River Hill senior running back Nick Campanaro took one step on the mud-soaked field and knew his team's strategy was going to change last night against Wilde Lake in a Howard County game.
"We usually like to pass and throw, but with it raining so hard and the field pretty much mud, I knew [we] were going to run the ball pretty much every play," he said. "It was going to be a test of which team wanted it more."
That proved to be River Hill, which remained undefeated with a 28-14 win over Wilde Lake largely because Campanaro powered his way to 150 yards and three touchdowns during a driving rain in Columbia.
"In a game like that, you pretty much throw out the X's and O's and both teams line up and run at each other," River Hill Coach Brian Van Deusen said. "I told our team we needed to run the ball to win this game."
The Hawks' offensive line of guards B.J. Benning and Boris Tartakovsky, tackles Chris Rhodes and Zach Robinson and center Matt Jaso paved the way for the team to rush for 233 yards. Defensively, the Hawks held Wilde Lake standout running backs Zach Brown and Jarad Flagg, who entered the night collectively averaging 107 yards per game, to 67 yards rushing, 41 by Flagg.
River Hill (5-0 overall, 5-0 league) remained tied with Glenelg atop the county standings and dealt a severe blow to the playoff chances of Wilde Lake (3-2, 2-2).
After River Hill junior linebacker Daniel Hostetler scooped up a fumble and returned it 25 yards for a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter, the Hawks extended their lead to 14-0 with 1 minute 34 seconds left in the first half when Campanaro scored on a two-yard run.
But Wilde Lake countered immediately when senior Eddie Thomas returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards to pull his team to 14-7. However, River Hill marched right down the field and pushed the lead to 21-7 at halftime on Campanaro's two-yard run up the middle.
Wilde Lake pulled to within 21-14 on a 20-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Dennis Smith to Thomas with just under seven minutes remaining, but River Hill put the game away when Campanaro scored on a one-yard run with 1:54 remaining.
"We knew that since Wilde Lake was a running team, playing in this type of weather would be to their advantage," said Hostetler, who is also the team's quarterback. "So we came out here and beat them at their own game."