CONNELL -- Who says a loss can't be a good thing?
While the Connell Eagles weren't happy with the 26-0 whooping Cashmere delivered two weeks ago, coach Wayne Riner also saw a marked improvement from his team in practice since then.
The Eagles, the defending Class 1A state champions, bounced back from the loss to hammer Kiona-Benton 77-20 on Friday.
"All of us needed that," Riner said of the loss. "We had gone 16-0 and were pretty happy with ourselves. I've been more motivated this week than in a long time. The kids responded well.
"The kids kind of thought they were unbeatable. I told them I wasn't mad at them, they just needed to get after it again."
The Eagles did just that in their league-opening rout, as quarterback Chandler Salisbury threw for 267 yards and five touchdowns and running back Matt Hadley rushed for 96 yards and three touchdowns.
"Everyone is trying to stop the run," Riner said. "But we really have a good passing attack. We don't just throw to one guy. We have five different receivers who can catch the ball. You can't focus on one guy. We are well-balanced."
While Riner was happy with his offense, he was more pleased with his defense.
"We are still trying to find a new combination of things," he said. "We are moving some guys around to try to get quicker on defense. We are too slow."
Connell travels to Columbia-Burbank (0-2 league, 1-3 overall) at 7 p.m. Friday.
The Coyotes are coming off a tough loss and face more than just a stout team Friday.
"There is a flu and a head cold going around," coach Rich Harris said. "Hopefully we'll have everyone healthy by Friday."
The Coyotes lost on a late touchdown to River View in Week 3 and have struggled out of the gates, playing a tough schedule.
Having to face the daunting task of playing Connell this week is no easier.
"We have to get past the Connell mystique," Harris said. "We have to go out and play our game."
Quarterback Heath Lawrence, who threw two touchdown passes last week, and running back Forest Gordon, who rushed for 60 yards and a score, will both need big games for the Coyotes to topple the Eagles.
River View: Teaching kids to perform well in late pressure situations is a tough task, but Panthers head coach Brett Jay did that through a tough early season schedule.
The Panthers (2-0, 2-2) scored with 45 seconds left to defeat rival Burbank last week, as backup kicker Diego Marquez provided the winning margin with a PAT.
"We have been in that position before and lost," said Jay, citing his team's 3-0 loss to Goldendale in Week 2. "I think that helped us this time."
The Panthers have 20 seniors, giving them plenty of experience on both sides of the ball, led by defensive back Tucker Hamlin, who had three interceptions.
Offensively, Chance Watt rushed for 175 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Austin Weatherby threw for a score and ran one in.
"It was mayhem," Jay said. "It was just a great experience for both programs. It was a playoff atmosphere. I think we are better off for our tough schedule."