At times this season, River Hill has not looked like itself on the football field. In losses to Hammond (47-38) and Howard (21-3), the Hawks hardly resembled a two-time defending state champion.
But in Saturday's 49-0 shutout at City College (8-3) in the 3A East regional semifinals, River Hill (9-2) showed why it is one of the most respected football programs in Maryland.
The Hawks scored three times in the first quarter — on runs by quarterback Drew Pritchard (3 yards), Kalonji Moore (65) and Tre Patterson (18) — and three more by halftime — on two more short runs by Moore and a 39-yard pass from Pritchard to Cory Daniel — to kick off the second half with a running clock.
"This year we've had our struggles, we lost two games, but I moved here from Texas and I heard that a River Hill team a few years back lost two consecutive games and came back with fire," said Patterson, who also intercepted a pass in the second quarter. "Our seniors are taking leadership."
City, which has scored five touchdowns or more five times this season, including a 36-14 win over rival Poly at M&T Bank Stadium last week, was shut down at the line of scrimmage, as River Hill's Logan Kirby and Anthony Corrao, and linebackers Cyrus Vaughn and Chris Dugan, burst into the City backfield all day.
"I didn't expect that, but we were outmanned … we lost the battle of the line on both sides of the ball," City coach George Petrides said. "They beat us up both ways."
River Hill kicker Alex Potocko, who was 7-for-7 on extra points, kicked off into the end zone nine out of nine times on Saturday, and City didn't make it to River Hill's side of the field until the last play of the game, when quarterback Troy Robinson scrambled across midfield but was tackled to end the game. City's first defensive stop came with five minutes left in the game on its own 3-yard line.
"City has played well, they handled Poly last week with a pretty impressive win. So we were expecting a tough game," River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen said. "I think Howard County has been showing it for the last six or seven years ... Howard County is some of the top football (in the state)."
River Hill advances to host county rival Reservoir (8-3) in the 3A East regional championship next week. Reservoir stunned county champion Glenelg, 34-13, Friday night in the other regional semifinal. Two weeks ago, River Hill beat Reservoir, 14-13, in the regular season finale.
"It's going to be a big game, but I'm really confident in this team," Patterson said. "We're back."
RH (9-2) 21 21 7 0 - 49
City (8-3) 0 0 0 0 - 0
RH: Pritchard 3 run (Potocko kick).
RH: Moore 65 run (Potocko kick).
RH: Patterson 18 run (Potocko kick).
RH: Moore 2 run (Potocko kick).
RH: Moore 6 run (Potocko kick).
RH: Daniel 39 pass from Pritchard (Potocko kick).
RH: J. Howland 7 run (Potocko kick).