The fourth quarter is often when Zach Igwebe shines the most.
The junior running back and team captain is the Hawks’ inside runner. He takes a bigger pounding than anyone throughout a game, but he also gives it right back. Bringing him down is hard enough. On tired legs, it’s even harder.
Against visiting rival Glenelg Friday night, River Hill relied on Igwebe and his tough-earned yardage when it needed him most. He delivered to the tune of 108 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries to lead the Hawks to a hard-fought 14-10 win.
“We had to mix it up and run more inside and that meant more of Zach and he carried the load,” River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen said. “He runs hard and protects the ball. He did a great job.”
Igwebe’s best work came on the final drive with a four-point lead to protect. The Hawks (6-1) took over at their own 37 with 5 minutes, 54 seconds remaining.
“We knew that we couldn’t give them the ball back,” Igwebe said.
A 5-yard run was followed by a 7-yard run by Anthony Behrmann to move the chains. Two plays later, Igwebe got 10 yards for another first down. On third and 6, Behrmann did the job and gained 13 yards. First down. With 44 seconds left on a fourth and 1 from the 9, Igwebe’s 5-yard run up the middle sealed the game.
“We worked so much over the offseason. It felt like it kind of came down to 1 yard,” Igwebe said. “It’s a game of inches, so I just had the mentality of, ‘I’m going to get this no matter what.’”
Glenelg (4-3) used all three timeouts during the possession, yet it never got the ball back. Igwebe finished the drive with five carries for 32 yards, while Behrmann, who had 77 yards on 16 carries, gained 27 on five touches.
“We certainly didn’t want to give them the ball back,” said Van Deusen. “... A lot of credit goes to our [offensive] line. Coming into the seaon that was kind of a question mark and they just keep getting better each game. Zach Igwebe and Anthony and Beau [Brade] all running hard, that was a great drive.
“For us to pound on them and wear them down at the end, that was great to see.”
The biggest play, however, came on special teams. Glenelg held a 10-7 lead early in the fourth quarter when Nick Laumann blocked a punt, and the Hawks took over at the Gladiatiors’ 30. Quarterback Keegan Remick capped the seven-play drive with a 1-yard sneak for a touchdown.
“The big thing was the punt block. That gave us the field position and we were able to pound it in,” Van Deusen said.
River Hill’s first scoring drive was a lot like its last. After two three-and-outs to start the game, the Hawks got their run game going, and Igwebe sparked it with a 17-yard run to get into Glenelg territory. Igwebe gained six yards on fourth and 2, and five plays later he finished off the 11-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to give River Hill a 7-0 lead heading into the second quarter.
The Gladiators, who entered the game averaging fewer than eight pass attempts per game, struggled to get any big plays on the ground. Their longest run of the night gained just 10 yards. But quarterback Mason Davis made several key plays with his arm, and none were bigger than his 55-yard touchdown pass to Robbie Tolbert midway through the second quarter to tie the game at 7.
Davis completed 3 of 5 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown in the first half and finished 4 of 10 for 119 yards. Running back Kyle Dry had 74 yards rushing on 18 carries and Drew Sotka caught two passes for 36 yards.
“Mason Davis is such a great leader for us at quarterback and he’s able to handle what we want to do in the passing game, and he’s smart with the ball,” Glenelg coach Tim Cullen said. “... He did a good job making some throws and Robbie Tolbert’s been running great routes all year and he was finally able to cash in tonight.”
Glenelg needed a little bit of luck to take the lead early in the fourth quarter. Kicker Chris Retzbach’s 44-yard field goal attempt hit the crossbar and bounced through to give the Gladiators a 10-7 lead with 3:02 left in the third quarter.
“Fortunately we had a lot of time, but it’s crazy how things have happened in these matchups over the years,” Van Deusen said. “That was a 44-yard field goal; you don’t see that a much in high school. We knew we were moving the ball, we just kept getting hurt by penalties and our own mistakes, so if we could put a drive together.”
Laumann blocked the punt at the end of Glenelg’s next possession. The Gladiators had only seven offensive snaps in the fourth quarter.
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“It’s tough, but we’ve had close games all year,” Cullen said. “I felt like we were still in it if we could just get the ball back, and it is what it is. We’ve got next week.”