MONROE — The Monroe High School football team had its chance to even the score in the fourth quarter.
The Class 3A sixth-ranked Bearcats faced second-and-goal from Ferndale’s 1-yard line in prime position to keep pace in a back-and-forth Wesco 3A title clash with the 10th-ranked Golden Eagles.
But a stuffed run play and back-to-back fumbled snaps ended the scoring threat. Ferndale’s Isaiah Carlson delivered a gut punch two plays later when he took off down the field for a 94-yard touchdown to extend the Golden Eagles’ lead.
Carlson’s run proved to be the difference-maker as Ferndale took advantage of five Monroe turnovers and downed the previously unbeaten Bearcats 34-28 Friday night to earn the Wesco 3A Championship.
“I think we could of won this game. We just made too many mistakes,” Monroe coach Scott Darrow said. “… When you play a good team like this that’s physical as heck and runs the ball like that and you make a few mistakes, they’re going to beat you. They deserved the win because they made less mistakes than us. That’s how these big games go.”
The turnovers were part of a tough night for the Bearcats’ high-octane offense. Monroe (8-1) couldn’t get its run game going and mustered just 13 yards on the ground. The passing game clicked at times, but the Golden Eagles’ massive front was able to create pressure and helped greatly in forcing four interceptions.
“One of the keys was our guys being able to shut down the run game and make them one dimensional while still playing not a lot of guys in the box,” Ferndale coach Jamie Plenkovich said. “… We were able to do that and get just enough pressure (on their quarterback) at times to I think make him a little uncomfortable.”
Meanwhile, Ferndale (7-2) chewed up clock and consistently moved the ball with its Wing-T rushing attack. The Golden Eagles averaged 5.8 yards per carry and racked up 313 yards on the ground.
Most of the damage was done by Carlson, a three-star recruit according to 247sports.com. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior was the focal point of the offense running up the middle behind a mauling offensive line that weighs in at a combined 1,385 pounds. He carried the ball 26 times for 184 yards and three TDs.
“They’re physical,” Darrow said. “They stopped the run and we had a hard time stopping their run.”
After a Monroe interception on the opening drive, Ferndale reached the Bearcats’ 1 on Dylan Moore’s 31-yard run. Carlson punched in a TD on the next play for a 7-0 lead.
Monroe answered back quickly. Beau Pruett received a kickoff just in front of the goal line and the speedy sophomore weaved through Ferndale’s special teams unit for a game-tying 98-yard score.
Pruett came up big on special teams again with a 21-yard punt return to the Golden Eagles’ 49. The Bearcats converted a pair of fourth downs, including a spectacular leaping grab by senior Eli Miller, and junior Nick Mouser capped an 11-play drive with a 1-yard TD run for a 14-7 lead.
Ferndale junior Conner Walcker tied the game back up with a 25-yard run off a double-handoff reverse midway through the second quarter.
Monroe’s special teams shined once more after the score. Mason Davis sprinted straight through the kick coverage for a 94-yard TD. It was the sophomore’s fourth kickoff return TD this season.
“We practice it and the scheme is pretty good,” Darrow said of the special teams success. “We think it’s important, so we’ve worked on that obviously. But we’ve also got talented players back there. That helps. They make you look like pretty good coaches.”
The Bearcats forced a three-and-out and took over with a chance to take a two-possession lead into the break, but Monroe’s second interception of the half left the door open for the Golden Eagles.
With the Bearcats stacking the box to try and stop the run, Ferndale took advantage of one-on-one matchups on the outside with its big receivers. The 6-foot-3 Walcker hauled in a trio of jump balls, including a 22-yarder down to the Monroe 2. Carlson punched in another short TD run to tie the game with just 25 seconds left in the half.
“They had a lot of guys close to the line of scrimmage who were coming forward and we liked out matchups outside,” Plenkovich said. “Both Conner and Damien (Toney) are big bodies that are tough to match up with.”
Ferndale opened the third quarter with a 13-play, 61-yard scoring drive to go up 28-21. Carlson churned out hard yards up the middle and quarterback Bishop Ootsey connected with Walcker on another jump ball for a 19-yard TD.
The teams traded turnovers before Monroe marched into the red zone with a chance to tie, but University of Washington commit Landen Hatchett barreled through the Bearcats’ line for back-to-back sacks to force a turnover on downs.
Monroe reached the red zone again on its next drive, but the fumbled snaps kept the Bearcats from tying it up. Carlson’s long TD run followed.
“We’re not an under-center team,” Darrow said of the mishandled snaps. “We gotta practice that more obviously. We do practice it, don’t get me wrong. We just didn’t do a good enough job, and that’s on us.”
A late fumble by the Golden Eagles gave Monroe a chance to pull off an improbable comeback. The Bearcats took advantage of the opportunity and dialed up a gadget play. Receiver Kody Edelbrock took a lateral on the perimeter and heaved a deep ball to a wide-open Davis for a 78-yard TD that cut the deficit to 34-28 with 59 seconds left. But Ferndale recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt to seal the game.
“I think (we’re playing our best football),” Plenkovich said. “We talk all the time about peaking towards the end of the year and we just beat two undefeated teams back-to-back that have had a lot of success. We were close (after beating Arlington 28-25 in Week 4) to being a 1-3 football team, so to come back and be where we’re at and win the Wesco championship, just super proud of our guys and their grit.”
Walcker finished with 127 total yards and had two interceptions on defense. Toney and Talan Bungard each added a pick and Ootsey went 6-of-9 for 98 yards for Ferndale.
Davis reeled in four receptions for a game-high 124 yards, Miller had 59 yards receiving and and quarterback Blake Springer completed 17 of 29 passes for 198 yards for Monroe.
Both teams have already qualified for the Week 10 playoffs. Matchups for Week 10 are scheduled to be released by seeding committees Sunday.
“We have to stay positive,” Darrow said. “We have to make the best of this and learn from it. We have no choice. … I think we just have to correct the mistakes. We’re still feeling really confident that we can beat anybody in the state if we play our best game.”
Talk to us
- You can tell us about news and ask us about our journalism by emailing email@example.com or by calling 425-339-3428.
- If you have an opinion you wish to share for publication, send a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org or by regular mail to The Daily Herald, Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206.
- More contact information is here.