River Hill football sits atop Howard County once again, only this time it’s not alone.
The Hawks beat Howard, 14-7, at home Friday night to earn a share of the county championship for the second time in three years. But with Glenelg (5-1 county, 6-3 overall) and Marriotts Ridge (7-1, 7-2) also winning Friday night, River Hill (8-1, 8-1) will share the league title with those two schools because each have one county loss.
A county championship is a county championship, Hawks coach Brian Van Deusen said, but in his eyes they stand alone. It’s their 11th league championship in school history, all of which have come since 2003, and they also clinched the No. 1 seed in the 3A East regional playoffs with the victory.
“I haven’t read any articles about a special meeting because I’ve just been busy preparing, but the whole thing, in my opinion, is that I have the thing from our preseason meeting that says the county champion is based on win percentage against county opponents. So that’s us,” he said. “I mean, I don’t know how you can change the rule in the middle of the season. So as far as we’re concerned, we’re the county champs.”
On the other end, the loss ended Howard’s season. The Lions (3-3, 3-6) had qualified for the postseason six straight years but struggled this fall, losing four games by nine points or less. It’s their first season with a losing record going 2-8 in 2006.
“I’m just disappointed we’re not advancing. We’re a better football team than 3-6,” Howard coach Ross Hannon said. “Too inconsistent, too many penalties early on, behind the sticks with self-inflicted penalties. It’s been the story of our season. ... We’ve been fighting since the first day of camp, but we’re 3-6 and we own it and we’re not shying away from it.”
The Hawks didn’t need to attempt a pass to beat the Lions for the first time since 2012.
Anthony Behrmann had 27 carries for 148 yards and a 50-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter, while Zach Igwebe added 103 yards rushing and a score on 22 carries. Beau Brade pitched in with 61 yards on eight carries.
Igwebe did most of his damage on the first possession of the game. He had 41 yards and two fourth-down conversions on the 13-play drive, which eventually stalled and ended with a punt, but the Hawks scored the next time the offense took the field. A 13-yard run by Igwebe to midfield set up Behrmann’s long dash to the end zone.
“He just has great vision,” Van Deusen said of Behrmann, who is closing in on 1,000 yards for the year. “A lot of times you see Anthony breaking it but it’s really the guys up front and Beau. You know, Beau, a lot of the stuff we do we do behind him, and he makes great blocks, and Zach is making great blocks. ... They’re great runners, they have great speed and vision, but they also block for each other and that’s the key.”
River Hill went 71 yards on 11 plays on its next possession. Behrmann and Igwebe each carried the ball four times, and Igwebe cashed it in with a 16-yard touchdown run to double the lead to 14-0.
Howard answered quickly, however. Quarterback Kyle Colbert (7 of 14, 70 yards) found Curtis Eley (3 receptions, 46 yards) for a 31-yard touchdown catch on a fourth and 3 to get on the board.
The Lions had several opportunities in the second half as well but couldn’t capitalize. Colbert threw a pair of interceptions — one to Christian Myers earky in the third quarter and another to Derek Sandoval early in the fourth — and Kameron Kovack missed a 39-yard field goal attempt between those two drives. The Hawks all but sealed it when they stuffed Howard on a fourth and 1 from its own 44.
There was no talk about winning the county title after the victory. River Hill, a program that has won four state championships, has its sights set on bigger goals.
“We know. We’re 0-0 right now going into playoffs,” said senior lineman Ethan Brown. “I mean, tomorrow we’re hitting film at 8 a.m. and preparing and moving on to whoever we play next.