Long Reach's best chance at toppling top-ranked River Hill last night was to do what no football team had done this season, contain the Hawks' dynamic attack and find a weakness in their fearsome defense.
The host Lightning forced three turnovers, but it was not nearly enough, as River Hill's defense and special teams combined for four touchdowns en route to a 50-7 victory. River Hill, the defending Class 2A state champion, has outscored its opponents 264-22 in five games.
"We did some good things, but overall, it was our worst effort of the year," River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen said. "There were too many penalties that extended some drives for them. We only had one turnover all year, but tonight we had three fumbles. But it was good to see our kids battle back."
River Hill (5-0) took another step toward its seventh consecutive Howard County championship. The Hawks also extended their unbeaten streak in the county to 29 games.
The Hawks scored on their opening possession when a 52-yard run by Michael Campanaro set up a 1-yard touchdown dive by quarterback Luke Hostetler. Campanaro showed his versatility by returning an interception 78 yards for a 14-0 River Hill lead with 5:09 left in the first quarter.
"We came out with a good defensive game plan," said Campanaro, who had another interception in third quarter. "Any time you're playing Coach [Pete] Hughes, you know he is going to come out with something tricky. We kept our composure, and the coaches kept us in the right places. Long Reach is a good team, and they always give us a good fight."
The game was stopped for about 20 minutes in the first half when River Hill linebacker Obafemi Ilupeju suffered a leg injury and had to be taken from the field by an ambulance. The River Hill coaches did not know his status after the game.
"It was a possible injury to the knee, but we don't know all of the details," Van Deusen said. "We're hoping for the best."
Long Reach (2-3) was able to move the ball early in a single-wing formation, cutting the deficit to 14-7 on the first play of the second quarter on a 1-yard run by Kwasi Sarpong. Malek Redd stopped that momentum when he returned the ensuing kickoff 65 yards to again create a two-touchdown cushion for River Hill.
River Hill rounded out the scoring with a 65-yard interception return by Kevin Johnson, a stunning 75-yard kickoff return by Redd, a 3-yard run by Hostetler, a 5-yard run by Campanaro and a safety.