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Howard County Sports

River Hill senior linebacker Dylan McCullough named 2022 Howard County Times/Columbia Flier football defensive Player of the Year

River Hill senior linebacker Dylan McCullough grew up watching the Hawks play, aspiring to one day be an impact player on their defense. McCullough became a vital part of River Hill’s defense as a junior, but went a step further in 2022, making the substantial impact he once envisioned.

The senior had a team-leading 121 tackles, the leader in both solo (78) and assists (43). McCullough also had a team-high 6 1/2 sacks with 5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a blocked punt. With that game-wrecking defensive ability, McCullough has been named the 2022 Howard County Times/Columbia Flier football defensive Player of the Year.

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River Hill senior Dylan McCullough had a team-leading 121 tackles, a team-high 6 1/2 sacks with 5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a blocked punt. McCullough has been named the 2022 Howard County Times/Columbia Flier football defensive Player of the Year.

“I would describe myself as more of a downhill linebacker, I blitzed a lot,” McCullough said. “I had to take on a lot of assignments, sometimes I’d be more of an outside linebacker, sometimes more of a coverage linebacker. My coaches trusted me a lot, which I appreciated.”

McCullough observed several great defensive players throughout his high school career, including the 2019 Howard County Times defensive Player of the Year, defensive back Beau Brade and linebacker Zach Igwebe. Brade, now at the University of Maryland and Igwebe at Wake Forest University, served as role models for a younger McCullough.

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Now, it’s McCullough returning the favor for the Hawks’ younger players.

“As I evolved into a captain and leader, it’s my job to be an example for the younger players with my work ethic and attitude,” McCullough said. “I took a lot of pride in being a captain, being a leader. I’ve given some pregame speeches, getting everyone hyped. Getting hype with the team is always the most fun thing for me, just looking forward to Friday night games.”

McCullough spent a great deal of time on film. McCullough meticulously studied opponents’ game film from week-to-week, learning their offensive tendencies. That diligent film work increased his football IQ, allowing him in many situations to identify where the ball was going based on the pre-snap alignment.

It’s one of the main reasons why McCullough was seemingly around the football every play, impacting the game in a multitude of areas. River Hill didn’t allow more than 14 points to a county opponent all season and earned five shutouts this year. Two shutouts came in the postseason, including a 7-0 blanking of Franklin’s high-octane offense in the Class 3A state quarterfinals.

“In the Franklin game, they had a lot of different guys that they moved around, a mixture of guys at quarterback,” River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen said. “I remember one guy [Anthony Gibson], a really skilled athlete, a receiver, plays in the slot, running back and even at quarterback. I can remember a couple of different occasions in that game based on what Dylan saw, the personnel and where people were lined up, he had a great idea of what was coming. He beat the blockers to the spot and made a big sack in the game and ran down a jet sweep.”

“He just comes to play every game and he’s got that attitude that he’s going to get to the ball and make the tackle. If he gets his hands on somebody, he’s going to get them down. He’s the heart and soul of our defense," River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen said of Dylan McCullough.

Shedding blockers, often multiple, was a consistent theme for McCullough this year. Part of that physicality and consistent ability to win those matchups traces back to McCullough’s background as an accomplished wrestler, a state runner-up as a junior. The blend of quickness, power and toughness necessary for success in wrestling, proved easily transferable to football.

“He’s very aggressive and very physical, so we were able to move him around a lot and put him towards the strength of the formation most of the time to disrupt the opponent’s run game,” Van Deusen said. “He runs well, so he was able to play sideline-to-sideline and get in on a lot of tackles. He’s always around the ball, he’s got that 100% effort flying to the football all the time.

“He just comes to play every game and he’s got that attitude that he’s going to get to the ball and make the tackle. If he gets his hands on somebody, he’s going to get them down. He’s the heart and soul of our defense.”

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Oakland Mills lineman Kharles Ngansi is a first team All-County selection.

All-County first team

Xaver Gilliam, Wilde Lake, junior, defensive line: Gilliam was consistently disruptive on the defensive line with 56 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and a team-leading four forced fumbles.

