ROYAL CITY -- Defensive stops had been hard to come by Friday night.
Both the Royal and Connell offenses had been having their way, but Connell's Ryan Heinen came up with the big play when his team needed it most.
Heinen intercepted a pass to help keep the Eagles in front and set up a crucial touchdown as Connell defeated Royal 49-28 in an SCAC East game.
"It was a pretty high throw, but I figured I might as well jump," Heinen said. "I tipped it a few times and was able to come down with it and tried to score."
Heinen didn't score, but quarterback Chandler Salisbury did two plays later on a keeper for a 42-28 lead with 5 minutes to go in the game.
"(Heinen) made a heck of a play," Connell coach Wayne Riner said. "He had a big game. So did Tyson (Brook)."
Midway through the fourth quarter, Connell had gone on top when Matt Hadley took a handoff around the left end and then made a nice cutback to juke the last Royal defender, scoring from 60 yards out to put the Eagles on top 35-28 with 5:58 left in the game.
"When our offensive line gets going, we get going," Riner said. "If you can get Hadley past the initial line of defenders, he can take it."
The Eagles tacked on a final touchdown after holding Royal on a three-and-out.
Brook punched it in from the 6 to cap the Eagles' third consecutive SCAC East title.
"It's really good," Brook said of the win. "We love these guys, but on the field we kind of hate them. It's a love-hate relationship."
For the first three-and-a-half quarters Friday, the fans were loving it, as both teams moved the ball at will.
Royal used its speed on the outside to give Connell problems, and took advantage of a banged-up Eagles secondary to pass at will.
The Eagles used a steady dose of Hadley and some strong throwing from Salisbury to create problems for the undersized Knights.
The difference in the game ended up being Hadley's decision to start cutting to the outside -- a change that helped net the senior running back 271 yards and three touchdowns, on runs of 24, 62 and 60 yards.
"They had eight in the box and I was trying to run downhill," Hadley said. "That was my fault. I should have recognized it earlier. My coach told me to kick it outside and I trusted him and did. The line did a good job of sealing the blocks."
While Hadley was busy getting his on offense, Heinen and Brook made big defensive play after big defensive play.
"It is so nice as a defensive back to have those two playing in front of you," Hadley said. "They were the defensive players of the game in my book. I'm just so proud of the guys, they showed a lot of heart tonight."
Brook finished with 61 yards rushing on 10 carries and a touchdown.
Salisbury was 12-of-17 for 148 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Alex Myrick was 8-of-14 for 177 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions to lead Royal.
Christian Guerrero had three receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown, and he recovered a Myrick fumble in the end zone to record the first Royal touchdown.
"You get the momentum at the end of a game like that and it turns quick," Royal coach Wiley Allred said. "We feel like we can play with the best teams in the state now."
Both teams had already clinched playoff spots, though the Eagles will have the tougher road to travel to reach the state game again.
Connell will have Chelan and Cashmere on its side of the bracket.
* Craig Craker: 582-1509; email@example.com; Twitter.com/craig_craker
Connell 49, Royal 28
Connell 7 7 7 21 -- 49
Royal 7 7 7 7 -- 28
Con--Hadley 24 run (Garrett Salisbury kick)
Roy--Christian Guerrero fumble recovery (Joe Gaxiola)
Con--Tyson Brook 9 run (Salisbury kick)
Roy-Christian Guerrero 35 pass from Alex Myrick (Gaxiola kick)
Roy--Myrick 5 run (Gaxiola kick)
Con--Hadley 62 run (Salisbury kick)
Con--Ryan Heinen 22 pass from Chandler Salisbury (G. Salisbury kick)
Roy--Brady Dixon 23 pass from Myrick (Gaxiola kick)
Con--Hadley 60 run (G. Salisbury kick)
Con--C. Salisbury 3 run (G. Salisbury kick)
Con--Brook 6 run (G. Salisbury kick)
Rushing--Connell: Hadley 24-271, Brook 10-61, C. Salisbury 6-21, team 1-(-1). Royal: Alex Ramirez 19-94, Myrick 14-35, Damien Delarosa 1-0, team 1-(-2).
Passing--Connell: C. Salisbury 12-17-1--148, Hadley 0-1-0--0. Royal: Myrick 8-14-2--177, Daniel Vermeer 0-1-0--0.
Receiving--Connell: Heinen 5-80, Brook 2-43, Kade Eppich 4-22, Hadley 1-1. Royal: Guerrero 3-69, Delarosa 3-52, Ramirez 1-33, Dixon 1-23.
First downs: C, 19; R, 13. Fumbles-lost: C, 2-1; R, 3-0. Penalties-yards: C, 5-55; R, 3-20.