Thanksgiving travelers commuting along Route 108 in Clarksville this Friday night will notice a familiar sight in the River Hill High stadium: a football game.
For the fifth time in the last seven years, River Hill will play host to a state semifinal, as the Hawks of Urbana visit the Hawks of River Hill Friday evening at 7 p.m.
"We get to practice on Thanksgiving and we have an alumni breakfast," coach Brian Van Deusen said. "It's a neat tradition that hopefully we'll keep going for years to come."
Read on for a Thanksgiving dinner of statistics, player info, history, and quotes from the coaches, and then come out to the game on Friday night!
U: Ryan Hines, 3rd season (28-7, .800)
RH: Brian Van Deusen, 13th season (135-23, .854)
What they're saying
Urbana coach Ryan Hines
On any carryover from Urbana's 2010 4A state championship team:
"Most of those kids who were on that team are gone. There are a couple of tenth grade kids that came up and played in the game. They have the memory of what it was but they weren't really factors in it. It's a completely different team, completely different look ... Kevin Bettis, our middle linebacker was actually on that team all year, he was a contributor."
On having a sophomore at starting tailback (Raekwon Gray) and quarterback (Donovan Pannell):
"Rae is quick, he's strong, he's got all of the tools of a great running back. He's been a playmaker for us, especially last week against Seneca Valley (26-17 in the 3A West regional final). We really leaned on him and he took control of the game in the second half ... Our quarterback Donovan Pannell is (also) a sophomore. We're real fortunate there if we can develop some linemen coming up in the next couple years those guys will have great junior and senior years, because they've had pretty stellar sophomore years."
On his team's run/pass balance on offense:
"We have weapons that we can utilize at tight end, receiver and running back, so it's kind of look-and-see what the defense is going to give us. If they're going to allow us to throw, we'll throw. If they're going to allow us to run, we'll run. That's been our philosophy all year."
On sharing a college football alma mater, McDaniel (Western Maryland), with Van Deusen:
"Me and Brian know each other. We both went to McDaniel, he left the year before I came in so we've had a good relationship back and forth. We exchanged some playoff film and some regular season film (through Hudl), seeing these guys on film they're pretty talented ... he graduated '96 and I started playing '96. We were talking about it today, how McDaniel did this year and the coaching changes."
(Van Deusen still holds school records with 621 career completions and 7239 passing yards, and Hines earned All-America honors in 1998)
On what he noticed about River Hill on film:
"The pressure their defense puts on. Everybody looks at them and says 'Well they're an offensive team and they're scoring all these points,' but they also have six shut outs. Their defense is pretty stout, they're constantly running to the ball and pursuing. It's going to be a battle for us offensively to find some seams and be able to run the ball because they're so quick and strong. Last couple games we've played, we've played teams that were bigger than us. Size-wise I think we're both about the same so it's just going to come down to quickness and strength, the guys they have up front look like they're pretty strong ... On the other side of the ball offensively they have so many weapons with #5 (Justin Arn), #3 (Evan Griffin), #1 (Stephan Osong), the quarterback (Austin Altman) throwing the ball. It's just a matter of you can't pick one thing to try to shut it down, you have to defend everything. It makes them tough to defend."
On his team being battle-tested after starting the season 3-3 before winning six straight:
"I would hope so. Two of the teams we lost to (Westminster in the 4A and Middletown in the 2A), their guys are sitting in here (in the state semifinals), both of them undefeated. And the third team we lost to (Walkersville) would be sitting here if they didn't have to play each other. We've played some tough teams and we've played teams that do a lot of different things. Our league is basically an I (formation league). But we played some spread teams, we scrimmaged Atholton to start the year off, seeing that big variety of different styles helps us."
On the prospect of advancing to play the winner of Milford Mill/Huntingtown in the 3A state championship on Thursday night, Nov. 29: