For River Hill, help comes in all sizes on road to state semis

On High Schools

November 30, 2005|By MILTON KENT

So often, big and little are thought to be completely antithetical, operating on either end of the spectrum. The truth, however, particularly in sports, is that the 7-foot behemoth center needs the point guard, and vice versa.

The cleanup slugger in the middle of the lineup has to have a waterbug leadoff man to have RBI chances, just as the speedster at the top of the batting order would be a stranded duck on the pond without someone to drive him in.

Because football is such a game of big - big players, big plays, big momentum swings and the like - the smaller things get unnoticed, sometimes even by the people who do them.

But because River Hill quarterback Dan Hostetler saw something small midway through the fourth quarter of Saturday's Class 3A East regional final, the Hawks came up huge, beating Severna Park, 34-28.

With River Hill lined up in punt formation and leading 28-21 with about 6:30 to go, Hostetler, who is the sixth-ranked Hawks punter, noticed that Severna Park didn't have a returner back. He signaled for a quick snap, then punted it deep and to his right.

The ball rolled a bit, then was touched, but not gathered in by a Falcons player. The touch was slight, but just enough so that when the River Hall defenders landed on the loose ball, they were awarded possession on the muff at the Severna Park 25.

On the ensuing play, Hostetler handed off to running back Nick Campanaro, who rumbled 25 yards for the touchdown and what appeared to be a big 13-point cushion.

"He [Hostetler] is smart," said River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen. "He's got that football knowledge. Not all kids would see that, but he saw that and called for the quick snap and was able to make a play."

As it turned out, the Hawks (11-1) needed all of that padding, as Severna Park scored two minutes later when Falcons quarterback Greg Zingler heaved a pass from the River Hill 48 that traveled about 40 yards, then was deflected the final 8 into the arms of Tommy Babington for a score.

But the Hawks were able to hold on with an interception in the final minute to preserve the school's first-ever berth in the state semifinals, and a Saturday meeting at Gwynn Park in Prince George's County.

After Saturday's win, Van Deusen was smart enough to be thankful for the small things, like Campanaro, his generously listed 5-foot-10, 195-pound senior, who ran for 167 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries.

Besides the 25-yard scoring run, and another 49-yard romp inside the Severna Park 10 in the third quarter, Campanaro's day was a collection of little runs, 4 yards here, 6 yards there, the kinds of jaunts that don't turn heads, but move the chains.

"Some people say our offense is methodical. That's how we get going. That's what we do," said Campanaro, who transferred this year to River Hill from Mount St. Joseph.

"The 5- and 6- and 7- and 8-yard runs turn into 20 and 30, eventually. As that keeps going, so does the clock."

And keeping the clock rolling on offense isn't such a bad thing, particularly when your defense isn't having a lot of success stopping the opposition, as the Hawks did through most of the first half, when Severna Park scored on its first two possessions and posted 21 points in the first half.

And that's where the big comes in. Led by 6-foot, 280-pound left guard B.J. Benning, the River Hill line pushed around the lighter Falcons, opening enough holes for the Hawks to run for 250 yards.

Defensively, Benning got three sacks, playing nose tackle, as the Hawks stiffened in the second half, only permitting the freakish touchdown late in the fourth.

"We've been able to keep it going pretty much all year," said Van Deusen. "We do our lifting twice a week. Hopefully, it keeps the strength they gained in the summer going. We're not done yet. We want to keep it going."

If the Hawks can keep blending the big and the small, who's to say they can't keep it going all the way to a state title?

milton.kent@baltsun.com

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