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Ferndale needed a little - and Isaiah Carlson provided so much more in 3A Wesco-clinching win

Carlson's 94-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run is game's pivotal play as the Golden Eagles edge No. 6 Monroe, 34-28

MONROE, Wash. - With game-changing plays happening at a furious rate, it was difficult to predict which of them would prove the difference in the 3A Wesco championship game.

Ultimately, the honor went to Ferndale running back Isaiah Carlson.

It came midway through the fourth quarter, two plays after Ferndale completed a goal-line stand that included three Monroe tries at a game-tying touchdown from inside the 1-yard line.

Moments after Ferndale recovered a fumble on fourth down of that drive, Carlson needed 6 yards to get the Golden Eagles a first down and a little breathing room.

He got 94 yards and the eventual game-winning touchdown in Ferndale’s 34-28 league championship victory over the host sixth-ranked Bearcats on Friday night.

"I got through there, and saw I had one man left to beat," Carlson said. "The linemen got on men. He took a bad angle and it was a house call then."

Carlson’s run was the third scoring play of more than 90 yards in the game, fitting snugly between two Monroe kickoff returns of 97 and 92 yards in the first half that helped to forge a 21-21 tie at the half.

The first of those big special teams plays came immediately after Ferndale took the initial lead, 7-0, on the first of Carlson’s three total touchdowns with 9:39 remaining in the first quarter. Now trailing, Beau Pruett fielded the ball at the 3 and started up field. Two cuts later, he was free and racing to the other end for the tying score with 9:25 to go in the quarter.

Then with 6:27 remaining in the first half, just after Ferndale had tied the game at 14-14, it was Mason Davis that took a ball after it bounced at the 8, turned up and weaved his way for 92 yards and a 21-14 lead.

"You don’t usually recover from two big special-teams plays like that," Ferndale coach Jaime Plenkovich said. "This was big. It was a Wesco championship. It means maybe we get to play a home playoff game next week. And maybe it was a little sweeter because it was the same team as last year."

A year ago, these same teams met for the league title. Monroe won that one, 29-27, but then lost to Lakes in the Week 10 district round. All teams that have earned district playoff games will find out who and where they play on Sunday.

"It’s not ideal," Monroe coach Scott Darrow said. "We made some mistakes. You play a good team like that and you make some mistakes, what it comes down to in these big games is who makes less, and they made less mistakes than us."

The loss was the first of the season for Monroe, which will take an 8-1 record into the post-season. Ferndale improved to 7-2 overall coming out of the Wesco North.

The Bearcats added a third huge play in the final minute of the game, converting a halfback pass from Kody Edelbrock to Davis for a 78-yard touchdown with 59 seconds to go to play that cut the margin to the final score.

The bigger chances to win this one came earlier in the contest for the Bearcats, though. Beyond the lost fumble after three tries inside the 1 were stuffed by the Ferndale defense just before Carlson’s long run, Monroe turned the ball over three other times on interceptions thrown by quarterback Blake Springer.

In all, Monroe put together only three truly sustained offensive drives all game, and scored on just one of those.

"You’ve got to give their defense a lot of credit," Darrow said. "I don’t know if their back end is really that good, but they played well tonight. They had us covered over the top all game. When we can’t do what we do, it’s tough. I know that is a team we can beat, but not playing like we played tonight."

After a half, Monroe had 97 total yards of offense, but 198 yards and two scores in kickoff return yardage. On the other side, Ferndale ran and ran, led by Carlson’s 178 yards and those three touchdowns on 26 carries.