Then Hawks senior running back Justin Arn made a devastating cut to the outside and swung the Maryland 3A football championship.
Arn’s juking 20-yard touchdown run with 8 minutes 13 seconds left in the fourth quarter gave River Hill its first lead, and the Hawks held on for a tight 18-14 win at M&T Bank Stadium.
Arn finished with 76 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries and grabbed a key interception in the fourth quarter, leading River Hill (14-0) to its second straight Maryland 3A title, its fourth state crown in six years and its 24th consecutive win.
“At halftime I realized this would be the last time we would be wearing these jerseys,” Arn said. “I just came back out and gave it my all.”
River Hill had bullied its opposition all season with physically dominant play at the line of scrimmage, but Huntingtown (12-2) matched the Hawks’ intensity from the start.
Unintimidated by the cavernous NFL stadium or the Hawks who had played there before, Huntingtown took an early lead on a two-yard plunge by junior running back Arnez Bowens less than six minutes into the game.
Bowens’s second touchdown extended the Huntingtown lead to 14-6 with 9:11 left in the second quarter, and when the Hurricanes took that eight-point advantage into halftime, they became the first team to play from ahead in the second half against River Hill during the Hawks’ winning streak.
“We had our chances,” Huntingtown Coach Brendan Galligan said. “But they’re the defending state champs and we knew they were going to keep bringing it.”
In the second half, River Hill held the Hurricanes to just 32 yards rushing and gradually took control.
Arn scored on a 10-yard run on the Hawks’ first drive after halftime, taking an inside handoff and breaking it outside — a glimpse of what was to come — with 4:23 left in the third. Huntingtown linebacker Josh Woodburn preserved a 14-12 lead for the Hurricanes with a tough open-field tackle on River Hill’s two-point conversion attempt.
After a series of defensive stops, Arn earned his winning highlight-reel score with 8:13 to play.
“I just read the blocks,” Arn said. Offensive guard “Justin Nestor took out their outside linebacker and I just cut right off that and it was the end zone from there.”
Huntingtown had two chances to regain the lead, but Arn ended the first with an interception deep in his team’s own territory with less than six minutes to play. The Hurricanes got the ball back on their own 29 after a fourth-down stop with 1:02 to play, but senior defensive back Evan Griffin grabbed an interception in the Hawks end zone with eight seconds left to ice the win.
River Hill is the first repeat Maryland 3A champion since Seneca Valley won three straight titles from 1992 to 1994.
“It’s nice to be back,” River Hill Coach Brian Van Deusen said. “It’s been a pretty amazing run for these guys and they finished it the right way.”