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Huntingtown football pounds it on the ground; River Hill wins with balance

By Greg Schimmel and Louis Nelson,

Huntingtown senior running back Carl Riffe rushed for 223 yards and three touchdowns in the second half of the Hurricanes’ 34-6 Maryland 3A semifinal win over Milford Mill on Saturday, but afterward, Riffe was quick to deflect the credit.

“The holes were huge. I didn’t really even have to do much,” Riffe said. “I didn’t break many tackles or anything. The holes were just there.”

Huntingtown’s offensive line — Erwin Jones, Will Freeland, Riley Cannon, Chris Collurafici and Zach Walker — has powered the Hurricanes all season, leading them to a second Maryland 3A title game appearance in four years.

The Hurricanes have rushed for 3,648 yards this season, and with four different running backs getting at least 75 carries, the line has been the consistent force in the ground attack.

“We love running the football,” Cannon said. “We know we just have to do what we’re supposed to do, open some holes up so our running backs can go score.”

Cannon and his linemates will face perhaps its biggest test yet Thursday when they take on defending 3A champion River Hill, whose defensive front manhandled an equally physical Urbana squad in the Hawks’ 29-7 semifinal win on Friday.

Both teams play a similarly balanced game, and the state title will likely be decided in the trenches.

“We have an idea of what to expect from them,” Huntingtown Coach Brendan Galligan said. “They’re big, and they’re the real deal. We know we’ve got a big challenge ahead of us.”

River Hill’s balanced approach

When River Hill won the 3A state championship a year ago, it did so with a rushing attack so potent that the Hawks rarely needed to throw the ball. This year, the Hawks are back in the state title game with a more balanced offensive attack.

With senior quarterback Austin Altman under center this season, the Hawks have altered their offensive formula to feature a stronger passing game without sacrificing their run-heavy system. Through 13 games, Altman has thrown 27 touchdown passes and just two interceptions, astronomical figures compared to River Hill’s starter from a year ago — Raamah Vaughn, a running quarterback who rushed for 12 touchdowns last season but threw for just four. Altman’s touchdowns have not come at the expense of the running game, which has produced 48 touchdowns so far this season, five more than the Hawks had on the ground a year ago.

Altman has been particularly effective in the postseason, completing touchdowns in each of River Hill’s playoff games. Against Mount Hebron in the 3A East region semifinal game, Altman was responsible for all four of the Hawks’ offensive scores, completing three touchdown passes to three different receivers and rushing for another in River Hill’s 48-13 win over the Vikings.

Altman was impressive again Friday in his team’s 3A semifinal victory against Urbana, albeit with less gaudy numbers. The senior completed eight of 13 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown while picking up another touchdown on the ground, his sixth rushing score of the year.

River Hill will look to finish its undefeated season with a second straight state championship Thursday night.

Related: River Hill beats Urbana, returns to championship Huntingtown books its trip to the title game Maryland state playoff brackets Recruit Watch: See what offers the area’s top players have

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