EDMONDS — Through the first six weeks of the season, the Monroe High School football team didn’t receive a challenge.
The Bearcats, ranked sixth in Class 3A, steamrolled their way to a 6-0 record while outscoring opponents by a whopping 41.2 points per game. They put up 70 points in the first half of one game. They won every game by at least 30 points. And they enforced a running clock by holding a 40-point lead in the second half of five games.
But Friday night at Edmonds Stadium Monroe faced adversity for the first time this fall.
The Bearcats responded by coming up with big plays in key moments and escaped a sloppy performance with yet another victory.
Blake Springer connected with Trent Bublitz for a pair of touchdowns, Monroe’s defense nabbed three second-half interceptions and the Bearcats engineered a 95-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter to seal a 28-14 win over Edmonds-Woodway in a key Wesco 3A South clash.
“We definitely needed that, especially going on to some tough teams in our schedule and getting into the playoffs,” Monroe senior Kody Edelbrock said. “Rolling over teams is fun, but after a while you definitely need to step it up and play some good teams and get prepared for the good games. … I’m just proud of my boys for getting the win. We’ve definitely got a lot to clean up.”
The Bearcats (7-0, 5-0 Wesco 3A South) can now clinch their first outright Wesco 3A South title with a victory over Snohomish (4-3, 4-1) in a de facto league-title game next week. Monroe, which joined the league in 2021 after previously being a member of Wesco 4A, split the division crown with E-W and Snohomish last season.
“When it’s a three-way tie, it’s kind of hard because you were right there,” Edelbrock said. “… (We) want to get that championship to ourselves this year.”
After scoring with ease all season, Monroe’s high-octane offense sputtered for much of the night. The Bearcats turned the ball over twice, failed to score on two drives inside the red zone and committed a handful of penalties.
But the defense came up with the stops it needed and kept the team in the lead for much of the game after Mason Davis returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a TD and 7-0 lead.
Beau Pruett secured in an interception early in the third as Monroe led 14-7. Springer found Bublitz open down the middle of the field for a 41-yard score and a 21-7 lead four plays later.
After a long E-W (3-4, 3-2) touchdown, Monroe fumbled the ball away near midfield up 21-14 late in the third, but Gavin Ranz came up with a turnover by tipping a screen pass in the air and hauling in his team’s second interception of the half.
The Warriors forced a three-and-out and reached the Bearcats’ 10 after Diego Escandon connected with David Danyo for a 42-yard pass on the final play of the third. E-W took a shot at the end zone on its next play, but the pass went into the hands of Monroe’s Eli Miller for a touchback.
“Our defense is legit,” Bearcats coach Scott Darrow said. “… They hit us on a few big plays where we just had break downs, but our defense has been nails all year. That’s been the unsung part of our team.”
Monroe’s offense regained form following Miller’s pick. After a pair of offensive penalties put the ball on the Monroe 5, the Bearcats took just over six minutes off the clock with an 11-play, 95-yard TD march.
Springer completed 7 of 8 passes on the drive, linking up with Edelbrock four times for 68 yards, and Pruett capped it with a 1-yard TD run for a 28-14 lead that Monroe wouldn’t relinquish.
“We needed to convert on a big third down and have ourselves backed up on the 5-yard line like that and make some big plays,” Darrow said. “… I think for us it was good to have a close, competitve game, and we’ll use that down the road.”
Springer went 18-of-31 for 222 yards, Edelbrock had a team-high 86 yards receiving and Beau Pruett added a team-high 72 yards rushing for the Bearcats. Bublitz also caught a 13-yard TD pass from Springer late in the second quarter finished with 85 yards receiving.
Monroe’s defense allowed just 26 yards on the ground and forced three turnover on downs and three punts to go with its three interceptions.
“I’m proud of our boys for stepping up and really playing a good defensive game,” Edelbrock said. “because we definitely needed that.”
After Davis’ TD return on the opening kick, it appeared Monroe was ready to roll to another decisive win. But the Warriors never backed down from the talented Bearcats — even after losing their starting quarterback and top receiver to injury on the same play early in the second quarter.
E-W starter Steven Warren Jr., who entered Friday as Snohomish’s County’s leader in passing yards, took a big hit on a pass attempt to receiver Jesse Hart III on the Warriors’ third drive of the game. Warren and Hart were both hurt on the play and walked off the field without help, but neither returned. Escandon, the team’s second leading receiver, took over at quarterback.
Cannon Kennard reeled in a spectacular 23-yard TD reception from Escandon to tie the game at 7 with 3:52 left in the second quarter. The sophomore receiver bobbled the ball initially but secured the catch through contact as he the ground just inside the back of the end zone. Escandon later found Kennard sprinting behind the Monroe defense for a 63-yard TD pass that cut the Bearcats lead to 21-14 with 4:56 left in the third.
Escandon went 19-of-34 for 267 yards, Kennard had a game-high 149 yards receiving and Danyo added 98 yards receiving for E-W.
Danyo also had an interception and Madx Steffen recovered a fumble as the Warrior defense held Monroe nearly 27 points below its season average.
“That is a great team,” Darrow said of E-W. “(Coach John) Gradwohl is a heck of a coach. They’re always prepared. They lost their quarterback… (and) the backup came in and they just ran that offense so well. They’re so stinking good. I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys.”
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