River Hill found itself in a battle for the first time this season, and to coach Brian Van Deusen's pleasure, his Hawks (5-0) battled back, rallying to defeat Glenelg (2-3), 27-13, on the road Friday night.
"We knew we were going to get their best, they always play good against us," Van Deusen said. "We needed to get tested a little to see what they're made of and they stepped up and played well."
River Hill, which defeated Glenelg 21-20 in overtime last year, and 14-7 in 2010, had outscored its opponents 211-44 coming into Friday night's game.
Glenelg held River Hill to just one first down in the first quarter, and scored first, on a 6-yard run by Nick Crabill (56 total yards) late in the first quarter. After Jordan Alexander recovered a fumble early in the second quarter, the Gladiators appeared to be well on their way to taking at least a tie into halftime.
River Hill finally got on the board with a 9-yard Evan Griffin run with less than five minutes left in the second quarter. And then, with less than 90 seconds left, the Hawks got the ball back on their own 20 yard line.
That's when senior quarterback Austin Altman led a six-play drive, highlighted by long passes to Griffin (38 and 23 yards) and Nick Ball (23), and capped by a 9-yard scoring pass to Ball (5 catches, 71 yards) with 11 seconds left.
"We just did what we we've practiced. If the run is not working we've got to be ready to pass and we were," said Altman, who finished with 12 completions for 236 yards and a touchdown. "The receivers were running great routes, getting yards after the catch, the line was giving me all the time I needed and I just picked the receiver that was open and got it to them."
Last year River Hill completed 43 passes for 889 yards in 14 games en route to the state title. On Friday night Altman had more than a quarter of those totals in just one game.
"It's nice having a passing game this year that can mix it up a little bit and confuse the defense," Van Deusen said. "The key was that great 80-yard drive ... that was clutch to go down the field and put that one in before the half to take the lead."
Glenelg's first drive of the second half was ended by a Noah Carter interception at midfield, and River Hill capitalized when Altman scored on a short run ten plays later. But Glenelg made it a one-score game again on the ensuing kickoff, when junior David Brookhart returned the kick 65 yards for a score.
That was as close as it would get, but it was a bounce-back performance for Glenelg, which was shut out at Reservoir, 24-0, last week.
Brookhart, whose older brother Adam played football and baseball for River Hill, finished with a game-high 97 rushing yards and 114 return yards.
"He's a great kid. A little kid, but he's shifty, he makes people miss," Van Deusen said. "He had a nice game."
Griffin, who is on the field for almost every play as running back, receiver, defensive back, punter or kick returner, led River Hill with 125 yards from scrimmage, but sat out for most of the second half with a leg cramp.
But River Hill shared the ball remarkably evenly on Friday. Stephan Osong (11 carries, 52 yards), Justin Arn (11, 50), Griffin (10, 47) and Altman (8, 44) all finished within three carries and eight yards of each other, and three of the four ran for a touchdown.
"People step in, people make plays ... we're just excited about all the things we've got and we've just got to keep building on what we have," Altman said.
River Hill won the battle of first downs by a significant margin, 19-4, and held the Gladiators to 24 yards of offense in the second half. Arn (three catches, 73 yards) scored on a 12-yard touchdown run that essentially sealed the win with less than seven minutes left, and then sacked Glenelg QB Mark Darden for a 15-yard loss on Glenelg's ensuing possession.
RH (5-0) 0 14 7 6 - 27
G (2-3) 7 0 6 0 - 13
G: Crabill 6 run (Brister kick), 3:49. [0-7]
RH: Griffin 9 run (Potocko kick), 4:44. [7-7]
RH: Ball 9 pass from Altman (Potocko kick), :11. [14-7]
RH: Altman 1 run (Potocko kick), 5:52. [21-7]
G: Brookhart 65 kick return (kick blocked), 5:34. [21-13]
RH: Arn 12 run (kick failed), 6:40. [27-13]
RH: Osong 11-52; Arn 11-50, TD; Griffin 10-47, TD; Altman 8-44, TD; Team 40-169, 3 TD.
G: Brookhart 4-97; Crabill 15-56, TD; Jacoby 10-25; Team 33-167, TD.
RH: Altman 12/19, 236, TD.
G: Darden 1/4, 3, INT.
RH: Griffin 3-78; Arn 3-73; Ball 5-71, TD; Osong 1-14.
G: Brookhart 1-3.
Leading kick/punt returners
RH: Arn 1-13; Griffin 1-10.
G: Brookhart 4-114, TD; Richardson 2-21.
Around the league
Hammond 39, Howard 28
Hammond (2-3) avenged a loss to Howard (3-2) from last November which knocked the Golden Bears out of the playoffs, outscoring the Lions 39-28 Friday night. The 39 points was a season-high for Hammond, which has now scored 124 points and allowed 124 points on the season.
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Wilde Lake 7, Reservoir 0
A week after shutting out Glenelg, Reservoir (2-3) was shut out by Wilde Lake (3-2), 7-0. It was Wilde Lake's second shut out in a row, after a 34-0 win at Oakland Mills last week.
The Wildecats scored in the first quarter on a 62-yard run by Wayne Long (10 carries, 123 yards), and then their defense took care of the rest, holding the Gators to only 66 rushing yards, which also happened to be Eric Handy's total for Wilde Lake. Al Rivera intercepted a pass and rushed for 35 yards for the Wildecats.
Wilde Lake last shut out two opponents in a row last October, against Mt. Hebron and Centennial.
Centennial (1-3) at Atholton (3-1)
Marriotts Ridge (1-3) at Long Reach (1-3)
Oakland Mills (0-4) at Mt. Hebron (4-0)