Down by seven with 71 seconds to play, Glenelg had the ball on fourth-and-two on its rival's 6-yard line. But even before the Gladiators' Joey Stancil had taken a left-side pitch, River Hill linebacker Ryan Dieter knew what to do.
"Their guards always went where the play did," Dieter said "So when they went that way, I knew it was time to go."
The junior linebacker dropped Stancil for a 2-yard loss, preserving a 14-7 victory for the 12th-ranked Hawks (8-2, 7-2 Howard County) that ended a 35-game regular-season winning streak by the No. 4 Gladiators (9-1, 8-1).
Glenelg, which got its only touchdown on Stancil's 16-yard run with 10 minutes to play, already had clinched a Class 2A South regional berth. It also had clinched its second straight county title.
River Hill secured a 3A North regional playoff berth, sending it to the postseason for the first time in the school's eight-year history.
"We went 7-3 last year, so to do it again would have been disappointing," said fourth-year Hawks coach Brian Van Deusen. "We used Glenelg's style of offense: control the ball, eat up the clock, drive down the field. We kept them from making the big play."
The Hawks' ball-control offense was centered on Tim Morgan (87 yards), who ran behind tight end Ben Nowak and linemen Michael Macon, Charlie LaGrave, Nick Madiou, Josh Bogdanor and Karl Heinz. The Gladiators had only 13 offensive plays in the first half compared to 34 for River Hill (217 total offensive yards).
Quarterback Ben Hostetler capped a nine-play, 57-yard drive with a 19-yard scoring run that gave River Hill a 7-0 lead at 8:51 of the second quarter. Hostetler's 18-yard pass to Nowak on fourth-and-10 sustained the march, setting up Hostetler's score on the next play.
The touchdown, Hostetler said, resulted from "a messed-up handoff," though the 6-foot-1, 175-pound player made it look like a masterful, play-action fake to Morgan.
Morgan's 18-yard run capped a 13-play, 56-yard drive with 4:46 left in the third quarter. The march was sustained by fourth-and-short runs of 3, 3 and 6 yards respectively by Hostetler, Morgan and Nowak.
Dieter kicked two extra points and, with Cory Sumpter, sparked a defense that allowed Glenelg to cross midfield only once in the first half. Glenelg had averaged nearly 33 points and 271.1 rushing yards coming in, but only rushed for 134 yards yesterday.
Tim Siders, an 1,100-yard rusher for Glenelg, was held to minus-1 yard before being sidelined with a right ankle injury in the second quarter. He should play next week.
No. 1 Eastern Tech 40, Patapsco 0: Stephen Samuel scored three times and Dietrich Wright twice as the Mavericks (10-0) shut out their 10th opponent during a 16-game regular-season winning streak.
No. 3 Woodlawn 31, Dulaney 13: Running backs Lenard Leslie and Jason Goode each scored twice for the Warriors (9-1).
McDonogh 10, Gilman 6: Rory Sanborn's touchdown pass to Darius Heyward-Bey rallied the Eagles from a 6-3 deficit against the visiting Greyhounds in Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference action.
Western Tech 34, Lansdowne 6: Senior Brandon Pollard rushed for three touchdowns as the Wolverines (7-1) improved their chances of gaining a 2A North playoff berth.
Long Reach 14, No. 9 Oakland Mills 0: Running back Jerome Scott and wide receiver Lionel Vieux each scored a touchdown and quarterback Trent Covington threw for 160 yards and a score as the visiting Lightning (7-3) shut out the playoff-bound Scorpions (7-3).