MONROE — Michael Bumpus knew his Monroe High School football team had a strong tendency to run the ball out of its two-back sets.
The Bearcats’ coach used that to his team’s advantage.
Reaching into his bag of tricks Friday night, Bumpus dialed up a wide-receiver reverse pass on the game’s very first play from scrimmage. It worked to perfection, resulting in a 69-yard touchdown pass from receiver Efton Chism III to J.R. Little.
“Everyone knows we like to run the ball out of that, so we took a chance, put it in our best player’s hand and threw it to a senior,” Bumpus said. “It was just a great way to open the game.”
The opening-play trickery began an early scoring flurry as Monroe raced to three touchdowns in the first seven minutes and earned a pivotal 32-10 win over visiting Glacier Peak in a Wesco 4A clash that was televised across the region on ROOT Sports.
With the victory, the Bearcats clinched the No. 2 seed in Wesco 4A, which gives them home-field advantage for the winner-to-state Week 10 playoff round.
Monroe (6-2, 5-1 Wesco 4A) holds a one-game lead over both Glacier Peak and Mount Vernon with one week remaining in conference play. The Bearcats also own head-to-head tiebreakers over both teams, who are tied for third place in the league standings.
“That’s huge,” Bumpus said of locking up the No. 2 seed. “… There’s nothing like home field (in the) playoffs.”
MONROE’S DO-EVERYTHING STAR
Chism III is primarily a receiver, but the Eastern Washington University commit can do a bit of everything for Monroe.
The versatile senior standout showcased his array of talents, accounting for 234 yards of total offense and three TDs with a massive all-around performance.
Chism III lined up in the shotgun formation a number of times, rushing for 58 yards and two TDs on six carries. He also caught five passes for 58 yards. And he displayed his arm talent, completing three first-half passes for 118 yards and a TD.
Chism III, who filled in for starting quarterback Gio Fregoso one game last year when the latter was injured, now has five TD passes over the past two seasons.
“He can do everything,” Bumpus said. “… (We want to) put the ball in his hands and let him be special — and that’s what he did.”
BEARCATS RIDE FAST START
On the opening trick play, the Bearcats lined up with tailbacks Blake Rybar and Gavin Newton both in the backfield. Fregoso took the snap and handed off to Rybar, who began running left while Newton served as a decoy lead blocker. Rybar then pitched the ball back to Chism III, who was running left to right on a reverse.
With the Grizzlies (6-2, 4-2) biting on the run, Little emerged wide-open down the right side of the field. Chism III heaved a pass to his fellow senior receiver, who coasted in for the long touchdown.
“We run heavy out of that two-back look and we had a feeling they were going to overload that side — which they did — and we just wanted to take a shot,” Bumpus said.
After the trick-play score, Monroe forced a three-and-out and got the ball back in Glacier Peak territory. Three plays later, Chism III took a jet sweep to the left, spun out of a tackle and raced into the right portion of the end zone to give the Bearcats a 12-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
“The way they covered that play, he shouldn’t have scored,” Bumpus said. “They played it perfectly. But he’s just a better athlete than a lot of kids out here, and he showed that. He bails us out a lot.”
Then after the Bearcats forced another three-and-out and again took over in Grizzlies territory, Rybar gained 21 yards on a shovel pass to begin a third Monroe first-quarter scoring march. Newton capped the drive with a 1-yard TD run, giving the Bearcats an 18-0 lead with 5:39 to play in the opening period.
“It was huge,” Chism III said of his team’s fast start. “… It was nice to come out on top and jump on them like that.”
MONROE HOLDS OFF LATE GP RALLY
Rybar added a 4-yard TD run late in the third quarter to extend Monroe’s lead to 25-3. The powerful senior back finished with 93 yards on 13 carries.
Glacier Peak’s Ryan Black trimmed the margin with a TD run one minute into the fourth quarter, and the Grizzlies recovered the ensuing onside kick to breathe life into a possible comeback attempt. Glacier Peak then drove to the Monroe 13-yard line, but the drive unraveled after a costly holding penalty and the Bearcats came up with a fourth-and-long stop to preserve a 15-point lead.
Black finished with 127 yards on 22 carries.
“They did a great job running that reverse pass the first play of the game — kind of caught us off-guard,” Glacier Peak coach Shane Keck said. “It took us a little bit to settle down, and once we did, I thought we played solid enough. We had our opportunities — we just didn’t convert it, so hats off to them.”
BEARCATS ON A TEAR
After opening the season by splitting a pair of one-point games against current Class 4A top-10 teams Eastlake and Woodinville, Monroe suffered a 73-28 loss to top-ranked Lake Stevens in Week 3.
Since that lone blemish, the Bearcats have rattled off five straight wins by a combined 246-38 margin.
“When you get beat like that, you can go one of two ways,” Bumpus said. “You can go left or right. And we decided to go right. … It just shows our character. We could’ve come to work on Monday, put our heads down and (been) defeated, but we knew we still had some life and (the players) took care of business.”
Monroe: The Bearcats close the regular season against Cascade (3-5, 2-4) next Friday night at Everett Memorial Stadium.
Glacier Peak: The Grizzlies host Mount Vernon (5-3, 4-2) next Friday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium in a matchup that will determine the No. 3 seed in Wesco 4A. The loser will be the No. 4 seed. Both teams will hit the road for the winner-to-state Week 10 playoffs.