Power package

Two River Hill rushers help the team get off to a 6-0 start, a probable fourth straight playoff berth and 10 wins in a row

Football

October 18, 2006|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,sun reporter

At first glance, defenses could underestimate River Hill running backs Zach Martin and Michael Campanaro.

They're both 5 feet 10 with easy smiles and mild dispositions. Martin, a junior, has blond hair and weighs 175 pounds. Campanaro, a sophomore, is 10 pounds lighter with dark hair.

But given a helmet, shoulder pads and a football, they morph into a pair of intense 16-year-old speed demons for the No. 2-ranked Hawks.

"Michael is a playmaker for us on offense, defense and special teams. He's our outside running threat, a great pass receiver and returns kicks and plays cornerback," said Hawks coach Brian Van Deusen, who has a 56-15 record in seven seasons.

"Zach's the leader and best player on our defense, where he started [at linebacker] as a sophomore last year," Van Deusen said. "But he's stepped into the running back position this year and done an outstanding job, breaking a lot of tackles and averaging over 100 yards per game."

Van Deusen called the duo "thunder and lightning" after the Hawks' 32-16 victory over Long Reach on Oct. 6.

In that game, they scored all five of the Hawks' touchdowns and combined for 461 all-purpose yards. They also made 15 tackles apiece in a matchup of defending Howard County co-champions.

The Hawks (6-0) are riding a 10-game winning streak against the county dating back to last year's 15-14 loss to Long Reach. River Hill is 35-4 against league competition (including playoff games) since the start of the 2003 season and has all but wrapped up its fourth straight county title. With four games left, the Hawks' fourth straight Class 3A playoff berth is in sight.

Behind linemen Greg Nowak, Zach Robinson, Ryan Bounds, Matt Jaso, Eddie Roth and Chris Rhodes, whose average size is 6-2, 230 pounds, Martin rushed for 236 yards and scores of 6, 20 and 20 yards, respectively, on 29 carries against Long Reach.

Campanaro finished with 225 all-purpose yards, including a 60-yard touchdown run and an acrobatic, fingertip catch of a 76-yard scoring pass from Dan Hostetler.

"From the very first series, they made it look so easy," said Hostetler, a senior whose offensive line outplayed a Long Reach defensive line whose average size is 6-1, 302 pounds. "They were seeing the holes and hitting them so quickly; I was shocked."

The duo did an equal amount of damage on defense, where Martin made a tackle for lost yardage and disrupted three passes, and Campanaro had three solo tackles against second-team All-Metro pick Keith Richardson, Long Reach's star quarterback-running back.

Martin said he "was always a year ahead of" Campanaro during their days in the Columbia Bulldogs' recreation leagues, "but I watched him play, and I thought he was really good."

As a freshman, Campanaro, in turn, watched Martin, whom he called, "a good, hard runner, even though he played mostly defense."

"I figured, one day, we could be in the backfield and complement each other -- and I was right," Campanaro said. "I block for him, he blocks for me. And with his power and my shiftiness, our misdirection plays can throw people off. "

It's impressive that the two have done so well as underclassmen, but not surprising given their bloodlines.

Martin's brothers, Chris, 21, and, Tyler, 19, a senior and sophomore playing at McDaniel College, both starred on past River Hill teams, as did Campanaro's brother, Nick. In addition, Todd Martin and Attilio Campanaro, the boys' fathers, serve as Van Deusen's assistants.

Zach Martin set single-season school records in four defensive categories last year in total tackles (169), solo tackles (95), assists (74) and tackles for lost yardage (22). In Friday night's 34-19 rout of Atholton, Martin rushed for 159 yards and four touchdowns, the latter tying Tyler Martin's single-game scoring record at River Hill.

Still, "it seems like no matter what I do, I'm still going to be, little brother around the house," Zach Martin said. "Especially with Tyler."

Michael Campanaro endures similar comparisons to Nick, whose 167 yards rushing and three touchdowns sparked last year's 34-28 victory over Severna Park for River Hill's first Class 3A East regional title and a berth in its first state semifinal during a school-record 11-2 season.

For comparison, Martin and Campanaro need only look to Hostetler and Nowak, each of whom is a younger brother of a former Hawks player.

"They had older siblings who played years before -- similar pedigree, similar talents -- so the expectations of Zach and Mike were there before they proved themselves," said senior tight end Nowak, a second-team All-Metro pick whose brother, Ben, earned All-Metro honors at River Hill in 2003.

lem.satterfield@baltsun.com

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