River Hill football is not built to beat opponents with its passing game. It’s an attack centered on constant pre-snap motion and misdirection that features several ball carriers. It aims to wear down defensive linemen and linebackers and tempt defensive backs to creep towards the line of scrimmage, allowing for potential play-action passes downfield later in the game.
No drive during the Hawks’ 23-15 win over Wilde Lake on Friday night epitomized the Hawks’ offense more than the one that began on their own 2-yard line midway through the second quarter. Holding a 17-9 lead, the Hawks marched down the field behind seven runs and three passes. The rushes accrued minimum yardage but set up a pair of conversions through the air. The second throw — a 33-yard strike from quarterback Robby Windsor to running back Anthony Behrmann down the right sideline — gave the Hawks a 16-point lead right before intermission.
River Hill did not score after the break, but diverse play calling and a stout defensive performance helped the Hawks hand the Wildecats their first defeat.
“The key to the game was preparation,” Windsor said. “We worked really hard this week and we knew it would be a tough game, and we came out and we proved that we can hang with anyone in the county.”
While Windsor finished just 4-for-14 passing, his four completions totaled 129 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a one-yard score early in the first quarter to put the Hawks ahead.
Most of the time, though, Windsor’s responsibilities included taking the snap, handing the ball off to Jordan Perry, Zach Igwebe or Beau Brade and watching one of them run for positive yardage. Perry and Igwebe carried the ball 15 times each, while Brade’s eight rushes came in the form of sweeps, pitches and reverses. The result was a combined 169 rushing yards and a frustrated Wilde Lake defense.
“We’ve got new guys coming in, so we’re still learning and guys are getting better and getting more experienced,” River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen said. “So, we’ve got to keep [teams] off balance, and I think the good thing this year is that Robby [Windsor] is throwing the ball pretty well and we’re making more plays in the passing game.”
Windsor’s passing potential shined through on the Hawks’ third offensive play, as he hit a streaking Spencer Brockdorff for a 46-yard gain deep into Wilde Lake territory. A few plays later, Brade brought the ball down to 1-yard line before Windsor capped the Hawks’ opening possession with a score.
Alternating field goals allowed River Hill to maintain a touchdown cushion after one quarter, but the Hawks immediately stretched that lead thanks to an interception from Brade. The Wildecats finally caught the two-time All-County defensive back at the eight-yard line, but they could not prevent the miscue from turning into points. Brockdorff took the direct snap on third down and barreled into the end zone, putting the Hawks ahead, 17-3.
Much of the Wilde Lake’s production came from the legs of senior quarterback Eli Fisher, whose rushing yards (43) more than doubled his passing yards (21) in the first half. So, it did not came as a surprise that Fisher was the one who ran in the team’s lone offensive touchdown. His 11-yard score brought the Wildecats (3-1) within 17-9.
Overall, the Hawks’ defense executed its game plan of limiting Wilde Lake’s big-play potential and specifically senior playmaker Osita Smith, who finished with just one catch of 21 yards that served as the Wildecats’ longest gain of the game.
The second half played out much like the first, with the River Hill offense slowly progressing into Wilde Lake territory and the Wildecats defense trying to get off the field. However, the Hawks’ first possession of the third quarter ended in a Windsor interception, and the second concluded with a missed 38-yard field goal. Their third drive came early in the fourth quarter and stalled, too. With 8 minutes, 53 seconds to play, Wilde Lake took over on its own 32-yard line.
As the Wildecats lost four yards in three plays before having to punt, it was becoming increasingly clear that the defense would have to spark any chance of a comeback. And with seven minutes to play, that’s exactly what happened.
The Wildecats blew up an exchange from Windsor and Perry near the Hawks’ 30-yard line, and the ball ended up in the hands of Kyjuan Adams with no one between him and the end zone. He trotted across the goal line to cut the lead to eight points. Wilde Lake had life.
But on its next offensive possession, the Wildecats completed two short passes and took a sack before an incompletion gave the ball back to River Hill. The Hawks fittingly ran out the clock with three short rushes.
“With any athletic team, you wind up playing in competition the way you practice,” Wilde Lake coach Michael Harrison said. “We didn’t have a great week of practice, and I don’t think we played particularly well today.”
River Hill (3-1) — 23, Wilde Lake (3-1) — 15
RH — 10 13 0 0 — 23
WL — 3 6 0 6 — 15
RH: Robby Windsor 1-yard run, Bryant Santiago kick [7-0]
WL: Sam Nason 32-yard field goal [7-3]
RH: Bryant Santiago 19-yard field goal [10-3]
RH: Spencer Brockdorff 4-yard run, Santiago kick [17-3]
WL: Eli Fisher 11-yard run, two-point run failed [17-9]
RH: Robby Windsor 33-yard pass to Anthony Behrmann, extra point no good [23-9]
WL: Kyjuan Adams fumble return, extra point no good [23-15]