With four games left to play in the regular season, River Hill will decide who will win the county title.
After last Friday night's 37-0 win over previously undefeated Mt. Hebron, the Hawks are the last undefeated team in the league.
Homecoming added to the drama of the game.
"It's always tough with homecoming week, there's so much going on, so we really talked about staying focused. The most important part of this whole thing is the football game, especially when we have a real quality opponent, a 5-0 team," said River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen, whose team has now outscored its opponents, 275-57, with three shutouts. "They did a nice job of focusing."
River Hill needed only 15 seconds to score the winning touchdown, as senior Evan Griffin (3 TDs) returned the opening kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown en route to the shutout.
"This means that we're rolling toward the playoffs now with plans to go undefeated," said senior Justin Arn, who rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown in the win, and made three tackles for loss.
The Hawks are well on their way to their tenth consecutive playoff appearance, and they've won three state titles in the last five seasons, including last year's 3A state title. Since the beginning of the 2007 season, River Hill has won 68 games and lost only five.
"River Hill is a step above, let's be honest," first-year Mt. Hebron coach Phil Zacharias said after the loss, his first as the Vikings' head coach. "They do it ... they've been to the finish line."
The River Hill defense crowded the Mt. Hebron front on every play, recording 10 tackles for loss, including four quarterback sacks (two by junior Logan Kirby). The Hawks rushed for 255 yards and four touchdowns, while holding the Vikings — which had averaged 32 points per game — to just 8 net rushing yards.
"Our whole thing this year has been winning up front on both sides of the ball," Zacharias said. "They won up front."
In the second quarter, Mt. Hebron drove all the way inside River Hill's 10-yard line after a Marty Stevenson interception, but the Vikings were turned away after three consecutive plays for negative yardage.
Mt. Hebron quarterback Malik Gilmore completed 13 passes for 100 yards, with four each going to Dillan Solo (43 yards) and Thomas Burke (32). Mt. Hebron's Zach Nicholas also returned four kickoffs for a total of 104 yards, and Antonio Vogt had two tackles for loss, including an 8-yard sack.
Despite the loss, Mt. Hebron is off to its best start since the 2004 season and still in good position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2003.
"At the beginning of the season we would have said, OK, I'll take 5-1," Zacharias said. "So it's just about where we go from here, we've got to move forward ... we've got four games, we still can get to where we want to get with the rest of the season."
The Vikings' challenge continues this Friday night against visiting Atholton (5-1), the defending county champion. Atholton and River Hill do not play each other during the regular season this year.
River Hill's only remaining game against a team with a winning record is against Howard (4-2) in the final week of the regular season.
Week 7 schedule
Friday, Oct. 12
Atholton (5-1) at Mt. Hebron (5-1), 7 p.m.
River Hill (6-0) at Marriotts Ridge (2-4), 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 13
Centennial (1-5) at Hammond (3-3), 12 p.m.
Long Reach (1-5) at Wilde Lake (3-3), 1 p.m.
Reservoir (3-3) at Howard (4-2), 1 p.m.
Glenelg (3-3) at Oakland Mills (0-6), 2 p.m.