Clampdown defense marked the Connell effort in last weekend's 20-9 Class 1A state quarterfinal victory over top-ranked Cashmere.
The Eagles will try to do it again this weekend when they face Chelan in Moses Lake for a berth in the state championship game at the Tacoma Dome.
Connell held Cashmere to 38 total yards and one trip to the end zone -- a monumental accomplishment considering the Bulldogs averaged 49 points per game before last Saturday's contest in Wenatchee.
The Eagles employed a 4-2-5 defense to prevent Cashmere from attacking an open field. Connell's hard hitters were out in force, including nose guard Tyson Brook, who bullied Cashmere quarterback Casey Ruether all day.
"He piledrived him three times and just dumped him," Connell coach Wayne Riner said.
Brook was motivated to knock off the Bulldogs, who defeated Connell 47-14 earlier this year, and keep his senior season going.
"I was told at the beginning of the game this could be my last game ever, and I didn't want it to be," Brook said. "So I knew we all needed to have a game, and I was just one of the many to have a good game."
The Eagles started sophomore inside linebacker Gunner Vanderbilt and junior defensive end Carter Chase to shut down the running backs, who couldn't generate much speed on a snowy field.
"We came out to play," said Vanderbilt, who will start again this weekend. "We stopped the run. We stopped the pass. We stopped everything they had."
Saturday, the Eagles (11-1) might need everything they have and then some to subdue Chelan dual-threat quarterback Michael Amsel Jr.
"He's an 18-year-old junior. When he was a freshman, he was 16. He's not your typical junior," Riner said.
Amsel missed the first three games of the season, including a 35-0 loss to Connell on Sept. 9, but returned with big numbers. He has passed for 1,174 yards, rushed for 939 and accounted for 28 touchdowns for Chelan (9-3).
"He's a Michael Vick-type quarterback in high school," Riner said of Amsel, who ran track for the Goats the past two seasons. "He's a scary athlete. He can rush for 160 and throw for 200."
Though Amsel has given opposing offenses fits all season, Connell is 3-0 lifetime against him. In those games, the Goats only mustered a combined 27 points, with Amsel rushing for 84 yards on 27 carries and throwing five interceptions.
"We bottled him up, and we didn't give up big plays," Riner said. "But he doesn't get rattled. He's a free spirit."
It doesn't mean the Eagles still won't try to raise Amsel's hackles. They're focused on rendering Amsel ineffective, as well as senior running back Cole Schwartz (119 carries, 858 yards). Connell succeeded in stopping Schwartz earlier this season, letting him get just eight touches.
"They're not a smash-mouth team, they're a finesse team," Riner said. "They want the big play."
On Saturday, the Eagles will do their best to make a few big plays on the other side of the ball.
w Katie Dorsey: 582-1526; firstname.lastname@example.org