GERMANTOWN — The South River football team did exactly what it didn't want to do in Saturday's Class 3A quarterfinals.
It turned the ball over.
The Seahawks handed the ball back to Seneca Valley (Montgomery County) six times before surrendering, 41-7.
"There's nothing you can really do about that (the turnovers)," Seahawks running back Chris Messenio said. "We had some bad timing. They got the breaks and we didn't. When we did get some, we didn't capitalize."
South River's first offering came on its initial play from scrimmage in the form of a K. C. Palmer fumble.
What made the fumble particularly painful was that it came just one play after Palmer took the opening kickoff 64 yards to the Eagles' 22.
"When you get to this stage of the game, everybody has a very 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," South River coach Dave Summey said.
Seneca Valley's speedy offense went to work following the turnover, and in nine plays, it was at the Seahawks' 8-yard line. The 10th play of the drive proved costly for the Eagles, as Bryan Blessing fumbled the ballin the backfield and allowed it to be recovered by South River's Kevin Furguson.
Blessing, a nimble 5-foot-5 junior running back, morethan made up for his miscue by finishing the day with four touchdowns, two through the air and two by rushing.
Seneca Valley's defensewas in and out in four plays on the Seahawks' ensuing possession. Following a punt into the wind, the Eagles were just where they had started, inside the visitor's 33-yard line.
Four Blessing surges and one Matt Romans' completion later, the Screamin' Eagles were shouting, 7-0.
South River's offense sputtered on its next possession, again yielding good field position to the hosts. Starting near midfield,Romans wasted little time in moving the ball downfield as he completed three passes, including an 11-yard scoring strike to tight end Troy Turner.
It turned out to be a career day for Romans, who completed an un-high-school-like 19 of 24 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns.
"I think South River came out trying to stop Bryan (Blessing)," Seneca Valley 16-year coach Terry Changuris said. "They'd bunch up and take him (Blessing) away, and they did a good job on the run. I knew South River was a sound football team, but if we played wellwe would score our points."
South River's ground control offense took advantage of a slashing kickoff return by sophomore Greg Avery, which gave them excellent field position at the Eagles' 40.
The Seahawks chipped away, got the necessary first downs, and put together a 13-play, 40-yard scoring drive, capped by a 4-yard scamper by Messenio.
"Most teams are going to go with what has gotten them to thispoint. And we've been a ball-control, run-oriented team," Summey said.
"Our passing game is successful when we dictate when we need tothrow.
"We are not used to being put in a postion, forced to do what we don't want to do. Once that happens, you're behind the eight ball in several ways."
The Seahawks escaped the first half trailingby only a touchdown, 14-7, after Boli Kabwasa's 31-yard field-goal attempt fell wide and short with one second showing on the clock. Knowing they had been a second-half team all season, the Seahawks were still confident of advancing to next week's semifinals.
"The first half, we don't usually play all that well, so we were hoping we could get back into it," Messenio said. "We were in it until late in the third quarter, and then we fell apart. We stuck together, though. Nobody got mad or threw any cheap shots. I'm proud of being part of this team."
Interceptions and big plays by the hosts had South River coming apart at the seams in a fourth quarter that saw the Eagles score three unanswered touchdowns.
"I felt we were as good as they were,so if we executed, we could put some points on the board like we have all year," Changuris said. "We've never thrown the ball like this, but in the past two years, we've opened it up. We enjoy it."
Summey admitted that he expected more of a ground-control offense from theEagles but said he was equally concerned with what they could do with the pass.
"We were very aware of their speed, and we had preached that we were going to give cushion early in the game," Summey said."We told our defensive backs to bend but not break and give up the big play, and Seneca was throwing underneath that a lot."