CONNELL -- Matt Hadley showed why he is one of the best running backs in the state Friday.
The Connell junior ran around, past and away from Royal defenders.
At the end of the night, Hadley had set a career record for rushing yards and scored four touchdowns to lead the Eagles to a 50-14 romp to take sole possession of first place in the SCAC East division.
"Right now, I'm just really tired," Hadley said of rushing for more than 300 yards for the first time in his career. "It feels really good how well the team did, giving me the opportunity to have those yards. It's an accomplishment."
The Eagles (7-1 overall, 5-0 league) offensive line churned up the Royal defense throughout, carving huge holes for Hadley to hit. Even when the line didn't give him gigantic holes to run through, Hadley made up for it with his tackle-breaking ability.
"He ran well," Connell head coach Wayne Riner said. "Our line did a great job and the receivers did a good job of blocking.
"He has unbelievable vision and it was just a good night for us."
Hadley rushed for 303 yards on 25 carries and three touchdowns. He also returned a free kick 64 yards for a touchdown and had a 42-yard kickoff return that set up another Connell score.
"The great thing about (Hadley) is he lets us know that we are a part of it," Connell offensive lineman Tyson Brook said. "It's fun to watch him play."
Friday's game was billed as being just another in a long rivalry of close games, but from the start Connell flexed its muscles and showed it is definitely capable of winning another state championship.
"We got it handed to us pretty good," Royal head coach Wiley Allred said. "They proved they are a state championship caliber team. Their offensive line did a great job, they were just bigger than us.
"With Hadley behind them, it's a pretty tough combination."
After Royal's defense held Connell on its first possession, the Eagles got a safety when Royal quarterback Alex Myrick was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone.
On the ensuing free kick, Hadley caught the ball and immediately ran left toward a large group of players. He was supposed to hand the ball off to a teammate as part of a reverse, but instead he rumbled right through the pack and was off to the races for a quick 9-0 lead, less than 4 minutes into the game.
"It was supposed to be a reverse," Hadley said, "but I saw it open up. I figured if I hit it, I could break it."
Hadley wasn't done, rushing for 20-yard and 47-yard scores in the second quarter and capping his night with a 6-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
"The rushing yards go under my name, but it's the team's yards," Hadley said. "They earned it. They did a tremendous job blocking tonight."
After jumping out to a 19-0 lead, Royal got on the board when Dylan Delay made a nice catch in between two defenders. Myrick found Delay down the left side for a 26-yard touchdown to pull the Knights within 19-7.
Hadley and the Eagles immediately put a stop to any Royal upset thoughts, though.
After a 6-yard run by Bryant Anderson, Hadley went over the left tackle, cut back to the right and was gone for 47 yards down the sideline to ice the game.
"We stayed pumped up when we got ahead," Brook said. "We didn't want to let them back into it."
The Eagles rushed for 340 yards on the night, and quarterback Chandler Salisbury was 7-of-10 for 70 yards and a touchdown. Kicker Ivan Barragan also booted field goals of 32- and 43-yards.
"We played good smash mouth football," Riner said. "That's what we should be. Our offensive line studded up."
Myrick was 16-of-36 for 163 yards with one interception and two touchdowns.
* Craig Craker: 509-582-1509; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Connell 50, Royal 14
Royal 0 7 0 7 -- 14
Connell 12 14 10 14 -- 50
Con--Matt Hadley 64 kickoff return (Ivan Barragan kick).
Con--FG Barragan 32.
Con--Hadley 20 run (Barragan kick).
Roy--Dylan Delay 26 pass from Alex Myrick (Shaq Ledezma kick).
Con--Hadley 47 run (Barragan kick).
Con--FG Barragan 43.
Con-- Bryant Andersen 9 pass from Chandler Salisbury (Barragan kick).
Roy--Kyle Spartveit 9 pass from Myrick (Ledezma kick).
Con--James Coulson 23 run (Barragan kick).
Con--Hadley 6 run (Barragan kick).
RUSHING--R, Delay 11-52, Ledezma 1-11, Spartveit 2-9, Christian Guerrero 1-8, Alex Ramirez 1-7, Brady Dixon 1-0, Myrick 15-(-2). C, Hadley 25-303, Coulson 6-38, Andersen 2-10, Kyle Pruett 2-8, Travis Butcher 3-7, Salisbury 2-2, team 2-(-28).
PASSING--R, Myrick 16-36-1--163; C, Salisbury 7-10-0--70.
RECEIVING--R, Ledezma 7-64, Daniel Vermeer 3-24, Spartveit 3-18, Dixon 2-31, Delay 1-26. C, Andersen 5-50, Hadley 1-17, Kraymer Eppich 1-3.
FIRST DOWNS--R, 16; C, 16. FUMBLES-LOST--R, 1-1; C, 4-2. PENALTIES-YARDS--R, 2-10; C, 7-70.