It’s been an impressive run for the Monroe High School football team over the past seven seasons.
The Bearcats qualified for a pair of Class 4A state tournaments, including a program-best quarterfinal appearance in 2017, made the Week 10 playoffs in each of the past six full-length seasons and compiled a solid 46-22 overall record with a 33-10 mark in Wesco 4A play.
It’s been one of the greatest stretches in the program’s history and maybe even the best, but the one thing that’s eluded Monroe over that span is the title of league champion.
That could change this season.
The Bearcats are now members of the Wesco 3A South football league after dropping from 4A to 3A in the latest statewide reclassification cycle. Monroe had opted to remain in 4A during the previous cycle despite having 3A-sized enrollment numbers.
“We’re excited for the challenge,” second-year Bearcats head coach Scott Darrow said. “There’s some great teams in this Wesco 3A conference.”
The move means Monroe will no longer have to get through archnemesis Lake Stevens to win a league championship, putting on pause a longstanding rivalry that’s featured 78 games between the teams since 1922.
The Vikings have consistently been the gatekeepers in Wesco 4A, and year after year they’ve shut the door on the Bearcats. Monroe finished second to Lake Stevens — winners of 46 straight league games and seven straight conference titles — in Wesco 4A four times from 2014-19. Each season featured a drubbing by the powerhouse Vikings.
“They’ve had our number definitely, but it’s always a great challenge every year to go play those guys,” Darrow said. “… For us, to go down and play teams more our size is probably better in the long-term no doubt.”
Darrow said he hopes the rivalry is renewed in non-league matchups in the future.
“That’s our big rival,” he said. “I know a lot of teams probably think of Lake (Stevens) that way, but it sucks not playing your rival.”
The landscape in Wesco 3A South is far different than Wesco 4A. There isn’t a juggernaut team that dominates the conference, as evident by four of the past five league titles being won by different teams.
That’s not to say things are going to be easy for the Bearcats. They’ll still have to deal with two-time defending league champion Snohomish, an always-tough Edmonds-Woodway squad and one of the area’s top returning quarterbacks when they face Shorecrest.
Monroe’s nonconference schedule is also particularly challenging. In Week 1, the Bearcats matchup against Ferndale’s powerful Wing-T rushing attack that’s led by four-star recruit Isaiah Carlson. Week 2 features a showdown with a talent-laden Glacier Peak squad.
“It’s gonna prepare us great — if we can stay healthy — for our league schedule no doubt,” Darrow said.
Darrow said his team is young but talented at the skill positions and has a veteran offensive line led by massive seniors Connor Owens (6-foot-6, 325 pounds) and Griffin Montana (6-4, 335) on the left side.
“It’s a dream to run behind them,” junior running back Kody Edelbrock said. “The holes are always there. … (They) can definitely throw some guys around, so that really helps me out and makes my life way easier.”
“I’m definitely running behind some amazing athletes with Connor and Griffin,” he added. “I’m just excited.”
Monroe featured one of the more pass-heavy offenses in the area during the shortened campaign this past spring. Darrow said he expects more of the same this season, noting a deep receiving corps led by senior Cole Pruett and a pair of strong options at quarterback in senior Evan Leggett and sophomore Blake Springer.
“We’ll see who ends up starting,” Darrow said of his quarterbacks, “but I think they’re both gonna play.”
On defense, the Bearcats return first-team all-league middle linebacker Noah Berry, a junior, and outside linebacker Edelbrock. Owens and Montana provide Monroe with size and strength up front, and Pruett is one of many defensive backs that has Darrow excited about the potential of the backend of his defense.
“I think we’re looking pretty stout,” Owens said of the defense. “I’m really excited to see how our boys do.”
The ultimate goals for this Monroe team are to win a league title and get back to the state playoffs, and the Bearcats believe they have the talent to execute their plans.
“It would definitely be awesome,” Edelbrock said of a Wesco 3A South championship. “This program needs it. We’ve definitely had some competition in 4A. Maybe 3A will be a good change for us. I feel like we can get it done.”