MONROE — As rain poured throughout the day on a cold and dreary Monday earlier this week, players on the Monroe High School football team could feel the gloomy weather zapping their energy.
Quarterback Blake Springer said that led to a player-only team meeting where leaders emphasized the importance of putting 100% into every moment of preparation with fellow unbeaten Mountlake Terrace and area leading rusher Zaveon Jones coming to town for a key Wesco 3A South showdown on Friday night.
“We looked at our guys and were like, ‘This is the biggest week of the year so far. This is our biggest challenge and we need to go into it with a different energy this week,’” Springer said.
The group responded with a locked-in week of practice, and it carried over in a major way Friday evening.
Springer tossed three TD passes and the Bearcat defense kept Jones from breaking off game-changing runs with a relentless effort as Class 3A seventh-ranked Monroe dispatched Mountlake Terrace, 35-10.
“It was a great team win,” Springer said. “I’m really proud of our guys on the sideline and our student section. They were really loud. The energy was just great all night.”
Led by the fast and physical linebacker trio of seniors Nick Mouser and Biggie Notoa and junior Carl Watson III, the Bearcat defense gave its crowd plenty to cheer throughout the night with its swarming effort to keep Jones in check. The bruising 235-pound running back was able to churn out 129 yards and one TD on 28 carries, but he had scratch and claw for nearly every yard.
“Extremely (proud),” Mouser said of the defensive effort. “We’ve been putting the work in all season and this week especially, and we all stepped up. … I’m so glad to see it pay off against such a quality back like that.”
Monroe (5-0 overall, 3-0 Wesco 3A South) was able to keep Jones from getting loose with just two of his 28 touches going for more than 10 yards. His 4.6 yards per carry was over five yards under his season average entering the matchup.
“He’s a grown man out there,” Monroe coach Scott Darrow said of Jones. “He’s an impressive specimen, and they block well for him.”
“I’m really proud of our kids,” Darrow added. “We brought back a lot of guys from last year that played on a pretty dang good defense. I know Zaveon is tough, but we’ve got some tough kids, too. Nick Mouser, Biggie Notoa and Carl Watson, all three of our linebackers, they are just absolute specimens and studs, and they were up for the challenge.”
When Mountlake Terrace (4-1, 3-1) tried to keep Monroe’s defense honest with the pass, the Bearcat pass rush and secondary came through as well, creating pressure and securing three interceptions on just 11 pass attempts by the Hawks.
Meanwhile, Springer and the offense kept rolling as they have all season.
The senior quarterback completed his first six throws and finished an efficient 14-of-16 for 241 yards. He spread the wealth with six different receivers catching a pass and three scoring TDs. Senior Ryan Miller had 70 yards on a team-high five receptions and junior Aarcon Clifton posted 102 yards on two catches.
Junior Mason Davis started the game with bang and took the opening kickoff 95 yards for a score and a 7-0 Monroe lead just 14 seconds into the game. It was the fifth kickoff return TD for Davis since the start of last season. He’s also returned two punts for scores this season.
“He might be the most explosive player on this team,” Mouser said. “… He just knows how to capitalize and get us momentum.”
Mountlake Terrace answered back on the ensuing possession with Jones pounding his way to 35 yards on 10 carries to help his team reach the red zone. Mouser then came up with two consecutive tackles near the line of scrimmage to force third-and-long, and the Hawks ended up settling for 25-yard field goal from Braeden Swan to make it 7-3 with 3:35 left in the first quarter.
Senior Deegan Chapman pulled down a contested interception on deep ball late in the first to set up Monroe’s next scoring drive. Springer then connected with Miller on a 28-yard throw and found Clifton for a 55-yard catch-and-run down to the Mountlake Terrace 8-yard line.
Monroe avoided disaster by recovering a pair of fumbles in the red zone, and Springer’s dart to Miller in the back of the end zone provided a 3-yard score and 13-3 advantage at the 10:25 mark of the second.
The Bearcats needed just three plays to march 60 yards on their first drive of the second half, which was capped by Springer’s 47-yard TD connection with Clifton for a 20-3 lead.
The Hawks made it a two-score game again on the ensuing possession. Senior quarterback Matt Meadows linked up with senior Logan Tews for an 18-yard pass down to the Monroe 1, and Jones fought off multiple tackles for a 1-yard run that made it 20-10 with 1:04 left in the third.
Monroe then put the game out of reach with 10-play, 76-yard drive that took nearly 6 minutes off the clock. Springer and Davis finished it off with a 22-yard connection for a 27-10 advantage midway through the fourth.
After a Clifton interception, Mouser put an exclamation point on the win with 28-yard TD run with 3:04 left in the game.
Aidan Gamble added a late interception for the Monroe defense.
Tews led Mountlake Terrace with 60 yards on five receptions.
It was the 15th straight regular-season victory and 12th straight in league play for Monroe, which has outscored opponents 197-16 over the past four weeks.
“We’re hungry,” Mouser said. “We think we’re a top-five team, and I think we came out here and kind of showed that.”