MONROE — Facing wet and wild conditions Friday night, the Monroe High School football team decided to put the ball in the hands of its playmakers and let them make things happen with their legs.
Boy, did that strategy work out.
Efton Chism III and Blake Rybar ran wild, combining for 285 yards from scrimmage and three long touchdowns as the Bearcats defeated the Mariner Marauders 49-7 in a Wesco 4A game before an enthusiastic homecoming crowd at Monroe High School.
Monroe (2-2, 1-1 Wesco 4A) fed Mariner a steady diet of screen passes and direct snaps in the wildcat formation, giving the speedy and shifty Chism and the fast and powerful Rybar the opportunity to make things happen in space. The result was touchdowns of 48 and 51 yards by Chism and 76 yards by Rybar as the duo proved too much for Mariner to handle. All three of the long TDs came in the game’s first 15 minutes as Monroe built a quick 28-7 lead.
Monroe also helped its cause with turnovers. Mariner (1-1, 1-3) finished the game with three lost fumbles and two lost interceptions as the Marauders struggled to hold onto the ball in the rainy conditions. The Bearcats also blocked three punts.
Monroe was looking to erase the sting of last week’s 73-28 loss to Lake Stevens, the top-ranked 4A team in the state, in its league opener. The Bearcats did just that, and the convincing nature of the victory signals Monroe as a legitimate contender in the race to finish second in Wesco 4A behind the Vikings.
The victory also kept the Bearcats’ winning streak against Mariner alive, as the Marauders haven’t beaten Monroe since 2012.
It was clear which direction this one was headed on the game’s second play, when Monroe’s pressure on Mariner quarterback Jackson Cole forced a rushed throw that was intercepted by Darius Hacking and returned 26 yards for a touchdown, giving the Bearcats the lead less than a minute into the contest.
Efton Chism III, Monroe. The senior receiver carried the ball four times for 63 yards and a touchdown and caught one pass for a 48-yard TD. On the TD reception, which made it 14-0, he seemed to be penned in on a wide receiver screen, but somehow found the edge and outraced the defense to the end zone. On his 51-yard touchdown run, which made it 28-7, he took a direct snap, made a big-time cut in the backfield, then found a lane to the end zone.
Blake Rybar, Monroe. The senior running back rushed 11 times for 97 yards and caught three passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. On the TD reception, which made it 21-7, the Bearcats caught the Marauders with a screen, but Rybar still had to find the jets to sprint 76 yards to the end zone.
Gio Fregoso, Monroe. The senior quarterback was the primary beneficiary of Chism’s and Rybar’s exploits, finishing an efficient 7-for-10 for 165 yards and three TDs.
Darius Hacking, Monroe. The senior linebacker scored two touchdowns, the first on his interception return, the second when he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone.
Jackson Cole, Mariner. The junior quarterback, who was under constant pressure before giving way to his backup in the third quarter, was 5-for-9 for 95 yards, and he also scored the Marauders’ lone touchdown on a 14-yard keeper.
Monroe hits the road as the Bearcats take on Mount Vernon next Friday. Mount Vernon was a playoff team last season, so the game could have implications in the race to finish second behind Lake Stevens, and Monroe is looking to avenge a 45-34 loss to the Bulldogs (who also allowed 70-plus points in a loss to the Vikings) last season.
Mariner looks to get back on track when the Marauders host winless Jackson next Friday.