River Hill was on the verge of a major upset and its first trip to a state final. But in a disastrous final period for the Hawks, host Gwynn Park scored three touchdowns in a span of just more than six minutes to post a 30-21 victory in a Class 3A state semifinal yesterday.
Unbeaten Gwynn Park (13-0), ranked No. 4 by The Washington Post, will play Westminster (12-1), ranked No. 2 in The Sun, in the 3A final Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium. Westminster advanced with a 35-6 rout of City on Friday night.
Making their first appearance in the final four, the Hawks (11-2), ranked No. 6 in The Sun, took a 21-9 lead into the final 12 minutes only to have the Yellow Jackets of Brandywine in Prince George's County sting them for three quick scores.
Two of the touchdowns were the result of turnovers - a fumble and an interception by Lawrence Johnson - and the other came after the Hawks were penalized for a face mask that nullified a defensive touchdown.
Sophomore linebacker Zach Martin scooped up a loose ball and raced 66 yards to an apparent score and 27-16 Hawks lead.
No whistle was blown nor was a flag thrown immediately on the alleged face mask as Martin went the distance and two officials signaled touchdown at the goal line.
After a meeting among officials, the score was called back, and William Little later scored on his first of two 1-yard touchdown runs to give the Jackets the lead for good at 24-21 with 7:09 left. Little's other score came with 4:37 left.
"We played really well in the first half. [We were] able to move the ball and we took advantage of their aggressiveness on defense to get some easy [offside] penalties," River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen said.
Hawks quarterback Dan Hostetler varied his cadence, and his patience at the line of scrimmage made the Jackets anxious enough to be called for seven offside penalties in the first half.
Hostetler threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score.
"We're proud to have played on the best team in school history, " River Hill two-way lineman, B.J. Benning said.
RH 0 14 7 0 - 21
GP 7 2 0 21 - 30
GP-W. Johnson 88 fumble return (Williams kick) GP-Safety, quarterback tackled in end zone RH-Nowak 18 pass from D. Hostetler (Martello kick) RH-Hostetler 1 run (Martello kick) RH-J. Hostetler 25 pass from D. Hostetler (Martello kick) GP-Germany 21 pass from Banks (Williams kick) GP-Little 1 run (Moten pass from Banks) GP-Little 1 run (kick failed)