The No. 8 South River football team saw its Class 3A championship hopes slip away yesterday in a 41-7 state quarterfinal loss to Montgomery County's Seneca Valley.
Six turnovers -- three interceptions and three fumbles -- forced the fifth-seeded Seahawks (9-2) into an unwelcome game of catch-up.
"Our passing game is most successful when we dictate when we need to throw," said South River coach Dave Summey, whose defense yielded an Anne Arundel County-low 79 points during the regular season. "We're not used to being put in a position where we're forced to do what we don't want to do.
"When you get to this stage of the game, everybody has a good team, and when you turn the ball over as many times as we did, in critical times the way we did, then it's going to hurt you."
The pains surfaced early and often for South River. K.C. Palmer returned the opening kickoff 64 yards deep into Eagles territory, but nullified his own effort when he fumbled on the ensuing play.
Fourth-seeded Seneca Valley (10-1), which plays McDonough-Charles (11-0) at 7:30 Friday, marched downfield before fumbling at the South River 9-yard line. Seneca Valley would not be denied on its next possession, however, as tailback Bryan Blessing ran in from 6 yards out to cap a 33-yard drive.
The Eagles' high-powered offense, which outscored opponents, 339-94, during the year, made it a 14-0 ballgame when junior quarterback Matt Romans found tight end Troy Turner alone in the back of the end zone. Romans broke several school records as he completed 19 of 24 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns.
Chris Messineo got South River on the board late in the second quarter when he ran in untouched from 4 yards out to cap a 13-play, 40-yard scoring drive.
The Eagles didn't hesitate to put the ball in the air in the second half. Romans connected with Blessing on touchdown passes of 8 and 12 yards. The 5-foot-5 junior, who entered the game with 981 yards and 20 touchdowns, finished the day with four touchdowns.