snohomish (4-3, 4-1) both finished with one more league victory than Edmonds-Woodway. However, Edmonds-Woodway (4-3, 3-1) played one fewer league game than both teams, due to the cancellation of the Warriors’ regular-season finale against Mountlake Terrace on Friday night. Edmonds-Woodway would’ve been a heavy favorite in that game.

Monroe, Snohomish and Edmonds-Woodway each finished 1-1 against one another. Monroe and Snohomish each had one league game canceled, while Edmonds-Woodway had two league games canceled.

Monroe’s shared league title comes in its first season as a Wesco 3A South member. The Bearcats were previously in Wesco 4A, where in recent years they often played second fiddle to perennial powerhouse Lake Stevens.

“It means a lot to us,” Darrow said of the shared league title. “It means all this hard work we did paid off.”

Springer, who splits snaps with senior Evan Leggett in Monroe’s two-quarterback system, came off the bench late in the second half and helped spark the Bearcats. Springer finished 21-of-31 passing for 276 yards, three TDs and two interceptions. His top target was Emmsley, who had 11 catches for 108 yards and the game-tying score late in regulation.

Monroe overcame another big performance from Joshua Vandergriend. The Snohomish senior running back rushed for 232 yards and two TDs on 47 carries, while methodically leading the Panthers up and down the field throughout the night.

“That’s a really good team we just played,” Darrow said.

Snohomish’s Joshua Vandergriend rushes with Monroe’s Wahi Emmsley closing Friday night at Monroe High School on October 22, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Snohomish’s Joshua Vandergriend rushes with Monroe’s Wahi Emmsley closing Friday night at Monroe High School on October 22, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

In the first half, Monroe kicked itself in the foot while falling into a 19-point hole. The Bearcats snapped the ball over their punter’s head and fell on it at their own 1-yard line, which set up a Snohomish touchdown. Later in the half, Monroe fumbled a handoff exchange at the Panthers 2 and lost the ball out of the end zone.

“Our kids made a lot of mistakes in the first half, and we just bounced back and were resilient,” Darrow said.

The turning point came on the final play before halftime.

Snohomish lined up to attempt a 44-yard field goal, looking to extend its 19-0 lead. However, the snap was high and the holder couldn’t handle it. Panthers quarterback Kale Hammer, who doubles as the team’s kicker, chased after the loose ball, scooped it up and threw an off-balanced pass downfield.

Monroe two-way senior standout Cole Pruett broke in front of the pass for an interception and then sprinted down the sideline, racing for a momentum-swinging 78-yard pick-six. The Bearcats added a 2-point conversion to trim the deficit to 19-8 heading into the break.

It was the second interception of the half and the sixth of the season for the do-everything Pruett. He also is Monroe’s leading receiver and ace returner, with five TD returns on special teams.

“That’s the guy you want to have the ball in their hands in space like that,” Darrow said. “So as soon as he had the ball, it was a wrap. He’s gone. We’ve seen Cole do that a million times. He’s a stud.”

The Bearcats scored again in the opening minute of the third quarter. Springer launched a deep 44-yard pass to junior Trent Bublitz and junior running back Kody Edelbrock followed with a 3-yard TD run, cutting the deficit to 19-16.

Snohomish answered with a long drive, scoring on a 4-yard TD run by Vandergriend to push the margin back to 10 points.

On the opening snap of the fourth quarter, Monroe freshman running back Beau Pruett slipped out of an attempted tackle and spun out of another en route to a 19-yard TD. Then after the Bearcats’ defense came up with a fourth-down stop, Springer found Edelbrock for a 34-yard TD pass that gave Monroe a 28-26 edge with 9:51 to play. However, with their holder and long snapper both out, the Bearcats missed the extra point after both touchdowns.

Vandergriend immediately responded by breaking a 55-yard gain on Snohomish’s next series, which set up a 3-yard TD run by Alexander. Hammer added a 2-point conversion run to give the Panthers a 34-28 lead with 6:12 to play.

That remained the score until Springer’s game-tying TD pass to Emmsley in the final minute of regulation. Because of its extra-point woes, Monroe elected to go for two. The Bearcats failed in that instance, but came through later with the deciding 2-point conversion in overtime.

“It was crazy,” Emmsley said of all the game’s twists and turns. “It was back and forth. First half, we started off a little rough. But I knew we had the second half. … Everything just came into fruition.”

Monroe will be the No. 1 seed in the Wesco 3A South, by virtue of Wesco’s preseason numerical draw. Edmonds-Woodway will be the No. 2 seed and Snohomish will be the No. 3 seed.

Monroe will travel to face Ferndale in Wesco’s Week 9 crossover round next week. Ferndale finished in a three-way tie with Arlington and Marysville Pilchuck atop the Wesco 3A North and received the league’s top seed by virtue of the numerical draw. The game will be a rematch of Monroe’s 55-35 non-league loss to Ferndale in Week 1.

Snohomish will host Wesco 3A North No. 5 seed Oak Harbor in a loser-out Week 9 crossover game next week, with the winner advancing to the Week 10 winner-to-state round.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Monroe won the Wesco 3A South title. It has been corrected to state that Monroe, Snohomish and Edmonds-Woodway are being considered Wesco 3A South co-champions.

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