River Hill's Nick Campanaro had a Chinese translation of "Everything Happens For A Reason" tattooed on his left arm when he was a freshman and now, four years later, he feels the phrase sums up his high school career perfectly.

His journey to the starting lineup took him through three schools, as the running back played junior varsity at Centennial as a ninth grader and two injury-plagued seasons at Mount St. Joseph's in Baltimore before transferring to River Hill last year. Campanaro was still classified as a junior, so he sat out last season so he could play this fall, as Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association rules limit students to four seasons per sport.

"It hasn't been easy," Campanaro said. "Everything I've gone through led me to this season."

And what a season it's been so far. The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Campanaro has rushed for a team-high 827 yards and 10 touchdowns on 115 carries. He isn't the area's fastest or strongest running back, but his ability to run around defenders -- or just bowl them over -- has enabled him to average more than seven yards each time he touches the football.

"The big thing with Nick is that he has the combination of speed and power," Coach Brian Van Deusen said. "He's really strong. He benches 320 pounds, which is the most on our team, and it shows by the way he runs."

Campanaro's running style will take center stage tomorrow at 2 p.m., when No. 20 River Hill makes the three-mile trip east on Maryland Route 108 to face Long Reach in a Howard County game that impacts the league standings and 3A East Region playoff picture.

A win by River Hill (7-0 overall, 6-0 league) would give the Hawks an inside track to their third consecutive county title and third straight trip to the 3A East region tournament. Long Reach (6-1, 6-1), is clinging to the fourth -- and final -- spot in the 3A East Region playoff point standings, and a win would keep the Lightning in the running for a share of the county title and a playoff berth.

River Hill has won the teams' past three meetings, including a 52-21 win last year in which Long Reach gave up the most points in school history.

"This is huge game for both teams because there is so much riding on it," Long Reach Coach Pete Hughes said. "One of our biggest goals is to win the county title and to do that, we know we have to beat River Hill."

After sitting out last season, senior Nick Campanaro has plowed through opposing defenses for 827 yards and 10 touchdowns on 115 carries for River Hill (7-0).Campanaro, above, has "speed and power," noted River Hill Coach Brian Van Deusen. "He benches 320 pounds . . . the most on our team."