Monroe’s Gio Fregoso receives the snap during practice Wednesday at Monroe High School. The Bearcats face Mount Si in a playoff game Saturday. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Monroe’s Gio Fregoso receives the snap during practice Wednesday at Monroe High School. The Bearcats face Mount Si in a playoff game Saturday. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Monroe won’t let early loss to Lake Stevens define season

The Bearcats host Mount Si in a winner-to-state playoff game on Saturday.

When Monroe walked off the field after being unceremoniously thumped by Lake Stevens in Week 3, Bearcats coach Michael Bumpus knew right away that his team would not let that loss derail its season.

Were they frustrated? Sure, considering the Bearcats couldn’t vanquish the mighty Vikings and topple their reign atop Wesco 4A, as Lake Stevens routed Monroe, 73-28, for its sixth consecutive victory in the head-to-head matchup.

With plenty of the season remaining after that game, Monroe rebounded nicely and the Bearcats put together a six-game winning streak to close the regular season and captured the No. 2 seed out of Wesco 4A to host a home playoff game in Week 10.

“That flipped the switch for us,” senior wide receiver Efton Chism III said of the loss to Lake Stevens. “We were like, ‘Dang, we shouldn’t be playing like that.’ That’s not who we are. We’re just trying to prove to the rest of the state that one game doesn’t define us.”

Punching its ticket into the 16-team state playoff bracket will require Monroe winning an intriguing Week 10 playoff matchup. The Bearcats will host Mount Si, the No. 3 seed out of KingCo, in a winner-to-state, loser-out game at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Josh Horton / The Herald

Josh Horton / The Herald

Not only are both schools almost mirror images of each other in how they fit in with their respective conferences — both are the eastern-most schools in their league and pull from more rural communities — Monroe and Mount Si have recent history. This will be the third time the two schools have played each other over the past four seasons, with the most recent matchup another Week 10 playoff game in 2017, which Monroe won 44-40 in a down-to-the-wire finish.

Defeating the Wildcats in a Week 10 game for a second time will be a tall task.

Mount Si’s offense is led by quarterback Clay Millen, the son of former University of Washington and NFL quarterback Hugh Millen, and brother of Oregon freshman Cale Millen. Millen has thrown 23 touchdowns and zero interceptions with almost 2,000 yards passing this season. He’s rated as a three-star recruit by 247Sports.

“They got Millen over there tossing the rock. He’s one of the best in the state, best in the nation,” Bumpus said. “(We) just want to slow him down, you can never expect to stop him. He’s talented. He can make every throw out there. He can also run. So it’s really just about trying to contain him, and also just forcing them to be a little undisciplined.”

Millen is bolstered by a stout defense, as the Wildcats have allowed just 12.6 points per game this season.

Mount Si will face one of the most dynamic offenses in the state, however. Monroe, led by a trio of quarterback Gio Fregoso, running back Blake Rybar and Chism, averages 43 points per game this season.

Conventional wisdom says something has to give.

“I expect a battle, man,” Bumpus said. “I think we’re evenly matched and I think their scheme does well against what we want to do. It’s going to be a chess match. I’m sure (Mount Si coach Charlie) Kinnune will make some adjustments (and) I’ll make some adjustments, so it’s really about just matching their discipline because on defense they’re not going to mess up their assignments. That’s not what well-coached teams do, especially now in the playoffs.”

Although each of Monroe’s games during its active six-game winning streak have been decided by at least three touchdowns, the Bearcats feel battle tested after facing two other KingCo teams this season, Eastlake and Woodinville.

Officially in the standings Monroe was credited with a loss against Eastlake, even though the Bearcats won the game at the time, 42-41 in overtime. The Bearcats were later forced to forfeit the game after using an ineligible player, according to Monroe athletic director Jeanette Siemers.

The Bearcats narrowly lost to Woodinville 21-20 in a Week 2 showdown with last season’s 4A state runner-up. The next week the Bearcats lost to Lake Stevens.

With some recent lopsided wins and a gauntlet to start the season, Monroe is feeling as confident as ever.

“It’s just about being resilient and that’s what Monroe is all about,” Bumpus said.

“I moved to Monroe about eight years ago and people were telling me I’m crazy for moving to ‘that small town in the country.’ … But I think our football team is just like our town, man. Humble, blue collar and just work your (butt) off.

“As long as we’re healthy, I’m confident we can compete with anybody.”

Herald writer Zac Hereth contributed to this story.

Talk to us

More in Sports

Former Washington football coach Jim Lambright dies at 77

He spent nearly four decades with the Husky program as a player, assistant coach and head coach.

In this Feb. 21, 2001, file photo, Seattle Mariners’ manager Lou Piniella puts his arm around Japanese player Ichiro Suzuki as workouts begin at their spring training camp in Peoria, Ariz. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
POLL: Which Mariners season generates the best memories?

With the start of baseball season delayed, we conjure up positives from past Seattle seasons.

A shining moment in UW history is often forgotten

10 years later, Quincy Pondexter’s game-winner against Marquette in the NCAA tournament is lost in time.

Analysis: Seahawks have added depth to 2020 offensive line

Taking a look at all the o-linemen signed for next season and where they might fit on Seattle’s roster.

She’s 101 and bowled a 159 before coronavirus shut the lanes

Carol Perry can’t celebrate her 102nd birthday bowling Tuesday. But maybe her kids will get her a Wii.

Opening day comes and goes with no baseball

M’s fans, and employees, are left with a feeling of emptiness as the country battles a pandemic.

Edmonds-Woodway grad Hardy has Tommy John surgery

The relief pitcher, who signed with the Twins in the offseason, is expected to miss the 2020 season.

Indianapolis 500 postponed until August because of COVID-19

The historic IndyCar race won’t run on Memorial Day weekend for the first time since 1946.

Storm’s Bird still plans to compete in 2021 Olympics

The WNBA legend, who turns 40 in October, still plans to play despite the Games being delayed.

Silvertips sign forward prospect Ben Hemmerling

The 2004-born forward was Everett’s third-round pick in the 2019 WHL bantam draft.

Wichita State’s Stevenson transferring to Washington

The shooting guard, who starred at Timberline, averaged 11.1 points per game last season.

Locals named to Associated Press all-state teams

Two local players earned all-state nods and six others were honorable mentions.