The balance of power in Howard County football has shifted.
On Friday night in Clarksville, visiting Atholton shut out River Hill, 14-0.
Last Oct. 1, Atholton shocked the Hawks, 10-0, ending a 48-game league winning streak.
"Last year was kind of a cool thing, like 'Wow, we beat River Hill!' but this year we kind of expected it," Atholton quarterback Brian McMahon said. "A lot of us were saying in school today that we had a feeling that we would come out here and do something like this."
The Raiders controlled the game for 48 minutes, but missed out on scoring opportunities throughout.
With 25 seconds left in the first quarter, McMahon threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to DeQuan Ellison (8 catches, 108 yards) on 4th-and-10. It turned out to be the game winner.
"We realized that they had aggressive corners, so DeQuan and I did a double move," said McMahon, who passed for 185 yards and rushed for 78 more. "I put it up there and DeQuan gets pretty much everything I put up there for him."
But after the touchdown, Atholton threw an interception into the endzone, fumbled on the Hawks 25-yard line, punted, and missed a 33-yard field goal. On their first possession of the second half, the Raiders turned the ball over on downs inside River Hill's 10-yard line.
"River Hill played great in the red zone. It shrinks the field a lot so there's not the threat of going deep. They were flying to the ball … I think they got extra motivated since we were about to score," McMahon said. "After a couple of turnovers I got a little rattled but then, short term memory, you've just got to get right back out there and keep working hard."
The Hawks defense was led by Jason Johnson (sack, two tackles for loss), Davis Grove (two tackles for loss), Emmett Brew (sack), Raamah Vaughn (interception) and Evan Griffin (forced fumble and recovery).
But while River Hill's defense was doing a laudable job, they still could not get anything going on offense.
River Hill had less than ten yards of offense in the first half without earning a single first down. The Hawks never crossed midfield, gaining less than 60 yards of total offense and only two first downs in the game.
"We couldn't get much going up front and they were in our backfield all day," River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen said. "They kicked our butts today ... but fortunately it's early in the year and we've got a lot of time to get better and improve on this and hopefully we can get them back in the playoffs."
The Raiders' defensive front seemed to pressure River Hill quarterback Austin Altman on almost every play, forcing five turnovers. Austin Tennessee, Kenny Thomas and Brett Haas each had interceptions, while Damon Wells and Cameron Fogle recovered fumbles. Fogle, Jamal Washington, Paul Federinko and Steve Whiting (2) teamed up to sack Altman five times.
"It's not all the D-line, it's the coverage too, because of our cornerbacks he didn't have anybody to throw to," said Federinko. "That's how we play every game, that's how it's got to be."
Atholton head coach Kyle Schmitt credited his 24-year-old defensive coordinator, Justin Carey, for coming up with the defensive scheme that stymied the Hawks. Carey graduated from Reservoir in 2005 before playing linebacker at Bowie State.
"He was in college two years ago and he studies the game harder than even I do," Schmitt said. "We shut them down two years in a row and that's a hell of an offense to do that to … if we get defense like that every week we've got a chance to be really good."
Kenny Thomas' 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth essentially clinched the win.
That touchdown was set up after Atholton tried to punt the ball away from their own 48, but River Hill committed a roughing-the-kicker penalty to give the Raiders the ball back on the Hawks 37-yard line.
River Hill all-county running back Aaron Wells hurt his knee in a week one win over Reservoir and could be out for another three or four games.