After a two-year break, River Hill football is back in a familiar position: playing for a state title.
The Hawks (11-2), who won back-to-back 2A championships in 2007 and 2008 and lost in the 3A championship game in 2006, will now play Thomas Johnson (10-3) in the 3A state title game, Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium.
River Hill defeated visiting Aberdeen Friday night, 41-7, in a game that was never close.
Senior quarterback Raamah Vaughn rushed for a 43 yard touchdown and threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Davis Grove, all in the first quarter, and finished with 10 rushes for 85 yards including three touchdown runs. Junior Evan Griffin scored twice, on long runs of 35 yards and 25 yards, and finished with 98 yards on eight carries. But neither of those players was the team's leading rusher. Senior Aaron Wells finished with 19 carries for 104 yards.
"We really mix it up and at the beginning we didn't do that but now teams don't know where the ball's going," Griffin said.
The River Hill running game produced 316 yards and five touchdowns on 50 attempts. Aberdeen, on the other hand, amassed 2 yards on 24 carries.
"We were able to get balance in our run game and we completed a pass early which was big because I think it softened them up a little and helped us pound the ball a little more," River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen said. "They had the size, they were a little bit bigger than us ... but our guys just finished their blocks and kept blocking until the whistle, and we hurt them with some misdirection plays."
And the River Hill defense — led by linemen Jason Johnson, Alec Rau and Logan Kirby, and linebackers Davis Grove, Ryan Higgins, Riley Davis, Stephan Osong and Emmett Brew — was in the Aberdeen backfield all night, sacking quarterback Kenny Faulcon seven times and pressuring him on virtually every play.
"We couldn't get a snap off, we were confused up front. They seemed a little more experienced than we were up front, we haven't seen that type of defense this year," first-year Aberdeen coach Johnny Brooks said. "We couldn't get the passing game or the running game going ... they just outplayed us today, they're just a good team."
In all, the Eagles had 15 plays that lost yardage and finished with four first downs (compared to 18 for River Hill) and 68 yards of total offense. The Eagles were 0-for-10 on third down situations.
"We knew coming in that our defensive line was quicker than theirs so we just performed our slants very well," Jason Johnson said. "Our slants confused them a lot and our defensive line is a very strong point on our team."
In the first half, River Hill had 216 yards of total offense, while Aberdeen had -20, including a loss of 32 yards on a botched punt play that gave River Hill the ball inside Aberdeen's five-yard line with only 13 seconds left in the second quarter. Four seconds later, Vaughn scored to give his team a 20-0 halftime lead.
The Eagles' one moment of excitement came in the third quarter when Faulcon scrambled and found receiver Chavez Cheatam for an 81-yard touchdown, briefly making it a 27-7 game. That score came three minutes into the third quarter, and was Aberdeen's first first down of the game.
Coming into the game, Aberdeen had averaged 212 rushing yards, 198.5 passing yards and more than 32 points per game. Faulcon had thrown for 2,319 yards and 26 TDs, and top receiver Christian Carpenter had caught 64 passes for 1,112 yards and 14 TDs. On Friday, Carpenter was held to one catch for two yards.
"We didn't give (Faulcon) much time to throw at all, this is the best pass offense we've seen ... so we worked on that all week and the main way to stop it was to not give him time," Van Deusen said. "And when he did get the ball off we were in the right spot and we had good coverage."
River Hill has now won nine games in a row since a two-game slide to Atholton and Hammond in mid-September.
"After our losses we knew that we had to come back stronger ... and build our way back to the top, we knew we had it in us but we had to prove it to everybody else," Jason Johnson said. "We're right where we thought we would be."
Thomas Johnson defeated Huntingtown, 12-3, in the other 3A state semifinal game.
Ab (10-3) 0 0 7 0 - 7
RH (11-2) 14 6 14 7 - 41
RH: Vaughn 43 run (Grove kick), 7:40.
RH: Grove 36 pass from Vaughn (Grove kick), 3:07.
RH: Vaughn 3 run (kick failed), :09.
RH: Griffin 35 run (Grove kick), 10:16.
Ab: Cheatam 81 pass from Faulcon (Bonsall kick), 9:10.
RH: Vaughn 5 run (Grove kick), 3:06.
RH: Griffin 25 run (Grove kick), 11:08.