From 0-2 to league champs, the Connell football team stunned undefeated River View with a 24-14 win in Finley to grab the SCAC East crown.
Defensive back Jacob Jenks made three monstrous plays, Greg Heinen and the rest of the defensive line gave the River View offense fits, and running back Gunner Vanderbilt rushed for 199 yards to lead the Eagles to the victory.
“I don’t think we were on anyone’s radar,” Connell coach Wayne Riner said. “I think we’ve got some people’s attention now.”
The Eagles (5-0 league, 6-2 overall) surely do after a dominating performance Friday.
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They held the Panthers without a point until the fourth quarter, tripled River View quarterback Ruvim Tyutyunnik’s interceptions for the season and blocked a punt.
“We knew we had to pass rush (Tyutyunnik) and our goal was to hit him hard,” Connell lineman Greg Heinen said. “We had to work our hearts out.”
It started with Jenks.
He blocked a punt on River View’s first series, and while Connell didn’t score it started a field game battle that ended two series later with an Eagles field goal for an early 3-0 lead.
In the third quarter with the Eagles clinging to a 10-0 lead, the Panthers finally got their offense going, driving down to the 9, but Jenks read Tyutyunnik and intercepted him at the 1.
Three players later, Vanderbilt scored on a 55-yard run for a 17-0 lead.
“I saw him open up and point his shoulders,” Jenks said. “I was lucky enough to be there.”
River View wasn’t done, though, as Tyutyunnik bounced right back and led the Panthers on a seven-play, 64-yard drive capped by a 15-yard pass to make it 17-7.
After forcing a three-and-out, River View’s Terran Brown took the ensuing punt on one bounce and went 61 yards to set up a Tyutyunnik 1-yard touchown run and suddenly it was 17-14.
All of Connell’s strong play looked like it might be for naught, as the Panthers had grabbed the momentum.
But the Eagles kept to their gameplan of giving the ball to Vanderbilt and he rewarded them with a 42-yard run down the right side to the 1.
Austin Forsyth, who scored the team’s first touchdown on a 47-yard run, then scored, but it was called back for an aiding the runner penalty.
Two plays later, though, Vanderbilt would not be denied, taking a pitch and scoring from 9 yards to cap the scoring.
“My line, they all pulled out and made an opening,” Vanderbilt said. “It feels really good to be able to beat them. We deserved it.”
The game wasn’t quite over, though, as the Panthers immediately went into a hurry up offense and began marching, but on a third-down play, Jenks was the hero again.
He stepped up and picked off another Tyutyunnik pass and the Eagles salted the game away.
“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for much more. The team too, they did their best.”
The Eagles have now won six in a row after an 0-2 start with losses to Othello and Okanogan. The victory means Connell will host the No. 3 team out of the SCAC West in a crossover game in two weeks and with a win there, will host a first round state playoff as well.
“We didn’t give up on the season and now we’re here,” Heinen said. “Two home playoff games and league champs. We kept working hard every day.”
For River View, the loss ended a dream of going undefeated in the regular season and capturing its first league title since 2001.
The Panthers were playing without top running back Alonso Mendoza and it showed, as they turned into a one-dimensional offense that couldn’t keep the pressure off of Tyutyunnik.
The junior quarterback finished 21-of-41 for 247 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran for 18 yards and a touchdown.
Vanderbilt had the 199 yards on 30 carries with two touchdowns, while Forsyth rushed for 90 yards on 11 carries with a score.
Heinen and Gage Taylor had sacks, and Taylor recovered a fumble.
Connell 3 7 0 14 — 24
River View 0 0 0 14 — 14
Connell—FG David Nunez 28, 4:33
Connell—Austin Forsyth 47 run (Nunez kick), 2:50
Connell—Gunner Vanderbilt 55 run (Nunez kick), 10:40
River View—Terran Brown 15 pass from Ruvim Tyutyunnik (Victor Manzo kick), 7:11
River View—Tyutyunnik 1 run (Manzo kick), 4:01
Connell—Vanderbilt 9 run (Nunez kick), 2:55
RUSHING—Connell, Vanderbilt 30-199, Forsyth 11-90, Raul Gomez 4-9, team 3-(-6). River View, Tyutyunnik 11-18, Joel Rodriguez 1-0, team 3-(-48).
PASSING—Connell, Forsyth 2-10-0—23. River View, Tyutyunnik 21-41-2—247, team 0-2-0—0.
RECEIVING—Connell, Andrew Plake 2-23. River View, Terran Brown 6-69, Cody Hand 4-58, Chance Simpson 4-57, Tanner Brown 4-43, Chance Williamson 1-23, Dakota Rogers 1-2, Frampton 1-(-5).
INTERCEPTIONS-YARDS—Connell, Jacob Jenks 2-14.
FUMBLES-YARDS—Connell, Gage Taylor 1-0. River View, Kyle Dennis 1-0.
SACKS-YARDS—Connell, Greg Heinen 1-11, Taylor 1-0. River View, Gerardo Robledo 1-6.
KICK RETURNS-YARDS—Connell, Raul Gomez 1-15, Brenden Turner 1-9. River View, Brown 1-17, Jake Frampton 1-9, Tanner Brown 1-2.
PUNT RETURNS-YARDS—Connell, Brenden Turner 2-47. River View, Terran Brown 2-62.
FIRST DOWNS—C 10, RV 13. FUMBLES-LOST—C 1-1, RV 5-1. PENALTIES-YARDS—C 9-60, RV 8-94. PUNTS-AVG.—C4-29, RV 6-30.8