MONROE — Mount Si entered its winner-to-state Week 10 playoff matchup with Monroe known for its high-powered passing attack led by junior quarterback Clay Millen, the son of former University of Washington quarterback Hugh Millen.
Saturday night, it was the Wildcats’ rushing attack that proved the difference in a clash between the KingCo 4A No. 3-seed Wildcats and Wesco 4A No. 4-seed Bearcats.
Mount Si running back Cole Norah ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, Millen totaled three TDs and the Wildcats secured a berth in the Class 4A state playoffs with a 34-20 victory over Monroe at Monroe High School.
“We didn’t expect them to be run heavy, but they came out early (and ran),” Bearcats coach Michael Bumpus said. “They saw a weakness in us. There’s been a couple teams that have been able to run the ball on us. They watch film like everyone else. They saw something and they thought they could pull it off.
“(Norah) is a baller, man. He got it done for them. The fact that they were balanced really helped them out.”
Mount Si entered the night without a single rusher with over 166 yards on the season, but that didn’t stop the Wildcats from moving the ball down field with a consistent rushing attack led by Norah. Millen also proved to be a force on the ground for Mount Si, rushing for 45 yards and picking up a number of key third downs with his legs.
“People talk about his arm. He can bail them out with his legs, too,” Bumpus said of Millen. “And he did that a few times, especially on third down. He’s so dangerous on third down, and he did make some great throws as well. When you got a talent like that back there, he’s gonna keep you in the game. … He’s as good as advertised, man, and he balled out today.”
The loss ends the season for the Bearcats (6-4), who couldn’t conjure up the same magic that led to a down-to-the-wire 44-40 comeback victory over Mount Si two seasons ago in a winner-to-state Week 10 game.
After Blake Rybar recovered a fumble on the Bearcats’ 20-yard line to give Monroe a chance to score and take the lead trailing 13-7 with 7:08 remaining in the second quarter, a holding call on second-and-9 negated a first-down run for Monroe and pushed the Bearcats back to their own 11-yard line. That set up a Monroe punt from just in front of its own end zone on fourth down that was blocked by Mount Si’s Anthony Gilden and rolled out of the back of the end zone for a safety to put Mount Si up 15-7.
The Wildcats took advantage of good field position after the kick and drove 42 yards in just three plays capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by Millen. Mount Si took a 21-7 lead after failing to convert a 2-point try.
Mount Si jumps out to an early lead
Mount Si opened the game with a seven play, 56-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 4-yard Millen TD run at the 10:09 mark of the first quarter.
Monroe fumbled on the ensuing possession, and the Wildcats took advantage quickly. Millen found Andy Cole for a 46-yard strike down to the Bearcats’ 12-yard line to open the drive. Then, Millen found Brayden Holt three plays later for a 7-yard touchdown pass and a 13-0 lead after a missed extra point.
“When you get behind against a team like this, it’s gonna be tough because of the problems they present,” Bumpus said.
All three of Monroe’s touchdowns came on long plays from its standout offensive playmakers.
Trailing 13-0, Rybar ripped off a 62-yard touchdown run down the Bearcats’ sideline to make it 13-7 at the 10:51 mark of the second quarter.
Monroe’s next score came at a crucial moment as time was winding down in the first half. The Bearcats needed a touchdown to make it a one-possession game at halftime, but were facing fourth-and-6 at Mount Si’s 35-yard line with just under 30 seconds remaining in the half. Gio Fregoso found Eastern Washington University commit Efton Chism III in an open zone and Monroe’s star wide receiver showed off his athletic ability with an impressive run after the catch, breaking multiple tackles on his way into the end zone for a 35-yard score.
“Best player I’ve ever coached,” Bumpus said of Chism. “He can play any position. He’s disciplined (and) works his (butt) off. People only see the end result, but he works his butt of. If he was, 6-(foot)-1, 6-2, he’d be a D-I guy. He’d be a UW guy. I love the kid like he’s my son. All these boys have a special place in my heart, but a guy like that you don’t get in your coaching career every year, so it’s been a privilege to coach that kid.”
Fregoso found Chism again at the 10:21 mark of the fourth quarter for a 21-yard touchdown connection that pulled the Bearcats with seven at 27-20.
Sealing the deal
After Chism’s second TD, Mount Si answered with a crushing 13-play, 79-yard fourth-quarter TD drive that was aided by an offsides call on Monroe on fourth-and-inches. The drive took 5:35 off the clock and left the Bearcats down two scores with 4:38 remaining in regulation.
“It’s the end of the road. Every year it’s the end of the road for the seniors. Like I told these boys, this group is special,” Bumpus said. “They’ve been in our program since they were in eighth grade, so I got see them look like snot-nosed eighth-graders all the way up until today when they left the field as young men. It’s been an honor to coach these boys. It’s been one of my favorite classes ever. I’m gonna miss them.”
Clay Millen, jr., Mount Si
Millen threw for 253 yards and one touchdown on 15 of 19 passing. The junior added two TDs and 45 yards on 17 carries.
Cole Norah, jr., Mount Si
Norah ran for 123 yards and two scores on 23 carries. The Wildcats’ running back added 60 yards on four receptions.
Efton Chism III, sr., Monroe
Chism finished the game with 10 receptions for 123 yards and two touchdowns. He added five carries for 39 yards.
Blake Rybar, sr., Monroe
Rybar churned out 137 yards and a TD on 16 carries and added another 40 yards on four receptions. The senior also recovered a fumble on defense.