River Hill football players posed for pictures underneath the Severna Park scoreboard yesterday to preserve an unforgettable image: the school's first Maryland 3A East Region title.
"We've waited a long time for this, and it's something no one on our team will forget," junior quarterback Daniel Hostetler said after the 34-28 victory over the Falcons. "We'll always remember this because everyone on our team did something to make this happen."
Hostetler rushed for two touchdowns, senior running back Nick Campanaro powered his way to 163 yards and three touchdowns and the defense intercepted a late-game pass as the Hawks (11-1) advanced to the state semifinals. They will play at Gwynn Park next weekend. Severna Park (10-2), which had won 10 straight games, lost a chance to go to the state tournament for the first time since 1999.
"No one really gives Howard County football any credit or respect," senior linebacker Peter Ridge said. "Well, we just came in here and beat the best team in Anne Arundel County, so now maybe we'll get a little recognition."
For much of the season, River Hill stayed in control of games, winning nine conference games by a combined 308-63. But Severna Park and senior quarterback Greg Zingler provided a tougher test than the Hawks had experienced against Howard County competition. Zingler connected on 9 of 18 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 27 yards and two scores.
Zingler threw a 78-yard touchdown pass to senior Dave Horn to give the Falcons a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. River Hill scored the next two touchdowns on runs by Hostetler and Campanaro before Zingler tied the game at 21 with a four-yard touchdown run just before intermission.
Hostetler gave River Hill the lead for good by capping an eight-play, 83-yard drive with a one-yard run with 5 minutes 48 seconds left in the third quarter. Campanaro extended the lead to 34-21 when he swept down the sideline for a 25-yard score with 6:11 left in the final quarter.
Zingler then threw a deep pass that deflected off the hand of junior receiver Brett Sanders into the arms of senior Tommy Babington, who turned it into a 47-yard touchdown pass with 4:34 remaining.
Severna Park got the ball back one more time, on its 33-yard line with 2:26 remaining. Zingler completed an 18-yard pass to Horn on fourth and 10, but then, with 54 seconds remaining in the game, he threw an interception to Hawks senior cornerback Kevin Magan near midfield.
"I bumped a receiver at the line and then spun off to the flat and stepped in front of another receiver to make the play," Magan said. "We knew he was going to throw it near the sideline, and we just had to make the play."
"It was a bad play call that I made," Severna Park Coach J.P. Hines said. "The game came down to the end -- you can just throw the stats away -- and they made the play at the end to win the game."