CONNELL -- For most of its frigid, wind-charred Class 1A state playoff game against Okanogan, the Connell defense was at its menacing best with its back to the goalline.
"Most" meaning every play but one.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, that one vulnerable moment helped unravel a special season.
Okanogan running back Tyler Morris rushed for a 2-yard touchdown with 7:23 left in the fourth quarter to give the Bulldogs the winning margin in a 13-10 victory.
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In beating Connell for the second time this season, unranked Okanogan (10-1) advanced to the state quarterfinals, where it will face the winner of Saturday's first-round game between Cashmere and Meridian.
The Eagles (8-3) were eliminated.
Morris' touchdown came on the last of eight Okanogan snaps from inside the Connell 10 yard line during the game -- and the only one to yield points.
"I'm proud of our defense," said Eagles senior lineman Gregory Heinen. "We really manned up. Sometimes, we just couldn't stop them."
Just twice, actually, and the first time was fluky. Connell (8-3) was 19 seconds away from escaping to halftime with a 7-0 lead when Okanogan's Gabe Timentwa chucked a prayerful heave toward do-it-all teammate Justin Rivas in the corner of the end zone.
Timentwa's pass, on 4th-and-4 from the 24, wobbled through the air like a one-winged seagul. Rivas read its flight better than the swarm of Connell defenders around him, hanging back at the last second to make the catch.
Rivas hooked his point-after kick wide left, and Connell led 7-6. It could have been much, muh worse if not for a pair of goal-line stands earlier in the half, both coming after Eagles quarterback Austin Forsyth's 22-yard touchdown dime to Jacob Jenks on the home team's opening drive of the game.
Those stands -- the first forcing a turnover on downs after four futile Okanogan plays from inside the Connell 8, the second featuring backfield tackles by Mackenze Hopkins, Korbin Merrill and Lucas Williams in denying four snaps inside the 10 -- were the centerpieces of a near-heroic defensive effort by the Eagles. But as the Bulldog defense asserted itself, and as Rivas and his shifty, slashing doppleganger Morris continued their read-option assault on offense, an all-heroic effort became necessary.
"They just kept driving," Heinen said.
Connell netted negative-12 yards after its scoring drive in the first half. A promising march to open the second stalled around the 20, although David Nunez salvaged some momentum by knifing a 37-yard field goal through the howling wind for a 10-6 lead.
The next two Connell possessions were torpedoed by penalties.
The decisive sequence for Okanogan covered just 49 yards and was a masterpiece of resilience. Twice, the Bulldogs had long, chain-moving runs wiped out by penalties.
They simply kept peppering Connell's defense with doses of Morris (23 carries, 110 yards) and Rivas (six carries, 100 yards)."Those horses up front know what to do," said Morris. "When the second half came, our line came out ready to push when it counted."
Rivas skittered six yards to convert a 3rd-and-5 and then broke an 11-yarder to move Okanogan to the Connell 13. Morris was tripped up at the 2 on his next carry, and waltzed through a gaping hole for the game-winner on the ensuing play.
Gunner Vanderbilt rushed for 99 yards on 19 tough carries in his final game as an Eagle.
"We started out 0-2, and no one believed in us," said Heinen. "We beat fourth-ranked River View and shut out Royal for the first time. We came a long way."
Okanogan 0 6 0 7 -- 13
Connell 7 0 3 0 -- 10
C -- Jacob Jenks 22 pass from Austin Forsyth (David Nunez kick), 6:26
O -- Justin Rivas 24 pass from Gabe Timentwa (kick failed), :19.9
C -- Nunez 37 FG
O -- Tyler Morris 2 run (Arturo Ramos kick), 7:23
RUSHING -- O: Morris 23-110, Rivas 6-100, Poulin 4-4, Ramos 6-35; C: Vanderbilt 19-99, Gomez 3-9, Taylor 1-0, Forsyth 8-6.
PASSING -- O: Rivas 0-6, 1 INT, Timentwa 1-2, 22, 1 TD, Morris 0-1; C: Forsyth 4-17, 47, 1 TD.
RECEIVING -- O: Rivas 1-24; C: J. Jenks 2-26, Vanderbilt 1-(-1), Taylor 1-22.