It wasn’t the senior season Zach Igwebe wanted for himself and his teammates, but it was still pretty darn good.
Instead of River Hill’s senior class getting a chance to chase a state championship like so many of the Hawks football teams before them, Igwebe and his teammates got a delayed season, a shortened schedule, no playoffs and the constant fear that a game would be canceled due to a virus that’s upended basically every aspect of their lives.
But Igwebe and the Hawks didn’t dwell on the negatives, especially not on Friday nights.
The Hawks, led by seniors Michael Crisitello, Nick Laumann and Igwebe, capped off their five-game campaign Friday with their most dominant performance yet — a 23-0 home triumph over Marriotts Ridge — to finish the season undefeated.
“Every moment was a little bit sweeter this year,” Igwebe said. “We knew it could end at any second. Every rep, every practice, every game, every moment we cherished it a little bit more. This [win] really feels amazing.”
River Hill head coach Brian Van Deusen said from the beginning of the season in February that it was “all about the seniors.”
“We have a great group of seniors,” said the longtime River Hill coach. “We just wanted to make the most of this opportunity for our seniors. We wanted six games, but five is better than expected based on how things were going [with the coronavirus pandemic] in the winter.”
The Hawks’ defense was overpowering in the victory, pitching their fourth shutout in five games. RIver Hill (5-0) allowed only 56 yards of offense and forced two turnovers against a Marriotts Ridge team that had scored 107 points in its first four games.
“A lot of credit again goes to our defense,” Van Deusen said. “The senior leadership from our senior linebackers — Zach, Nick, Michael and Gabe [Kamins] — led the way for us all year.”
Igwebe, Crisitello and Laumann led the way for River Hill’s offense with one rushing touchdown apiece in their last high school football game. Igwebe racked up 129 yards on 22 carries up the middle for the Hawks, while Crisitello compiled 46 yards on 11 carries on outside carries and 38 yards receiving and Laumann added 22 yards from scrimmage.
“We all came here the same, and we’ve worked hard for a long four years,” Igwebe said about the trio. “It was amazing for us all to score tonight and for all of it to come together tonight.”
“They’re all great leaders and great character kids,” Van Deusen said about Igwebe, Crisitello and Laumann. “Those guys always come to practice every day ready to go. It makes it easy for you as a coach when your best players are also your hardest workers, [because] the younger guys look up to them and follow that.
The win Friday was the final stop on River Hill’s “revenge tour,” Igwebe said.
While this season couldn’t give the Hawks a full 10 games or a playoff run, it did give them the chance to right the wrongs of the 2019 season. Last season, River Hill lost two games — a one-point overtime loss to Marriotts Ridge and a four-point loss to Wilde Lake in the first round of the playoffs.
Earlier this season, the Hawks shutout the Wildecats, 16-0, and did the same to Marriotts Ridge (3-2) on Friday.
“The revenge tour was the goal from Day One,” Igwebe said. “It feels amazing that now the revenge tour is complete.”
Neither team scored in the first 21 minutes of the contest at River Hill High. Marriotts Ridge had to punt after a nine-play drive to open the game, and then a 19-play drive from River Hill that chewed up 12 minutes off the clock ended with a missed field goal.
The Mustangs offense couldn’t capitalize on the momentum, though, going three-and-out and punting back to the Hawks, who wasted no time finding the end zone thanks to Igwebe’s legs. The senior running back gashed the Marriotts Ridge defense on the first play for 37 yards and then churned out an 8-yard run before capping off the scoring drive with a 5-yard touchdown.
A few plays later, Igwebe, who plays linebacker for the Hawks, intercepted a Marriotts Ridge pass to set up a 26-yard field goal from kicker Poojan Patel that gave River Hill a 9-0 halftime advantage.
“He’s awesome both on and off the field,” Van Deusen said. “On defense, he’s our coach on the field. … Offensively, he’s our inside run guy. He pounds it, and he gets so many yards after contact to keep the chains moving for us.”
River Hill’s defense forced another interception early in the second half — this time from linebacker Daniel Fahmy — to set up a 12-yard touchdown from Crisitello on a sweep.
After a few drives of River Hill’s defense barely letting Marriotts Ridge get past the line of scrimmage, the Hawks’ offense sealed the victory and the undefeated 2020-21 season with a 2-yard plunge from Laumann.
Despite the loss, Marriotts Ridge head coach Marcus Lewis said he’s proud of his “outstanding” senior class, which includes star players on both offense and defense
“I’ve had them since they were freshmen, and they mean the world to me,” Lewis said. “We didn’t play well the last two weeks, but that doesn’t diminish how I feel about them.”
This story will be updated with more information and quotes from coaches and players.
RH: Michael Crisitello 12-yard run, Patel kick [16-0]
RH: Nick Laumann 2-yard run, Patel kick [23-0]
OTHER FOOTBALL SCORES:
Howard 20, Wilde Lake 10
The Lions bounced back from their first loss of the season last week against Glenelg by earning the 10-point win over the Wildecats.
After falling behind 7-0, Howard scored 17 unanswered points in the second quarter — including 10 points in the final minute of the half — to take a lead the team never relinquished.
Wilde Lake (4-2) scored first on a pitch to Amari Hutson, who broke a tackle on his way to a 15-yard touchdown run with 2:09 left in the first quarter. The drive was set up by an interception by Keondre Dorsey.
Howard (4-1) answered right back to tie the game on its ensuing possession, though, capping the drive with a 1-yard QB sneak by Kyle Colbert on fourth down to make it 7-7 with 10:59 left in the first half.
