“Drain the Lake!”: A History of the Lake Stevens-Monroe Rivalry

Lake Stevens leads series, 49-31-1
Longest Monroe winning streak: 5 (1988 to 1992)
Longest Lake Stevens winning streak: 8 (2013 to 2020-21)
Largest margin of victory by Monroe: 80-0 (1923)
Largest margin of victory by Lake Stevens: 61-0 (2001)

For a complete record of every match-up between Lake Stevens and Monroe, visit “Lake Stevens-Monroe Rivalry by the Years”.

A Century of Tradition

“Monroe lines up on the goal line against the Lake Stevens defense, 2017”
Courtesy of Striped Hat Photography

Over the last century, tremendous changes have touched every city and town across Snohomish county. The longtime residents of the county are quick to point out how life has changed within their formally close knit, sleepy towns as old traditions and treasured places have seemingly been lost to history. One tradition that has remained untouched throughout the century has been the rivalry between the Lake Stevens Vikings and the Monroe Bearcats. Starting in 1922 and being played annually since 1947, it’s one of the best kept traditions in the county. With over 75 games played between the two, the series is also one of the longest and most storied rivalries in the state of Washington.

A Lopsided Beginning

“An article covering the 1923 meeting of Lake Stevens and Monroe”
-Monroe Monitor

When the series began in 1922, both programs were in very different positions. Long before becoming regional powerhouse, Lake Stevens fielded an inexperienced team that was overshadowed by other local teams. Meanwhile in Monroe, the Bearcats had attained some success in their first decade of existence and were about to hit their stride during the 1920’s. The first game between the two took place at the end of the 1922 season as the lowly Vikings squad hosted the Bearcats in the final game of the year. Monroe was victorious in the first ever meeting, winning soundly by a score of 32-7. The next season, the struggling Vikings were blasted 80-0 at Monroe in the most lopsided score of the series. Injury and abysmal play over the next two seasons forced the Vikings forfeited their next two match-ups against Monroe as Lake Stevens football hit its low point. Following the 1925 season, the series went on hiatus for over a decade before being resurrected in 1947. After 12-year gap, this lopsided series began turning into a full fledged rivalry.

“that wily bastard will have something ready for us”

“Jim Bonga defends against a Viking pass, 1960”
-Monroe Monitor

When the series resumed in 1947, Lake Stevens had grown into a strong program that could challenge Monroe annually. Despite the resurgence of Monroe football as well, the Vikings were able to beat some of the best Bearcat teams in the 50’s and 60’s. In 1963, the #3 ranked Bearcats traveled to Lake Stevens with state title hopes in mind. The Vikings were led by Dick Stultz, a legendary coach who had connections to Steve Hanson, the Monroe coach. Dan Weaver, a Bearcat linebacker, recalled, “[Stutlz] was a heck of a coach. We had Steve Hanson who was a young guy and had grown up playing against Stutlz’ teams so he knew Dick Stutlz well. We were all pretty confident we were gonna kick the crap out of Lake Stevens and Hanson said, ‘Don’t take anything for granted, that wily bastard will have something ready for us’, and he did.” Stutlz had prepared well as the Viking defense held the Bearcats to a 6-0 lead. With time expiring, the Vikings tied the game with a touchdown and went to kick the point after. Because the starting Lake Stevens kicker had been inconsistent, Stultz entrusted Allan Brooks, formally a part of the managerial staff, to kicking the PAT after impressing during a workout before the game. Brooks’ aim was true, and as the ball sailed through the uprights, the Bearcats state title hopes were shattered. After fifty years, Dan Weaver still remembers the game vividly as he lamented, “In some ways, that was the most disappointing loss in Monroe High School football history because of what could have been”.

Lake Stevens Becomes a powerhouse

“Eldon King runs through the Viking defense, 1974”
-Monroe Monitor

After being upset in 1963, the balance of power in the rivalry had shifted in favor of Lake Stevens as the Vikings grew into one of the premiere teams in the county. By the time Monroe defeated Lake Stevens in 1968, the Vikings had rung up a seven game winning streak on the Bearcats, the longest streak of the series. Even with an ascendant rival and rough times during the 70’s and 80’s, Monroe still managed to be a thorn in the side of the Vikings. In 1974, the playoff bound Lake Stevens squad was no match for Monroe as the Bearcats defeated the Vikings twice in a single season. The dynamic duo of fullback Eldon King and running back Keith McDaniel powered a close 6-2 victory at the start of the season as well as a 36-6 blowout towards the end of the season. As Monroe returned to prominence in the 1980’s, the Bearcats began their quest to take back the series.