Kharles Ngansi, Oakland Mills, senior, defensive line: The 2021 Howard County Times defensive Player of the Year and West Point commit led Oakland Mills with 85 total tackles, including 13 for loss, adding 5.5 sacks, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

Kylon Roberts, Long Reach, senior, defensive line: Roberts was Long Reach’s leading tackler with 80, including 16 for loss, four sacks, two safeties and two forced fumbles.

Deacon Watkins, Atholton, senior, defensive line: Also playing fullback on offense, Watkins had 37 tackles, three sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

Chris Martin, Wilde Lake, junior, linebacker: Martin was a force off the edge for the Wildecats, with a county-leading 13.5 sacks, 43 tackles and two forced fumbles.

Atholton's Jabriel Moody, left, makes a tackle in a game against Glenelg.

Jabriel Moody, Atholton, senior, linebacker: Moody had 47 total tackles, four sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception that he returned for a 50-yard touchdown.

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Xavier Patterson, Oakland Mills, senior, linebacker: Patterson was one of Oakland Mills’ leading tacklers with 61, an interception, forcing four fumbles, also with a fumble recovery.

Dylan Treese, Howard, junior, linebacker: Treese was Howard’s leading tackler with 79 including 15 for loss, four sacks, four quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

River Hill's  Matthew Behrmann is a first-team All-County selection as a defensive back.

Matthew Behrmann, River Hill, senior, defensive back: Behrmann had 54 total tackles (26 solo, 28 assisted) and three interceptions, the leader of River Hill’s stout defense in the secondary.

Will Burns, Wilde Lake, senior, defensive back: Burns was the Wildecats’ leading tackler with 78 total (59 solo, 18 assisted), also second on the team with two interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Abraham Kamara, Long Reach, senior, defensive back: Kamara was Long Reach’s fourth-leading tackler with 53, four tackles for loss, an interception and a fumble recovery, as a key veteran on the back end.

Atholton's Daniel Ogordy breaks up a pass intended for River Hill's Tyler Windsor on Oct. 7.

Daniel Ogordi, Atholton, junior, defensive back: Ogordi had 23 total tackles, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a pass defended for one of Howard County’s top defensive units.

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Adam Kozikowski, Howard, senior, punter: Kozikowski punted 31 times, averaging 39 yards per punt.

All-County second team

Quinn Cestone, Marriotts Ridge, junior, defensive line

Christian Chen, Glenelg, senior, linebacker

Kaiden Lee, Oakland Mills, sophomore, defensive line

Martin Lunsford, Marriotts Ridge, senior, linebacker

Joel Mao, Glenelg, senior, punter

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Xavier Maple, Reservoir, senior, defensive back

MBJ Motoni, River Hill, senior, linebacker

Anthony Ngansi, Atholton, junior, defensive line

Eje Okojie, River Hill, senior, defensive back

Michael Reid, Long Reach, senior, linebacker

Casey Shea, Marriotts Ridge, senior, defensive back

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Matt Smith, Howard, sophomore, defensive line

Jayden Thompson, Long Reach, junior, defensive back

Matt Toth, Centennial, senior, linebacker

Honorable Mention

Adrian Alvarado, Reservoir, sophomore, defensive back; Moses Bailey, Reservoir, sophomore, defensive line; Myon Davis, Mt. Hebron, junior, defensive line; Bliden Elung, Oakland Mills, senior, defensive back; Ben Hebron, Atholton, senior, defensive line, Elijah Nyorkor, Atholton, junior, defensive back; Isaac Ramsey, Oakland Mills, sophomore, defensive back; Cooper Stockenberg; Mt. Hebron, junior, defensive back.

Final Season Standings

1. Atholton (10-1 overall, 9-0 Howard County, Howard County Champion, Class 3A State quarterfinalist); 2. River Hill (10-2, 8-1, Class 3A state semifinalist); 3. Long Reach (9-3, 7-2, Class 3A State quarterfinalist); 4. Howard (7-4, 6-3); 5. Reservoir (5-5, 5-4); 6. Wilde Lake (5-6, 4-5); 7. Oakland Mills (5-6, 4-5); 8. Glenelg (4-6, 4-5); 9. Mt. Hebron (4-7, 3-6); 10. Marriotts Ridge (4-7, 3-6); 11. Centennial (1-9, 1-8); 12. Hammond (0-10, 0-9).


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