The Bearcats won their first state football playoff game last week and they head into the quarterfinals on Saturday against Sumner.
Even though Michael Bumpus spent his college days on the Palouse, he still marvels at how well he’s blended into the small-town atmosphere in Monroe.
Born in Hawaii but raised west of Los Angeles in Culver City, Calif., Bumpus has flare. A dynamism many remember from his days setting program records as a punt returner at Washington State (2004-07).
“I call it the first small town outside of Seattle because once you get past Woodinville, there’s not much left,” Bumpus said. “Our town definitely owns that and loves that.”
Five games to watch
Woodinville at Graham-Kapowsin: These teams finished the regular season ranked in the top five in the state.
Eastside Catholic at Garfield: This is the deepest the Bulldogs have been in state since 1977, but they run into the powerful Crusaders.
Rainier Beach at Peninsula: The last time the Vikings made the semifinals? 2005. The last time the Seahawks made the semis? 1979.
North Kitsap at Archbishop Murphy: This the third consecutive year the Wildcats and Vikings have made the playoffs. AMHS won the first two.
Liberty at Hockinson: The Patriots, the state runner ups last year, are again making a deep run. The Hawks’ high-octane offense stands in the way.
Monroe is most known for being the location of Washington’s men’s prison. Since Bumpus’ arrival in 2015 as the high school’s football coach, orange also symbolizes the tough nature of the team.
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The Bearcats (10-1) won their first Class 4A state tournament game in school history last week (they had lost their previous six). Monroe travels to play at Sumner (9-2) in the quarterfinals on Saturday. The Spartans defeated the Bearcats 58-42 in the first round last year.
People tagged businesses along the main drag with homemade signs like “We Believe” to cheer on the Bearcats. And supporters will pop into Bumpus’ main business – a fitness training facility – to congratulate him.
“In some ways, they appreciate the success we’ve had over the past couple of years more than the players because they remember the times when Monroe was 0-12,” Bumpus said.
His wife Jennifer is an alum whom Bumpus met while playing at WSU. Their home is on the same street as Jennifer’s grandparents and parents, so a history lesson is always within reach.
Bumpus, 31, is forming his own identity through the football program. It’s his first as a head coach. He also worked as an offensive coordinator for Snohomish. Bumpus began his coaching career as an assistant at Redmond after reluctantly giving up a professional playing career.
The Seahawks signed Bumpus as an undrafted free agent in 2008. His last stop was in Spokane as part of the Arena Football League in 2010.
“This senior class, I trained most of them before I was their coach,” said Bumpus, who has three kids of his own. “Our relationship is crazy. No disrespect to their dads or moms, but those are like my kids. I’ve been invested in them before (Monroe). It’s a real small town like that. If you need some flour, you can go next door and get some.”
While Bumpus is close with the seniors, when he met them as eighth graders, he didn’t see them in the roles they’re playing. Isaiah Lewis trimmed 20 pounds from his frame to rush for 1,962 yards on 234 carries this season with 24 touchdowns.
State football quarterfinals
Richland at Gonzaga Prep
Skyline at Central Valley
Woodinville at Graham-Kapowsin
Monroe at Sumner
O’Dea at Ferndale
Eastside Catholic at Garfield
Rainier Beach at Peninsula
Timberline at Bellevue
North Kitsap at Archbishop Murphy
Tumwater at Steilacoom
Liberty at Hockinson
West Valley at Selah
Colville at Newport
Royal at Okanogan
La Center at Cascade christian
Montesano at Meridian
Pe Ell/Willapa Valley at Kalama
Napavine at Toledo
Davenport at Asotin
DeSales at Liberty
Garfield-Palouse at Odessa
Cusick at Sunnyside Christian
Almira/Coulee-Hartline at Naselle
Lummi at Tacoma Baptist
Ricky Baker unleashes a fire on defense to total 93 solo tackles this season as the starting middle linebacker while quarterback Jaedyn Prewitt made the biggest change. Once scrawny, Prewitt has thrown for 2,498 yards with 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions as a first-time starter under center.
“Nothing was given to Jaedyn, he earned everything,” Bumpus said. “I thought he may not ever see the field. But he was real smart. I called him my OC (offensive coordinator). I’d call a play and he’d tell me what he’d think would work and I’d look at him like, ‘Man, you’re right!’ He’s always had a football mind.”