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Maryland 3A football: River Hill pounds Thomas Johnson for title

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BALTIMORE — River Hill didn’t have much hope of matching up man-for-man with Thomas Johnson’s massive offensive and defensive lines in Saturday’s Maryland 3A final. But the 10th-ranked Hawks dominated the point of attack nonetheless, pounding the No. 12 Patriots en route to a 41-13 win.

River Hill — winner of back-to-back 2A titles in 2007 and 2008 — captured its third title in five years behind a defense that forced eight turnovers and a ground attack that produced 318 rushing yards and all six scores.

“We thought it’d be a bloodbath game — back-and-forth,” senior quarterback Raamah Vaughn said. “Preparation, film, hard work — it does pay off. It’s surprising to me that the score was like that, but I guess that’s just how the story ends.”

River Hill (12-2) showcased all its weapons in the dominating performance. Villanova-bound senior Aaron Wells led the way with 165 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, including a 62-yard score on the second play of the second half.

Vaughn shook off a hand injury and cramping to finish with 101 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. He didn’t need to move the ball through the air, but his only completion — a 32-yard connection with junior Evan Griffin — set up a second-quarter touchdown. Griffin added 39 yards on six carries, highlighted by a 13-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run.

Those performances helped the Hawks outscore the Patriots 27-7 in the second half to pull away. All three players spent the final minutes watching from the sideline as the team’s biggest concern became who would empty the water cooler over Coach Brian Van Deusen.

“We couldn’t have done it” without the linemen, Van Deusen said. “Even though we’re not the biggest, we use our quickness and our technique and some of our schemes to our advantage.”

Thomas Johnson (10-4) rushed for nearly 300 yards per game during its surprising playoff run, but the Patriots — who were the No. 4 seed in the 3A West — were knocked off their game early and never recovered.

They lost fumbles on two of their first three plays from scrimmage and committed eight turnovers — five fumbles and three interceptions — overall. Senior Randall Lawson had two interceptions to lead the Hawks’ defense.

The convincing victory closed a dominating campaign for River Hill. After an early two-game losing skid, the Hawks won 10 straight to close the season. Van Deusen said that because of the rough start it might be the most special of them all. Overall, his squad outscored its opponents, 453-112.

“It’s crazy that I’m a senior and I’m a state champ in football,” Vaughn said. “That’s a great feeling right now.”

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