“One Inch and One Second”

“Lake Stevens player is distraught while the Bearcats celebrate, 1991”
-Lake Stevens Journal

When the Bearcats began their resurgence in the late 1980’s, Monroe had finally become a perennial contender for the WESCO title. Nevertheless, Lake Stevens continued to find a way to spoil the championship hopes for some of the best Bearcat teams of the decade. In 1991, the ‘Cats sought to exact some vengeance as they traveled Lake Stevens in a late season matchup. With both teams leading the conference, this match-up would be crucial to their title hopes. The game was a tough defensive struggle, noted as one of the very best in series history by those who saw it. In the last two minutes of the 4th quarter, Monroe held onto a precious 6-3 lead when Lake Stevens began their final drive. When the Vikings connected on a 44-yard pass to the Bearcat 1-yard line with 27 seconds left, another heartbreaking defeated seemed imminent for Monroe. Nevertheless, the Bearcat defense rallied for a one last defense. With seconds left, the defense stopped the diving Viking quarterback just short of the goal line. Time expired as the Vikings attempted to line up for one last play, sealing a Monroe victory and a WESCO title that season. Over the course of the 1990’s, Monroe went on to defeat Lake Stevens six times, including a 42-0 rout of the Vikings in 1998. This was the high for Monroe and low point for Lake Stevens as the trajectory for both teams changed with the start of the next century. From that point onward, the Vikings began to dominate the series.

The Viking Golden Age

“Bearcat defenders attempt to hold off the oncoming Vikings, 2014”
-Monroe School District

As the Vikings returned to prominence, the Bearcats regressed badly in the 2000’s. At the turn of the century, the rivalry became extremely lopsided as Lake Stevens won 8 of 10 meetings in the decade while Monroe struggled to become competitive again. The Vikings continued to steamroll through the WESCO conference year after year, deepening the resolve of Monroe to knock off their old rival. In 2012, a 1-2 Bearcats team traveled to Lake Stevens as massive underdogs as the season looked over before it began. Despite the Vikings being almost assured victory, the offense stalled as their quarterback failed to find a groove. Freshmen Jacob Eason, the eventual starting quarterback for the Washington Huskies, came in to provide a spark. The switch quickly which ended with disastrous results. A blitz by Monroe connected with the young quarterback, breaking Eason’s arm. The Vikings were forced to bring back their struggling starting quarterback as the Lake Stevens offense continued to struggle. Even though Monroe could only muster 9 points, the defense held the Vikings to 7 until the clock ran out, stunning the Lake Stevens crowd as Monroe fans stormed the field. This victory proved crucial for Monroe taking a share of the WESCO North title that season, despite finishing 4-6. As of this article being published, this is the last victory by Monroe over Lake Stevens.

“Drain the Lake, that’s my only goal”

“Ricky Baker makes a tackle against a Viking, 2017”
-Photo courtesy of Ritzie Photography

After the 2012 upset, the series returned to being dominated by the Vikings. Even with unprecedented success in recent years, Lake Stevens has been the only opponent capable of defeating the Bearcats every season. In 2016 and 2017, undefeated Monroe teams saw perfect seasons and WESCO titles dashed in routs by Lake Stevens teams. Even with the dominance of Lake Stevens, the rivalry is still as heated and eventful as ever. Pranks, vandalism, and a mutual dislike by the players on both teams fuels eventful match-ups each season. For Monroe players, the game is one of the most highly anticipated on the schedule. Senior lineman Connor Wood remarked, “The week going into [the rivalry] is all you think about. During school, you’re still thinking about it. By Friday, you got shakes.” Some players relish the grittier aspects of the rivalry as Senior lineman Gavin Monroe commented, “I love the rivalry and the competition-and the crap talking.” Even coaches can’t resist the passions of the rivalry. Monroe coach Scott Darrow quipped that it wouldn’t take long for new Bearcat coaches to become passionate about the rivalry themselves. As both teams ready themselves the upcoming game on Friday, a game that will likely decide the winner of the conference title, there is no doubt that every player and coach on both sides is gearing up for another classic installment in this longstanding rivalry.

An Underrated Classic?

“Steve Moody (left) and Efton Chism (right) display their pass catching prowess against Viking defenders, 1973 and 2018”
Photos taken by the Monroe Monitor and Tony Armstrong

In 2022, this rivalry will turn 100 years old, a testament to its resiliency in a changing world and the competitive spirit it brings out in both cities. Both Monroe and Lake Stevens have also benefited from being in the same leagues for over 70 years, seemingly being bound by fate. This is remarkable when considering how shifting classifications have interrupted many other classic rivalries around the county. Despite not being well known to fans outside of Lake Stevens and Monroe, this game ranks as one of the truly classic rivalries in the entire state of Washington due to its longevity and the passion it evokes in players, coaches, and fans. With such a storied rivalry, history is being made with each game between the two schools.


Special thanks to the Lake Stevens Historical Society for their assistance and support in the creation of this article. Their help in providing articles on the 1963 and 1991 games was crucial to writing a complete narrative and we are deeply appreciative of their interest in the project.

Scores and stories are sourced from Monroe Monitor, Lake Stevens Journal, and Everett Herald articles. Complete year-by-year records can be found on the “Record by Year” page.

Quotes by Dan Weaver, Scott Darrow, Connor Wood, and Gavin Monroe are taken from interviews conducted by “The Orange and the Black” and can be found on the “Interviews” page.