River Hill adjusts to sharing title



While some disappointment continues for the River Hill boys soccer team, which could only come away with a share of the Class 3A crown after a 1-1 draw with Towson last week, the team also is looking at the bigger picture that shows a 15-1-2 season and a fourth straight state title.

Last Thursday, the Hawks had a 21-7 advantage in shots over the scrappy Generals and possessed the ball for 75 percent of the game, but could only muster one goal that was matched when Towson scored on a late penalty kick.

In state championship games, if the two teams remain tied after two 10-minute overtime periods, co-champions are declared. Last Thursday, it left an unsatisfying feeling for the Hawks, who were clearly distraught following the game despite bringing home a trophy that states they are state champions.

"The one thing which the tie does do, it just robs kids of either that feeling of - from the old Wide World of Sports - either the agony of defeat or the thrill of victory. A lot of them don't know how to feel after that game because you don't get either feeling - you're left in a neutral zone," River Hill coach Bill Stara said.

Stara announced Monday that he is stepping down. He will leave behind a legacy of excellence.

In his 24 years as a head coach - the first 15 at Centennial and the last nine at River Hill - he has compiled a 328-36-17 mark with 14 state titles, seven with each program. At River Hill, which began play nine years ago, no varsity player has gone through the program without at least one state crown.

Raiders, Hawks gain

With their first football playoff victories tucked under their belts, Atholton and No. 7 River Hill are in position to advance to the state semifinals in Class 2A and Class 3A, respectively.

Atholton, which is in the postseason for the first time since the 1985 quarterfinals and enjoying its first winning season since 1996, is home Friday night in the Class 2A South regional final.

But the Raiders have the unenviable task of getting by defending state champion Potomac (9-2) to advance to their first state semifinal in football.

Potomac won last year's 2A state championship at M&T Bank Stadium by 19-12 over Hereford after being stunned, 33-25 in overtime, by Aberdeen in the 2003 final.

The Raiders (8-3) will need a typical game from running back Matt Winger and a maximum defensive effort to stop the Wolverines. Winger enters the game with a Howard County-leading 1,948 yards rushing on 238 attempts (8.2 average) and 22 touchdowns.

Winger ran for 190 yards and a touchdown last Friday in the Raiders' first-ever playoff win by 24-19 over McDonough of Charles County. Pat Hayden's 6-yard run with 7:28 left provided Atholton with the margin of victory.

Atholton's defense is on the spot against the Wolverines and its powerful ground attack guided by quarterback James Nickens and featuring running back Bubba McLeod, who also doubles at linebacker.

Potomac racked up 459 yards of total offense in Saturday's 42-21 rout of Glenelg (6-4).

The Wolverines can grind it out, as their 362 yards rushing against Glenelg attest, but they also can strike quickly, as evidenced by a 58-yard pass play from Nickens to Ollie Thomas to start the game against the Gladiators.

In the Class 3A East regional final, River Hill will play at No. 6 Severna Park at 1 p.m. Saturday.

River Hill has never been to the state semifinals, while the Falcons have been there three times in three different decades - 1974, 1987 and 1999.

Severna Park coach J.P. Hines said he is impressed with Hawks quarterback Dan Hostetler, and River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen is equally impressed with Falcons quarterback Greg Zingler. Both quarterbacks are smart and can run and throw.

Hostetler, who runs a pro-style offense, has thrown for 1,187 yards and 15 touchdowns, completing 56 of 109 (.514) passes with nine interceptions, while running for over 600 yards.

Zingler has completed 59 of 128 passes (.461) for 1,119 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. Zingler, who runs the triple option, is the Falcons' leading ground gainer with 786 yards on 136 attempts (5.9 average) and eight touchdowns.

Nick Campanaro is the Hawks' leading rusher with 1,254 yards on 187 carries (6.7 average). He has 14 total touchdowns, 13 rushing.

Severna Park's top back after Zingler is Tommy Massie, who has run for 500 yards and eight touchdowns.

River Hill has the overall edge in size, while Severna Park may be a little quicker.

"They were a lot better defending the corners and perimeters ... because their team doesn't have a lot of speed," said Hines, whose team relies on speed.

"But their speed can be deceiving. I think both teams don't stay on their blocks the way they should."



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