River Hill High School's placekicker Alex Potocko teaches the mechanics and important steps to kicking a field goal, and plays a game against some of his teammates. (Jon Sham/Baltimore Sun Media Group video)

A grind-it-out game in the truest sense, River Hill narrowly escaped its first loss in more than a year, as the visiting Hawks defeated the Glenelg Gladiators 7-3 Friday night. 

It was Hawks quarterback Drew Pritchard who connected with fellow senior and captain Cory Daniel for a 55-yard touchdown pass with just over three minutes remaining in the game that proved to be the difference.

“It was crazy,” Daniel said. “This was a tough team. Glenelg is always a tough opponent against us, and we knew we had to win to get the season going.”

Just a few plays earlier, Daniel thought he had a touchdown after a similar deep throw-and-catch from Pritchard. But, an illegal formation penalty brought back the score. River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen was proud that his team was able to rebound. 

“It was a tough one,” he said. “We had it open and he made a great play. I give our kids all the credit, it would have been easy to put their heads down after that.”

Alex Paul’s 22-yard field goal with just under seven minutes to play looked to be all Glenelg needed to knock off the defending 3A state champions before the go-ahead score.

“Our kids played hard, and I’m extremely proud of them,” Glenelg coach Butch Schaffer said after the game. “They are a tremendous football program. We just made too many mistakes to win against a great team.”

The Howard County foes traded possession after possession, with neither squad successfully reaching the red zone until late in the second half. 

Senior Luke Cheswick led the Gladiators on defense with an interception and fumble recovery in the first half. 

River Hill (1-0) 0 0 0 7 - 7
Glenelg (0-1) 0 0 0 3 - 3

Fourth quarter
G: Paul 22 field goal, 7:00.
RH: Daniel 55 pass from Pritchard (Potocko kick), 3:00.

Around the league

Atholton 35, Marriotts Ridge 7

The Raiders got off to a good start as transfer Byran Barney scored on a 75-yard punt return early in the first quarter against his old school. Barney also caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Phillip Frazier (3-for-4, 63 yards).

Isaac Murray, the league's top returning rusher, gained 152 yards and scored a touchdown on a dozen carries. Cody Stolar led the Raiders' defense with 12 tackles, while sophomore Cole Mason intercepted a pass.

Atholton junior Kevin Ford had a fine varsity debut, rushing for 74 yards and a touchdown and making a 35-yard reception.

The game was also the debut of new head coaches John Swigart (Atholton) and Marcus Lewis (Marriotts Ridge).

Centennial 28, Reservoir 7

The Eagles, who last made the playoffs in 1980, stunned Reservoir, a 2012 regional semifinalist, on Friday night, 28-7.

Eagles running back Walter Fletcher scored three times on the ground while Damon Reaves returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Austin Kraisser led the Centennial defense (4 pass breakups, 2 turnovers caused) with 6.5 tackles.

Junior C.J. Jones scored Reservoir's lone touchdown on a 65-yard run in the third quarter.

Centennial's last win over the Gators came in 2009 by a score of 8-7.

Hammond 27, Mt. Hebron 0

The Golden Bears continued where they left off last year, shutting out 3A East regional semifinalist Mt. Hebron, 27-0, in new head coach Justin Carey's debut. Carey was the defensive coordinator for Atholton last season.