HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Glenelg junior running back Wande Owens was bitter after his team was shutout at River Hill on Oct. 27, and with a bye in Week 10, it lingered longer than usual. So the 2016 Howard County Offensive Player of the Year, who was held to 67 yards rushing on 25 carries in that 20-0 loss, decided to do something he used to do in his youth football days to get himself ready to play at his best.
“I watched the legend of Earl Campbell video before I came here. North-south, not east-west. I really did,” Owens said. “I used to watch them when I was younger so I had to bring it back out.”
Owens did his best Earl Cambpell impression Friday night in a rematch in the 2A South regional semifinal game, running over River Hill defenders time and time again. He ran for 105 yards on 25 carries in the first half alone and ended the night with 167 yards on 28 attempts to lead the No. 4 seed Gladiators to an upset 14-6 victory over their rival No. 1 Hawks and a spot in a regional championship game for the fourth straight year.
Glenelg will face No. 3 Thomas Stone next week on the road.
“This is probably the best win I’ve ever had,” said Owens, who had seven first-down runs and 11 carries of five yards or more. “Those last two weeks were really bitter since we came here and they completely blew us off the field and shut us out. It feels really good to come here and get that redemption win.
“It’s the greatest thing for this rivalry. Coming in they were 9-0, nothing would’ve be better than to end their season and have them hand in their pads instead of us.”
You saw the heart. The kid’s a winner.
Glenelg coach Butch Schaffer on running back Wande Owens
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Glenelg coach Butch Schaffer said his star running back is simply getting healthier after missing several games early in the fall.
“He’s not 100 percent and he hasn’t been 100 percent all year,” he said. “You saw the heart. The kid’s a winner.”
Owens did the majority of the leg work for a Glenelg team that racked up 242 yards of offense and controlled the clock, but it was quarterback Tyler Reiff who found the end zone twice with 1-yard score early in the second quarter and 4-yard run early in the fourth that capped a 15-play, 93-yard drive which lasted 7 minutes, 52 seconds.
For Reiff to even suit up was a surprise. He left the previous game against River Hill early in the second quarter and was in crutches fearful he had a torn ACL.
He was medically cleared to take the field mid-week after being diagnosed with an MCL and groin sprain, and Schaffer said it was the boost his team needed.
“We didn’t think he was going to play and I had no intention of playing him,” Schaffer admitted. “He looked a lot better than I anticipated in practice, and like I said he’s one of those kids who is the heart and soul of our team and we follow him. Him being in there was a big difference in the game.”
The Gladiators (7-3) defense, meanwhile, held River Hill (9-1) out of the end zone for the first time all season. The Hawks were averaging more than 32 points per game but mustered just two field goals from Cooper McGeehan — a 34-yarder on the Hawks’ opening drive and a 24-yarder midway through the fourth quarter.
“The kids just played. Two weeks ago our kids took blocks; today we fought off blocks,” Schaffer said. “That was the difference in the game. The defensive game plan was tremendous and that’s what it was: the kids attacking blocks instead of accepting blocks.”
River Hill’s best drive of the night was its first. Quarterback Luke Champion and safety/running back Beau Brade had runs of 15 and 16 yards on the first two plays and ended the possession with a 3-0 lead.
The Gladiators put together an 11-play, 59-yard drive on the ensuing possession but couldn’t convert on a 4th-and-1.
They forced River Hill to a three-and-out less than a minute later and a 41-yard punt return by Garrett Mills set up Owens and company at the 9-yard line. This time, Reiff converted the 4th-and-1 at the goal line to give Glenelg a 7-3 lead.
Mills again set up the Gladiators next score with an interception at the Hawks’ 7-yard line midway through the third quarter. Owens had four carries for 58 yards, including a 42-yard run, on the 15-play drive that extended the Gladiatiors advantage to 14-3 with 9:05 remaining.
“That is Glenelg football,” said Owens. “Ground and pound, 93 yards, touchdown. Ground and pound.”
The Hawks responded quickly, putting together a 10-play drive, but stalled inside the red zone despite having 1st-and-goal at the 8. McGeehan’s second field goal cut it to a one-possession game, but River Hill’s final drive and season ended with three straight incomplete passes.
Glenelg has lost 10 of the last 14 meeting versus River Hill dating back to 2007, including Friday night’s result, but the Gladiators are 3-0 against the Hawks in the playoffs in that span with victories in 2017, 2016 and 2014.
“We got back to what we do,” Schaffer said. “We scratched some things and we said hey, if we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down our way, and that’s what we did. We got back to what we do and this is who we are. I know people don’t like it but this is how we have to play to be successful.”