CONNELL -- The Connell football team needed someone to make a big play Friday and Kade Eppich was more than happy to do so.
With its normally potent rushing attack slowed down, the Eagles got some much-needed offense from their 6-foot-3 wide receiver.
He also provided some stellar defense to help lead Connell to a grind-out 26-7 Class 1A state playoff victory Friday over Freeman.
"The coaches were saying you have to step up in these big games," Eppich said. "We just came up with the big plays when we needed them."
Eppich provided two nearly back-to-back in the second quarter to help the Eagles jump out to a lead they would never relinquish.
Trailing 6-0 on two Garrett Salisbury field goals, Freeman was marching down the field when Eppich intercepted a long throw by quarterback Cody Unfred.
"He looked it down and it was poorly thrown," Eppich said, "and I went to go get it, I guess."
Eppich ran nearly across the field to pick off he high-arcing pass.
Six plays later, Eppich was on the receiving end of a Chandler Salisbury bullet. Eppich took the pass 40 yards to the house for a 13-0 lead.
"It was a little slant and the corner was on my right," Eppich said. "It was thrown perfectly between the safety and the corner."
It was one five receptions on the night for Eppich, all of which were for more than 10 yards.
"We are lucky to have talented receivers as well as a great running back," Connell lineman Cole Vanderbilt said.
The victory puts Connell back into the quarterfinals, where it will face Cashmere at 1 p.m. next Saturday, most likely in Wenatchee.
On Friday, the Eagles weren't quite done with the big plays, as on the very next play a poor pitch by Unfred hit the turf and Connell's Tyson Brook recovered.
After a nice sweep by Austin Huber, Connell's Matt Hadley scored his lone touchdown of the night from 8 yards out.
The Eagles appeared primed to run away with the game, but turnovers plagued the offense the rest of the night and Connell had to rely on its strong defense to close out the game.
Hadley intercepted two passes and Chandler Salisbury and Vanderbilt came up with plenty of tackles, as the Eagles held the Scotties to just seven second-half first downs -- with three of those coming by penalty.
"We just had to go back to playing our base defense," Vanderbilt said. "Once we got into five down linemen, we shut down their counter."
The Eagles' ground game eventually got untracked, running out the final six minutes on a blustery night.
Salisbury finished 12-for-20 for 179 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Eppich had the five catches for 98 yards, while Ryan Heinen had three receptions for 49 yards.
Hadley rushed 25 times for 131 yards and a touchdown. Brook had the other touchdown on a 5-yard catch.
Now, the Eagles get their rematch with No. 1 Cashmere, the lone team to beat Connell this season.
"We've been waiting for this game all year," Vanderbilt said. "Everyone on this team wants this game."
As was evidenced by the big plays Friday.
Freeman 0 0 7 0 — 7
Connell 6 14 6 0 — 26
C—FG Garrett Salisbury 35
C—FG G. Salisbury 31
C—Kade Eppich 9 pass from Chandler Salisbury (G. Salisbury kick)
C—Matt Hadley 8 run (G. Salisbury kick)
F—Hayden Laabs 6 pass from Wyatt Smith (Derek Harter kick)
C—Tyson Brook 5 pass from C. Salisbury (kick failed)
Rushing—Freeman, Quinn Robinson 9-15, Laabs 6-21, Robbie McClure 3-4, Justin Barrong 2-15, Wyatt Smith 1-9, Christian Dresback 2-(-1), Cody Unfred 6-(-7). Connell, Hadley 25-131, Brook 9-39, C. Salisbury 4-15, Austin Huber 3-20, Colton Thornton 1-2, Raul Gomez 1-1, team 1-(-2).
Passing—Freeman, Unfred 7-14-1—71, Smith 7-15-1—52. Connell, C. Salisbury 12-20-2—179, Hadley 0-1-1—0.
Receiving—Freeman, Kian Gentman 6-60, Robinson 3-21, Derek Harter 2-21, Barrong 2-18, Colin Ayers 1-3. Connell, Eppich 5-98, Ryan Heinen 3-49, Brook 3-14, Huber 1-8.
Fumbles—Freeman, 1-1; Connell, 0-0. Penalties-yards—Freeman, 2-20; Connell, 8-70. First downs—Freeman, 11; Connell, 24.