Leading host River Hill 14-0 after one half of football, Glenelg head coach Butch Schaffer reminded his players of the recent one-sided history of the Howard County rivalry.
"We've had many opportunities and we've played them extremely tight six of seven times and have come up on the short side," Schaffer said. "We brought up the history. So we said we didn't want it to come down to that. Our kids took that to heart."
In fact, the Hawks entered Friday night having won 14 of the last 15 meetings, and five of the last six were decided by one score or less. But Schaffer and the Gladiators weren't about to let this one slip away, and a 28-point third quarter turned a close game into a lopsided 49-7 Glenelg victory.
The 42-point differential between the two teams is the largest since current Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Michael Campanaro and River Hill beat the Gladiators 45-0 in 2007. The Hawks went undefeated and won the state championship that season.
"We've had a lot of chances to win a couple games up here, and somehow they slipped by us," Schaffer said. "For us to finally come through and make it happen, it feels good for these kids. I've been on this side of a lot of heart-breaking losses to River Hill and I'm really proud for our kids. I've seen the upset looks on their faces many, many times."
Glenelg (2-0) needed just two offensive snaps in the third to extend its lead from 14 to 35. Sophomore running back Wande Owens broke free for a 52-yard touchdown run and senior Noah Williamson found the end zone on a 9-yard scamper after a blocked punt. But it was junior Garrett Mills' 82-yard touchdown return on the opening kickoff of the second half that jump started the scoring spree and extended the lead to 20-0.
"We lost our kicker [to injury], so we put a different kicker in and he kicked it right down the middle, which we don't do. So that was tough," said River Hill head coach Brian Van Deusen. "We were talking at halftime that if we get a stop, we're down 14-0; And if we get on the board to make it 14-7, we've got a game."
On the Hawks' first possession of the second half, Glenelg senior Connor Stanley intercepted River Hill junior quarterback Luke Champion's pass and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown and a 27-0 lead.
River Hill (1-1) answered with a touchdown on its next drive, but Glenelg followed with the runs by Owens and Williamson on its next two possessions to take a 42-7 lead and force a running clock with less than three minutes remaining in the third.
"That's the best quarter we've had since I've been here," Schaffer said. "It's a testament to those guys really putting in the work on all aspects of the game on offense, on defense and on special teams. I'm really proud of their efforts."
Owens, who led the way with 130 yards and an 8-yard touchdown run in the second quarter on 12 first-half carries, ran the ball once in the second half to finish with 182 yards on the ground.
Sophomore Sam Alsheimer scored the first touchdown on a 5-yard run on Glenelg's third offensive drive of the game. He, along with Williamson and junior Max Sotka, spelled Owens effectively and finished with 33 yards rushing. The Gladiators ran for 254 yards on 29 carries as a team.
"We just pound the football," said Owens, who had gains of 44 and 40 in the first half and set up his second-half score with a 28-yard kick return. "I wanted to return the kick, but once we scored, we were all hyped. We were all hyped up for this game. This is the most pumped I've been for any game I've ever played."
Van Deusen said his team was simply worn down by the size of Glenelg's offensive line, which features several 300-pounders.
"You've got to give them a ton of credit," he said. "They're huge up front. That's the key to the game – it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. They've got a guy [Dakota Davis] going to Syracuse and another guy going Division-I, and we've got linemen weighing 200 or 180 pounds. We hung in there as long as we could."
Connor McCullough had the Hawks' lone touchdown on a 3-yard run that capped a seven-play, 60-yard drive early in the third quarter that cut the deficit to 27-7.
Glenelg junior Matt Lipp intercepted a Champion pass at the River Hill 25 on the first play of the fourth quarter, which allowed the Gladiators to control the running clock. Kameron Stewart finished a six-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown run that made it 49-7 with six minutes to go.
Howard visits River Hill on Sept. 16, while Glenelg hosts Wilde Lake.
Glenelg (2-0) – 7 7 28 7 – 49
River Hill (1-1) – 0 0 7 0 – 7
G: Sam Alsheimer 5 yard run, Hunter Forsythe kick [7-0]
G: Wande Owens 8 yard run, Forsythe kick [14-0]
G: Garrett Mills 82 yard kick return, kick failed [20-0]
G: Connor Stanley 67 yard interception return, Forsythe kick [27-0]
RH: Connor McCullough 3 yard run, kick good [27-7]
G: Owens 52 yard run, Forsthye kick [34-7]
G: Noah Williamson 9 yard run, Williamson conversion [42-7]
G: Kameron Stewart 4 yard run, Forsythe kick [49-7]
Howard (2-0) – 14 7 7 6– 34
Wilde Lake (0-2) – 0 0 0 6 – 6
Ho: Bryson Craven 95 yard kick return, Michael Gillespie kick [7-0]
Ho: Robby Porter 35 yard pass to Tanner Scaife, Gillespie kick [14-0]
Ho: Porter 2 yard pass to Dylan Perez, Gillespie kick [21-0]
Ho: Maleek Thompson 2 yard run, Gillespie kick [28-0]
Ho: Dimeji Olayinka 2 yard fumble return, kick failed [34-0]
WL: TJ Lyles 9 yard run, conversion failed [35-6]
Long Reach (2-0) – 7 6 6 6 – 25
Atholton (1-1) – 3 14 0 3 – 20
Greg Benton Jr. ran for 4 touchdowns, including the game-winner in the fourth quarter, to lead Long Reach to a 25-20 home victory over Atholton.
The Lightning had 18 first downs, while the Raiders turned the ball over three times.
Atholton got two field goals from Ben Lovera, and two second-quarter scores – a 61-yard touchdown run by Jelani Dula, and a 59-yard touchdown run from Jordan Marsh.
Long Reach has matched its win total from last season, and is 2-0 for the first time since 2009.
Mt. Hebron (1-1) 21, Centennial (1-1) 14
Marriotts Ridge (1-1) 28, Hammond (0-2) 0
Oakland Mills (1-1) 34, Reservoir (0-2) 28