River Hill Coach Brian Van Deusen wanted his football team to understand the importance of its 21-13 victory over Long Reach in a Maryland 3A East Region first-round game Friday, but he didn't want the Hawks to be satisfied.
"Our guys are the first football team in the history of our school who can say they won a playoff game," he said. "But as big as this is, I don't want them to think it was a one-game deal. I want them to know they have the chance to become the greatest team in the history of River Hill football."
The game was a landmark victory for a team that had lost in the first round of the region tournament the past two years, but the win came against a team it has defeated in four of the past five meetings. Now River Hill (10-1) travels to Anne Arundel County on Saturday to face Severna Park (10-1) in the region final.
No 3A team from Howard County has won a playoff game against an opponent from another county since Wilde Lake won the state title in 1997.
"We proved that we're a legitimate team in our county. Now we have to show other counties across the state that they need to respect Howard County football," senior linebacker Peter Ridge said. "We know right now that we're carrying the torch of Howard County with us, and we want to show there are good football teams in Howard County."
Atholton also hopes to make that point. The Raiders (8-3) posted a 24-19 victory over Charles County's McDonough (6-5) in the first round of the Maryland 2A South Region tournament, its first postseason game in school history. Atholton will host defending state champion Potomac (9-2) of Prince George's County in the region final tomorrow night in its biggest test of the season.
"Just the fact we're still playing shows that we deserve to be here," said Atholton senior defensive tackle Aras Vaitkus. "Since we've come this far, we all believe that we can go further."
As River Hill and Atholton took one step closer to the state tournament, Glenelg saw its county-record sixth consecutive postseason end with a 42-21 loss Saturday at Potomac.
"I think Potomac could win the state title again," Glenelg Coach John Davis said. "They have athletes all over the field. It's never easy to start out with the defending state champion in the first round in the playoffs, but that's who we had to play. I guess we'll see how Atholton does against Potomac and people can make their own decisions."
The performances by River Hill and Atholton were similar, with both teams proving they could do more than run the football.
River Hill took a 14-7 lead at intermission by scoring two touchdowns in 55 seconds late in the second quarter. Junior quarterback Daniel Hostetler scored on a 1-yard run with 2 minutes 5 seconds remaining in the half, and River Hill then held Long Reach to two yards on the next three plays, forcing the Lightning to punt from deep in their own territory.
River Hill got the ball on Long Reach's 23-yard line, and on the second play from scrimmage, Hostetler dropped back into the pocket. He waited patiently as his cousin, junior receiver Josh Hostetler, ran upfield and cut inside around the 10-yard line.
Daniel threw a perfect pass to Josh, who sprinted into the end zone for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown after Chris Martello's extra point with 1:05 left in the half.
"I had missed some open guys early, so I really needed to make that play," said Daniel, who also scored on a 3-yard run early in the third quarter. "Everyone on our team executed on that play, and Josh got open and we got a big touchdown out of it."
Atholton scored the first 17 points but trailed 19-17 entering the fourth quarter. The Raiders took the lead for good on a 75-yard drive, with Hayden finishing on a 6-yard touchdown run and sophomore Rick Rappaport making the extra point.
Senior running back Matt Winger rushed for 190 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, and junior quarterback Brett McQuilkin rushed for 124 yards and threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Dean Hart. That offset a huge game by McDonough senior running back A.J. Wallace, who scored two touchdowns and amassed 302 all-purpose yards.
"As soon as we fell behind, Coach [Chuck] Fales brought us all over to the sideline and looked us all in the eye," McQuilkin said. "He said, 'This whole season has been about taking the next step, and now here we were with a chance to take that next step by winning our first game, and it was a step we had to take.' I think at that point everyone knew what we needed to do to win the game."
River Hill quarterback Daniel Hostetler gets a pass off through Long Reach defensive linemen Jay Washington, left, and Phillip Jones on Friday night.River Hill's Zach Martin, center, tackles Long Reach's Josh Brown in the 3A playoffs Friday.