The final score read "Hammond 35, Mt. Hebron 13", but neither team really felt like a winner on Friday night.
The Golden Bears salvaged a .500 season with the win, but lost senior running back Dionte Jones to a serious high-ankle injury midway through the second quarter. Jones, who had gained 184 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries at the time of the injury, was taken off by ambulance.
“We’re all just praying for him, hoping he gets better. He’s going to play college football, we’re just hoping he heals well,” said junior quarterback Tyler Martin, who threw touchdown passes to Brendan Urban (20 yards) and Chris Hall (55 yards) in the win. “It was a big loss ... But we were all definitely in this until the end. We all wanted the win and we came out and got it and I can’t be any more proud of these guys."
Saul Whittaker (46 rushing yards) and Jared Turner (29) helped fill the gaping void left by Jones' absence.
Urban also caught a two-point conversion pass from Martin, and intercepted a Mt. Hebron pass in the third quarter.
Hammond’s defense forced four turnovers in the second half to preserve the win. The Golden Bears (5-5) lost three games this fall by a combined four points. Deandre House, Jordan Larose and David McLaurin each made big sacks, while Humphrey Anuh had two tackles for loss, a pass break-up and a fumble recovery.
“The defense played phenomenal and helped us put them away,” Martin said. “This whole season we’ve just been trying to finish games and it hasn’t happened, but it happened tonight. I just wish it could have happened the rest of the season.”
The Vikings (6-4), who qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2003 despite the loss, lost starting quarterback and punter Malik Gilmore to a right knee injury midway through the first quarter. Gilmore spent the rest of the game on the sideline on crutches.
The Vikings were also without running back Jackson Porter, who was on the sideline in street clothes, reportedly because of a shoulder injury.
“It wasn't our night and we didn’t play well,” said first year coach Phil Zacharias. “But you know what? We get to play in the Maryland state playoffs, and that’s what we’ve got to take from it ... We’re going to try to represent our school.”
Mt. Hebron scored its touchdowns on a 66-yard run by Zachary Nicholas (5 carries, 75 yards), and a 16-yard pass from Jake Snyder (6 completions, 67 yards) to Dillan Solo (3 catches, 32 yards).
Early in the third quarter, Hammond had trouble moving the ball without Jones, and Mt. Hebron appeared to have an opening. But back-to-back turnovers, followed by Martin's touchdown pass to Hall, essentially put the game out of reach.
"We had a small window but you can't turn the ball over, so all of those things pile up against you," Zachrias said.
Nicholas' long touchdown run, more than halfway through the second quarter, was also Mt. Hebron's first first down of the game. The Vikings did not convert on third down until the fourth quarter, and finished 1-for-8 with five three-and-outs.
Hammond finished with 17 first downs, compared to only five first downs for Mt. Hebron, and converted three-out-of-four times on fourth down attempts, and five more times on third down.
"We did not slow them down, and Malik had nothing to do with that," Zacharias said. "If you can't make stops, that's a problem."
After starting the season 5-0, the Vikings have now lost four of their last five games, being outscored 149-59.
River Hill defeated Howard on Friday night to complete a 10-0 regular season and clinch the top seed in the 3A East. Atholton (9-1) has the second seed, and Reservoir (6-4) will leapfrog Mt. Hebron for the No. 3 seed. Next week’s projected playoff games are Reservoir at Atholton and Mt. Hebron at River Hill.
MH (6-4) 0 7 0 6 – 13
Ha (5-5) 14 15 6 0 – 35
Ha: Urban 20 pass from Martin (kick failed), 4:46.
Ha: Jones 46 run (Urban pass from Martin), 2:34.
Ha: Jones 12 run (Jones run), 9:10.
Ha: Jones 31 run (Richard kick), 5:48.
MH: Nicholas 66 run (Humm kick), 5:32.
Ha: Hall 55 pass from Martin (kick failed), :18
MH: Solo 16 pass from Snyder (pass failed), 9:50.
MH: Nicholas, 5 carries, 75 yards, TD; Stevenson 5-8; Team 15-63, TD.
Ha: Jones 18-184, 3 TD; Whittaker 17-46; Turner 10-29; Team 44-255, 3 TD.
MH: Snyder, 6 completions, 15 attempts, 67 yards, TD, INT.
Ha: Martin 3/8, 85, 2 TD.
MH: Solo, 3 catches, 32 yards, TD; Burke 2-31; Bryant 1-4.
Ha: Hall 2-65, TD; Urban 1-20, TD.
Leading kick/punt returners
MH: Nicholas 3-50; Anthony 1-20; Solo 1-17.
Ha: House 2-25; Jones 1-9.
Around the league
Atholton 28, Glenelg 14
The Raiders completed a 9-1 season, and will host a playoff game next Friday night. See related story for more on this game.
Glenelg (6-4) had won four straight games coming into Friday night. Their 28 points allowed tied a season high, and the Gladiators had not scored 14 points or less since a 27-13 loss to River Hill in week five.
Long Reach 47, Centennial 22 (at Atholton)
The Lightning (3-7) closed out a disappointing season with a flourish, breaking their highwater scoring mark for the season by two touchdowns and showing their second-best defensive effort.
Xavier Haywood-Irani led the Lightning offense with three touchdown runs, including a 22-yarder. Daquan Dixon (2 yards), Tom Wilkerson (19), Tobi Kadiri (50) and Darius Fisk (4) also scored touchdowns via the run for Long Reach.
Centennial's Tyler Morris threw a pair of touchdown passes — to Chase Conley (20) and Michael Price (65) — and Logan Tignall scored on a 13-yard run in the first quarter.
Reservoir 46, Oakland Mills 6 (at Hammond)
Reservoir (6-4) clinched its first playoff appearance in school history, while also setting a season high for points scored. Since losing to River Hill, 41-0, three weeks ago, the Gators have won two games in a row by a combined 91-12.
River Hill 55, Howard 20
River Hill's streak of four straight shutouts was ended, but the Hawks completed an undefeated season and clinched the top seed in the 3A East playoffs.
Austin Altman threw five touchdown passes: one each to Justin Arn (20 yards), Nick Ball (26) and Evan Griffin (25), and a pair of scoring passes to junior tight end Cory Daniel (8, 11). Griffin rushed for three more touchdowns, the longest coming on a 61-yard run.
The Lions, needing a win to get into the playoffs, became just the second team to score more than two touchdowns against River Hill this season.
Michael Anderson scored twice for the Lions, including a 35-yard run, and Josh Peoples scored once, on a ten-yard run.
River Hill will host Mt. Hebron in a regional semifinal game next week.
Wilde Lake 20, Marriotts Ridge 0 (at Howard)
It was Wilde Lake's third shut out of the season, and the fourth game in a row that Marriotts Ridge has failed to score.
Final league standings
River Hill, 10-0
Mt. Hebron, 6-4
Wilde Lake, 5-5
Long Reach, 3-7
Marriotts Ridge, 2-8
Oakland Mills, 0-10
River Hill, 470
Mt. Hebron, 222
Long Reach, 212
Wilde Lake, 160
Marriotts Ridge, 96
Oakland Mills, 64
River Hill, 77
Wilde Lake, 149
Mt. Hebron, 207
Marriotts Ridge, 299
Long Reach, 348
Oakland Mills, 368