Howard added a 46-yard field goal by Camren Kovach with 49 seconds remaining before halftime to take its first lead of the game. Then, on the second play of Wilde Lake’s next drive, the Lions got a defensive score as Alex Brown intercepted an overthrown pass and returned it 36 yards for the touchdown.
Wilde Lake made another big defensive play early in the third quarter, recovering a fumble to set up a Grant Gladden field goal to make it a seven-point game. But that’s as close as the Wildecats got, as Kovach added another field goal late in the fourth quarter to create the final margin.
WL — 7 0 3 0 — 10
Ho — 0 17 0 3 — 20
WL: Amari Hutson 15-yard run, Grant Gladden kick good [7-0]
Ho: Kyle Colbert 1-yard run, Camren Kovach kick good [7-7]
Ho: Kovach 46-yard field goal [10-7]
Ho: Alex Brown 36-yard interception return, Kovach kick good [17-7]
WL: Gladden 20-yard field goal [17-10]
Ho: Kovach 21-yard field goal [20-10]
Glenelg 57, Reservoir 20
The Gladiators end their three-game season undefeated with a blowout win over the Gators (0-4). Glenelg (3-0) rushed for 253 yards and six touchdowns in the win. Adrian Russell led the way on the ground with 24 carries for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Bisi Owens, the hero in last week’s thrilling win over Howard, had eight carries for 54 yards and two touchdowns and 212 yards and a touchdown on 9-of-12 passing. On defense, Glenelg was led by Alex Dalton and Pierce Pusheck, while Owens also intercepted a pass and John Masterman recovered a fumble in the end zone for a score.
G — 14 21 7 15 — 57
Re — 6 14 0 0 — 20
G: Bisi Owens 1-yard run, Mike Fernandes kick [7-0]
G: Adrian Russell 1-yard run, Fernandes kick [14-0]
Re: Amare Dixon 80-yard pass from Malcolm Brown, kick no good [14-6]
Re: Justin Cotton 10-yard pass from Brown, attempt failed [28-12]
G: Robbie Tolbert 40-yard pass from Owens, Fernandes kick [35-12]
Re: Cotton pass from Brown, attempt good [35-20]
G: Owens 25-yard run, Fernandes kick [42-20]
G: Kevin Pak 3-yard run, Pierce Pusheck pass from David Toronto [50-20]
G: Niko Garbis 1-yard run, Fernandes kick [57-20]
Centennial 20, Long Reach 14
The Eagles beat the Lightning for their second straight victory to end the season. Centennial, which lost 25 straight games between 2016 and 2019, hadn’t won two straight games since November 2013.
To get the win, Centennial (2-3) needed some improbable late-game heroics. The Eagles got two touchdown passes from Sam Bussink to Brendan Hlibok in the final 30 seconds of the game to stun the host Lightning.
Down by seven points and driving in the final minute, Bussink found Hlibok over the middle for a 16-yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds remaining. The two-point try was no good, however, and the Eagles still trailed by one point.
Needing an onside kick to have a chance, Centennial got the recovery and took over at the 50-yard line. On the team’s first play of the drive, Bussink launched a deep pass down the field, and after the ball bounced off the hands of a Long Reach defender, Khalil Conteh snagged it out of the air for a 43-yard catch and run down to the Lightning 7-yard line with 17 seconds remaining.
After an incomplete pass on first down, Bussink completed the comeback with a pass to Hlibok in the right corner of the end zone with seven seconds left. Bussink, who also hit Jake Thomas for a 50-yard touchdown in the second quarter, finished with a career-high three passing scores.
Long Reach’s ensuing Hail Mary pass as time expired was off the mark, and the Eagles celebrated on the field their season-ending victory.
Earlier in the game, Long Reach (1-4) had scored on the final play of the first half courtesy of a 24-yard pass from Alexander Coffey to Kojo Addo, who finished the day with two touchdown catches, to take a 14-7 lead into the break.
C — 0 7 0 13 — 20
LR — 6 8 0 0 — 14
LR: Kojo Addo 5-yard pass from Chris Martin Jr., kick no good [6-0]
C: Jake Thomas 50-yard pass from Sam Bussink, kick good [7-6]
LR: Addo 24-yard pass from Alexander Coffey, Julius Saunders 2-point pass from Coffey [14-7]
C: Brendan Hlibok 16-yard pass from Bussink, two-point try no good [14-13]
C: Hlibok 7-yard pass from Bussink, kick good [20-13]
Atholton 21, Oakland Mills 8
The Raiders (3-2) end their season on a two-game winning streak with the two-score win over the Scorpions (3-2).
A — 0 14 0 7 — 21
OM — 0 0 0 8 — 8
A: Harlem Morton 41-yard pass from Miles Scott, Christopher Weber kick [7-0]
A: Dillon Watkins Davison 8-yard un, Weber kick [14-0]
OM: Antoine Holmes 12-yard run, Chris Coronel run [21-8]
Hammond 7, Mt. Hebron 6
The Golden Bears (1-5) earned their first victory with the one-point win over the Vikings (1-4). Micah Austin’s 41-yard touchdown reception from Jordan Campbell — and the extra point from Michael Conway — was the game-winning score in the second quarter.
MH — 6 0 0 0 — 6
Ha — 0 7 0 0 — 7
MH: Anwer Ayubi 10-yard pass from Jacob Nixon, kick blocked [6-0]
Ha: Micah Austin 41-yard pass from Jordan Campbell, Michael Conway kick [7-6]