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Friday, December 1, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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1A Football Preview | Connell vs. Meridian

Connell Eagles

Coach: Wayne Riner, 64-17 in six years at Connell.

Season snapshot: 13-0, SCAC East champions. After a tough, season-opening win over Othello, the top-ranked Eagles have had only two other close calls — a 31-29 win over Royal in which Raul Farias kicked a 32-yard field goal with 3 seconds left, and last week's 28-21 semifinal win over Montesano.

Scouting report: Connell thrives on big plays, especially from junior Spencer Hadley (14 of the team's 38 TDs longer than 20 yards), and Montesano's ability to limit them in the semifinal game caused the Eagles problems.

Three to watch

The QB tandem of Kirk Taylor and Brett Clyde are a combined 131 of 227 for 2,331 yards and 38 TDs with 11 interceptions.

RB Adam Orozco has 1,873 yards and 26 TDs on 235 carries.

WR Hadley has 54 catches for 950 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Numerology: 38.5. Average margin of victory this season.

Playoff pedigree: 16 trips, won state title in 2002 under Riner, lost in finals in 1973. Lost in semifinals the previous two seasons to the eventual champion (Othello in 2004, Pullman in 2005).

Quick kick: "Meridian is like us in a lot of ways, but I think our special teams are better. Our return game with Spencer is better, and our kicking game is way better." — Riner.

Inside slant: Offensive coordinator Clint Didier, a Connell native, played on a pair of Super Bowl championship teams with the Washington Redskins (1983, 1988).

René Ferrán

Meridian Trojans

Coach: Bob Ames, 234-113 in 30 seasons at Meridian.

Season snapshot: 13-0, Northwest 2A Conference champions. The Trojans had the more difficult road to Tacoma, beating Kalama 21-14 in the quarterfinals and two-time state champion Royal 13-7 in overtime in the semis.

Scouting report: Meridian had been using a spread passing attack, but last week against Royal the Trojans went back to an old-fashioned power running game to control the clock and turn momentum in their favor.

Three to watch

QB Tyler Slesk isn't a prototypical pocket passer (he's listed at 5-4, 130), but he's been very effective, completing 196 of 287 passes for 2,884 yards and 38 TDs with only seven interceptions.

WR Brett Himes has 56 catches for 820 yards and 8 TDs.

RB Sean Hurlbut is equally good as a running back (743 yards and 9 TDs, including the winning score against Royal) and as a receiver (32 catches for 493 yards and 4 TDs).

Numerology: 46. Plays run by Meridian in the second half and overtime last week against Royal last week, 26 more than Royal.

Playoff pedigree: 15 trips, 2-2 in previous finals appearances, winning the title in 1999 and 2003 as a 2A school and losing in 1984 (1A) and 2000 (2A).

Quick kick: "We're playing a very, very good team. I think we're fortunate to get second place at state." — Bob Ames

Inside slant: Ames is one of seven active coaches with more than 200 career victories — and the only one in the Gridiron Classic.

René Ferrán

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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