The first time River Hill and Eastern Tech met, in last year's Class 2A state championship game, no one gave Eastern Tech much respect before the game. And River Hill knew the feeling, having been in that situation the year before in a title-game loss to Friendly.
Now, River Hill again knows the feelings of Eastern Tech.
The Hawks used the 2006 loss to inspire their return to the title game and their victory in it. This season, Eastern Tech has had the same inspiration.
"It's not a revenge situation," said Eastern Tech coach Marc Mesaros, whose team lost last year, 14-7. "It's been a, 'Let's use it to get better' motivation."
Now, here they both are again, tomorrow at M&T; Bank Stadium, No. 1 River Hill (13-0), looking for a second championship, and No. 4 Eastern Tech (13-0) looking for its first.
"A loss in the state championship leaves such a terrible feeling," Eastern Tech senior quarterback Joey Jones said. "You use it to fuel the fire. We wanted to face River Hill, and I think this time it will be a matter of who gets the ball first and last. Our defense is faster, and we're more of an offensive team. It's going to be two dynamic offenses clashing."
Yes, but River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen said his only concern is injuries. A major concern is running back Michael Campanaro, who has a hamstring pull and hasn't practiced this week.
Last night, Campanaro said he might not be able to play both offense and defense, but "I'm definitely going to be playing. I couldn't miss this game."
Mesaros said this game is difficult to figure.
"You watch River Hill against other teams, and it is hard to quantify how we match up," he said. "They deserve a lot of credit for what they've done. But we'll go in and play our game. We played them tougher than anyone last year."
A year ago, River Hill sailed easily into the title game. When Eastern Tech came out with an unfamiliar aggressiveness, River Hill felt the pressure, especially going in to the second half, behind for the first time all season, 7-0.
"I definitely felt the heat," River Hill senior quarterback Luke Hostetler said. "When we came back after halftime, we looked flat, like we almost gave up. We had to get something going. That was a pretty good bit of pressure. We'd never seen a hard-nosed defense like they played."
Eastern Tech stopped Campanaro, but Hostetler was able to go to Malek Redd, who scored twice.
This season is different in that River Hill has been challenged in the playoffs - by Gwynn Park and Douglass of Prince George's and Century.
"I think we're battle-tested," Campanaro said. "The three schools we've faced threw different defenses at us. They spread us out. Tried to take away our sweeps. But Malek and I have been feeding off each other since we played peewee together. He is the outside speed guy, and I'll hit you in the middle - and I have speed, too."
But this season is different for Eastern Tech, too.
"We're smarter and a lot quicker on the outside than we were last season," Mavericks linebacker Jeff Kryglik said. "And we're stronger, better prepared for the fourth quarter.
"We know River Hill is the measuring stick. They're the champs. We have to respect them. But we're more of a team this year and have a better chance because of it."