The record-setting running back had 168 yards and three touchdowns as the Eagles claimed their second state championship in three years.
TACOMA — His numbers are numbing.
With 6,881 career rushing yards and a record 746 points, Matt Hadley is clearly one of best prep football players in state history.
But the only number the Connell senior cares about is two — the number of state titles he has helped his team win over the past three years.
Hadley rushed for 168 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Eagles to a 28-7 victory over Cascade Christian of Puyallup in the Class 1A championship game Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
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“That’s the only thing that matters to me, and that’s the only thing that’s mattered all season, is winning games,” Hadley said, “winning games with these guys, with my teammates and with my brothers, getting the job done.”
The Eagles also got the job done in 2009 with a win over Cascade Christian in the title game, but lost to the Cougars in last year’s final despite Hadley’s 144 yards and four touchdowns.
Connell (13-1) led just 14-7 at halftime before Hadley, who has committed to Brigham Young, broke touchdown runs of 40 and 70 yards to seal the victory.
“Man, he’s a beast,” Cascade Christian senior Jeff Archer said. “He’s got Marshawn Lynch beast mode. You cannot bring that guy down with one man. He’s a tough guy to plan for.”
The Cougars (10-3) were in the title game for the fourth straight year and were hoping for their second title, despite returning just four starters.
Things started well for them as their line-drive opening kickoff bounced off a Connell player and was recovered by Josh Bagley at the Eagles’ 43-yard line. A pair of pass-interference calls helped set up Hunter Austin’s 3-yard touchdown run, and Cascade Christian led 7-0 less than four minutes into the game.
But it was all Connell from there. It was 7-7 after Chandler Salisbury fired a 44-yard touchdown pass to Kade Eppich with just 20 seconds left in the half — a play that would have been just a 14-yard pickup if not for a defensive miscue.
Cascade Christian made several uncharacteristic mistakes. Freshman quarterback Jaelin Goldsmith threw four interceptions, matching his season total coming in. Eppich had three of those to tie a 1A championship-game record.
The other interception was by Hadley, who stepped in front of the intended receiver on a fourth-and-goal play at the 2 late in the third quarter.
Cascade Christian coach Randy Davis credited Connell.
“That’s a good team, a really good team,” he said. “We just didn’t make the plays when we had chances.”
C. Christian — Hunter Austin 3 run (Andrei Dyson kick)
Connell — Matt Hadley 1 run (Garrett Salisbury kick)
Connell — Kade Eppich 44 pass from Chandler Salisbury (Garrett Salisbury kick)
Connell — Matt Hadley 40 run (Garrett Salisbury kick)
Connell — Matt Hadley 70 run (Garrett Salisbury kick)
|Time of Possession||26:54||21:06|
Rushing — Connell, Matt Hadley 21-168, Tyson Brook 6-10, Chandler Salisbury 1-3, Kyle Pruett 1-(-8). Cascade Christian, Alex Milton 11-36, Kyle Crawford 2-25, Jaelin Goldsmith 4-(-22), Hunter Austin 5-12, Nathan Roosendaal 2-4, Nate Brar 2-26.
Passing — Connell, Salisbury 8-1-1 107. Cascade Christian, Goldsmith 11-29-4 102.
Receiving — Connell, Kade Eppich 4-72, Ryan Heinen 4-35. Cascade Christian, Joshua Shreffler 1-6, Jake Archer 3-27, Nathan Roosendaal 5-67, Milton 1-(-3), Brar 1-5.